Santa Fe, NM – The First Session of the 53rd Legislature came to a close today. House Democrats passed legislation to grow the economy, promote job creation, and rebuild the middle class.
House Democrats' most important order of business was to pass a responsible budget and revenue package. The budget, House Bill 2, safeguards the top priorities of hardworking New Mexicans – education, health care, economic development. Teachers, school districts, students, and parents called for legislators to protect education, and this budget does just that. Public school appropriations were not cut.
In order to mitigate further cuts to critical services, minimize impacts on hardworking families, and make the New Mexico economy work for everyone, House Democrats passed fair tax reform. House Bill 202, levels the playing field for local businesses, blocks a corporate income tax cut, and generates critical revenue for roads and schools.
Increase the Minimum Wage: A bill that raises the state's minimum wage to $9.25 an hour, a sensible increase over the current minimum wage of $7.50 an hour, is on the Governor's desk awaiting her signature. House Bill 442, sponsored by Representatives Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), Debbie Rodella (D-Española), Patricio Ruiloba (D-Albuquerque), Carl Trujillo (D-Santa Fe), and Miguel P. Garcia (D-Albuquerque), will put more than $3,000 a year in additional earnings into the pockets of many New Mexicans who work full-time on minimum wage.
"Hardworking New Mexicans deserve a fair wage that will give their families an opportunity to succeed. No one working 40 hours a week should be struggling to put food on the table. Increasing the minimum wage will give thousands of New Mexicans an opportunity to get ahead and secure a brighter future." – Rep. Debbie Rodella (March 17, 2017)
New Legislation: We were pleased to see legislation chaptered into law before the end of the session, including a number of Democratic priority bills.
Broadband Infrastructure Development: House Bill 60, amends the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) with specific language to include broadband telecommunications. Adding broadband to the statute makes it unequivocal that projects involving broadband are permitted for the purpose of economic development. Having access to advanced communication technology and services is essential to the economic prosperity of New Mexican-owned businesses. Broadband is no longer a luxury. It is vital for businesses to be competitive and for families to remain connected.
Industrial Hemp: House Bill 144 opens New Mexico to the job-creating and booming industrial hemp market. New Mexico farmers and the agriculture sector have long expressed their desire to break into this $600 million industry.
"The hemp industry is a booming success in at least thirty other states. This common sense job-creating legislation is a giant step forward for New Mexico's farmers and entrepreneurs. We must get our economy moving." – Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas (March 8, 2017)
Financial Assistance for Medical Students: House Bill 126 increases opportunities for New Mexico students, improves college affordability, and grows the health care workforce. The bill gives preferences for loans to students who graduate from New Mexico medical schools and commit to practice in underserved New Mexico communities. HB 126, sponsored by House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos (D-Las Cruces), passed unanimously through both chambers.
Computer Science for Graduation: Senate Bill 134, sponsored by Representatives. Debra Sariñana (D-Albuquerque), Bill McCamley (D-Mesilla Park), and Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-Albuquerque), allows computer science to fulfill requirements for high school graduation. 32 states allow computer science to count toward high school graduation. In addition, computer science has been linked to increased academic and economic success.
Awaiting the Governor's Signature: As we close the session, a number of Democratic priority bills are on the Governor's desk awaiting her signature.
Workforce Training: This popular legislation reduces the residency requirement for the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) from a minimum of one year to as little as one day for certain jobs based on annual salary and proximity to municipalities. This bill is a direct response to our pre-session jobs listening tour and suggestions from business leaders who wanted better tools to recruit and train workers from out-of-state to relocate here in New Mexico. House Bill 147 is sponsored by Representatives George Dodge Jr. (D-Santa Rosa) and Bill McCamley (D-Mesilla Park).
Agriculture in Economic Development: House Bill 289 amends the Statewide Economic Development Finance Act to include value-added agricultural entreprises. Sponsored by Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces), Candie Sweetser (D-Deming) and Bill Gomez (D-Las Cruces), HB 289 provides small agricultural businesses in rural New Mexico with access to funding by the New Mexico Economic Development Department.
"Our state's agricultural enterprises are a significant economic engine. It is vital that they receive the same economic opportunities as any other businesses in our state." Rep. Candie Sweetser (March 3, 2017)
Caregiver Leave Act: This widely supported bill allows workers to use sick leave that is already provided by their employer to cover absences for caregiving. House Bill 86, sponsored by Debbie Armstrong (D-Albuquerque), allows hardworking New Mexicans to have some flexibility to make it easier for them to take care of their family members.
