Democrats campaigned last year on a promise to raise New Mexico’s minimum wage, which has remained at $7.50 an hour for a decade. How high it will go, exactly, is a question that quickly has become wrapped in a battle waged by the restaurant industry and could get caught in a tug-of-war between the state House and Senate. The issue has raised a series of other questions as well. Should there continue to be a lower minimum wage for workers who traditionally earn tips from customers, such as restaurant servers? Should employers be allowed to offer a lower minimum wage to younger workers, like high school students?
A bill to allow voters to register on the same day they vote cleared its first House committee Wednesday. The House, State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee advanced the proposal on a party-line vote. The bill aims to let voters register or update their voter registration during early voting or on Election Day, and vote on the same day. Currently, voters must register four weeks before the election to be eligible to vote. One of the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque, said the legislation “is the ultimate access bill to allow voters to access the electoral process as openly as possible.”
The bill would allow new voters to register on Election Day and those already registered to change their address.
A panel of Democrats in the New Mexico Senate used their superior numbers Friday to advance a bill that would prohibit state and local police agencies from using any resources to enforce federal immigration law. The Public Affairs Committee voted 4-3 for the measure, Senate Bill 196. All the Republicans on the committee voted against the bill, but didn’t bother debating it. Immigrants and their advocacy groups packed a hearing room to support the bill. New Mexico’s chief law enforcement officer, state Attorney General Hector Balderas, sent a surrogate to announce that he favors it.
The process is taking longer than Democrats would hope, but bills to expand voting rights are moving through the state legislature. Democrats advanced two voting bills—one, to automatically restore voting rights to felons and another to expand automatic voter registration—out of the House Local Government, Elections and Land Grants Committee on party-line votes Friday. But a bill to allow same-day voter registration failed to come up for a vote, with a visibly frustrated committee chair saying they’ll meet again on Saturday. The debate on the bill to allow felons to vote began Wednesday, including substantial public comment. Felon enfranchisement
In its current form, HB 57 would remove a felony conviction from the list of reasons why the Secretary of State could cancel a voter’s registration.
How high will the statewide minimum wage go? Or will it go at all? For many business owners, that is a key looming question during the 60-day legislative session. The minimum wage in New Mexico, unchanged since 2009, could see an upward adjustment from $7.50 an hour. Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, wants to double that to $15 an hour Jan.
Indian Country News is a weekly note from High Country News, as we continue to broaden our coverage of tribal affairs across the West. Patricia Roybal Caballero was a freshman lawmaker in New Mexico’s House of Representatives when she walked into a popular Santa Fe restaurant in 2013 for a meeting with some of her colleagues. Roybal Caballero, a community and economic developer of Piro-Manso-Tiwa ancestry, was by then used to dealing with negative perceptions about her race, but what happened next astounded her. “Before I had a chance to ask for a table, the hostess said, ‘I am sorry, but we’re not taking applications right now,’” Roybal Caballero told me recently. This story originally appeared at High Country News and is reprinted with permission.
The field is set for the 2018 state House primaries, with eight incumbents not filing for reelection and several others facing potentially competitive challenges either in the primary or the general election. Still, there are 26 candidates, all incumbents, who face no opposition in either the primary or general election. Independent and third party candidates can still enter, but it is much more difficult to make the ballot and win, due to higher signature requirements and a lack of party structure. Meanwhile, just two Libertarian Party candidates took advantage of the party’s new major party status to seek state legislative office. Here is a look at some of the 70 legislative races and dozens of candidates to watch.
Dream team: The State of the State address started Tuesday with a whistle and chanting. Advocates for immigrants unfurled banners calling for passage of the Dream Act and shouted slogans as Susana Martinez stepped to a lectern to begin the governor’s annual speech. Martinez, of course, does not have any sway over the act, which is federal legislation proposed to create a path to citizenship for young people who were brought to the United States as children without authorization. Felipe Rodriguez, 23, a student at The University of New Mexico, said the group chose to protest at Martinez’s final State of the State address because of the governor’s track record. “Susana Martinez has been a very anti-immigrant governor,” he said.
A self-proclaimed government watchdog could have his private investigator’s license revoked, depending on what a governing board could decide next month. Another private investigator filed an official complaint with the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department (RLD) last month against Carlos McMahon that alleged he obtained his private investigator license fraudulently and abused his position as an investigator. McMahon has been in and out of the news since he filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, his former place of employment, in 2010. At that time his name was Carlos Villanueva. He changed his last name to McMahon this June.
An automatic voter registration bill lost a bit of what made it automatic, but moved on from the House committee that previously blocked it. State Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Albuquerque, was one of two Democrats to previously vote against the legislation in the House Local Government, Elections and Land Grant Committee. He explained after that vote that he voted against the bill initially so he could bring it off the table, citing a parliamentary rule, and reconsider the matter. The bill was previously tabled in the same committee. Ely brought the bill back Tuesday.