"In New Mexico, we value family. We want to be there for our parents and our kids when they need us." Rep. Debbie Armstrong (March 17, 2017)
Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act: This legislation would promote healthy pregnancies while keeping pregnant workers on the job. House Bill 179, sponsored by Representatives Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque), Debbie Armstrong (D-Albuquerque), and Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces), ensures pregnant employees can earn a living and help grow our state's economy by having employers make reasonable accommodations - such as allowing extra bathroom breaks – for women during pregnancy.
Ban on Conversion Therapy: Senate Bill 121 bans so-called conversion therapy for individuals under the age of 18 years. Conversion therapy is aimed at changing a person's sexual orientation and/or gender indentity and has been rejected by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association. It is sponsored by Representative Andrés Romero (D-Albuquerque) and Senator Jacob Candelaria (D-Albuquerque).
"This discredited practice is not based on medical science. It's based on dangerous misinformation. We have sent a message to New Mexico kids that being LGBTQ is not a mental disorder and we should not treat it as such." – Rep. Andrés Romero (March 15, 2017)
Predatory Lending: House Bill 347, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom (D-Gallup) reins in predatory loan practices, known as payday loans, and introduces financial literacy programs in the state. HB 347 limits the fees and charges that financial institutions can add to installment loans.
"We need to make sure the consumer financial market works for everyday New Mexicans, not just the well-connected. New Mexicans deserve access to loans with fair interest rates, without hidden risks and outrageous fees attached." – Rep. Patricia Lundstrom
Protecting New Mexico from the Dangerous Trump Agenda: House Democrats are committed to defending New Mexico values from the current administration's divisive and hateful policies.
Rescind Constitutional Convention Applications: New Mexico will rescind its prior application for an Article V Constitutional convention. Both the House and Senate passed House Joint Resolution 10, sponsored by Speaker Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe). President Trump's supporters and conservative political action committees across the country are pressing for a convention to change the Constitution of the United States, possibly to add term limits or restrict fundamental constitutional rights.
"We cannot underestimate the threats to our democracy under this administration. We won't allow this document that belongs to every American to be altered to suit the desires of political extremists and well-connected special interests." – Speaker Brian Egolf (March 15, 2017)
Access to Contraception: The House passed groundbreaking legislation to protect contraception coverage from Trump's reckless threats to appeal the Affordable Care Act. House Bill 284, sponsored by Representatives Debbie Armstrong (D-Albuquerque), Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque), Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces), Christine Trujillo (D-Albuquerque), and Linda Trujillo (D-Santa Fe), would have protected New Mexican women's access to free contraception, as provided in the ACA, even if it is appealed. Twenty-two Democratic members for the House signed on to the bill, which did not make it through the Senate.
Independent Ethics Commission: Voters have been asking for an independent ethics commission to restore trust in government for many years. This session, the House and Senate passed House Joint Resolution 8, sponsored by Representatives Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces), Daymon Ely (D-Corrales), and Jim Dines (R-Albuquerque), proposing a constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics commission tasked with investigating and issuing advisory opinions regarding any violations of laws or misconduct by elected officials. The amendment will go to the voters on the general election ballot in November 2018.
Teachers Are Human Too, House Bill 241, sponsored by Reps. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos), Christine Trujillo (D-Santa Fe), Jason Harper (R-Rio Rancho), Dennis Roch (R-Logan), and Senator Craig Brandt (R-Rio Rancho), Use of Attendance in Teacher Evaluations, would have allowed our hardworking teachers to use their allotted number of sick days without penalty on their evaluations. This bipartisan bill passed the House with broad support by a vote of 64-3 and unanimously passed the Senate. House Democrats pushed to override this veto, but most Republicans changed their vote to defend the Governor's veto.
"Parents and students want good teachers in our schools, and one way to keep god teachers is to ensure New Mexico has a good work environment and fair teacher evaluations. Governor Martinez could not have had the best interest of New Mexico kids, parents, or teachers in mind when considering this legislation." Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos), a sponsor of the bill. (March 9, 2017)
Early Childhood Education: House Democrats continued their efforts to pass statewide investment in early childhood education. House Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Representatives Antonio "Moe" Maestas (D-Albuquerque) and Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque), would let the voters of New Mexico decide if the state should increase by 1% the annual distribution to the Land Grant Permanent Fund for investment in early childhood education. After a multi-year effort, this constitutional amendment passed the House for the first time. Though it did not make it through the Senate, House Democrats celebrated an important step forward for this crucial legislation that could change the trajectory of our state when it comes to early childhood.
"It is a great victory to come this far in the process with such a far-reaching proposal. We will not stop fighting for New Mexico's future until this resolution goes to the voters." – Rep. Antonio Maestas (March 15, 2017)