The legislative session ends in just over two weeks.
This means if a bill hasn't started moving towards the chamber it originated in, you can just about consider it dead. There just isn't enough time for it to navigate the committee process in two chambers before the call of sine die comes.
Each passing day that a bill doesn't get heard is an increasingly big deal.
And for bills that pass one chamber, you will start to see arguments between the two chambers and veiled (and sometimes not-so-veiled) accusations that the leadership in the other chamber doesn't want to hear the legislation.
Of course, the long hours, lack of sleep and tension of dealing with the legislation will start to take a toll on the legislators. So give that a thought when you hear some questionable quotes from the legislators.
On to the Word:
- The March 1 edition of the Santa Fe New Mexican legislative roundup is online.
- The Weekly Word podcast is up! Myself and Joey Peters spoke to EMily Kaltenbach, the state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, about marijuana legislation. Peters also gave an update on his IPRA request saga with the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez.
- Health insurance exchange legislation failed in the House, but was put back on the President's table.
- Alex Goldsmith explains the maneuver by Rep. Lucky Varela, D-Santa Fe, that saved the bill for now.
Varela immediately moved for the House to “reconsider” its vote by putting the bill on the speaker’s table, something only someone who votes in the majority on any vote can do. That motion passed 35-33.
That vote kept the bill from dying completely, saving it for a compromise version sometime in the near future.
- We will not learn Hanna Skandera's fate from her confirmation hearing until Saturday thanks to the expected length of the hearing according to New Mexico Capitol Report.
Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said her committee would listen to public comments for or against Skandera, right, starting Friday. Lopez said she expected Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration to marshal backers of Skandera, and hearing out everyone would take much of the day.However, the real battle will be on the Senate floor. Skandera will stay on as Secretary of Education no matter what happens in the Senate Rules committee; if there is a tie, she will remain secretary-designate. If they vote for or against recommending Skandera, she will be going to the full Senate floor with that recommendation.
- Capitol Report New Mexico notes that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was never a teacher. It isn't an apples and oranges comparison, however. The New Mexico constitution says the Public Education Department secretary must be a "qualified, experienced educator."
- Hailey Heinz at the Journal makes the trek into political reporting and writes about how advocates on both sides of the confirmation process of Skandera are prepping. The American Teachers Federation opposes Skandera's nomination, while the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce supports her nomination.
- A Democratic education roundtable may highlight the confirmation hearing tomorrow as the Democrats went hard over Martinez's education agenda. Skandera, as the secretary of the Public Education Department, is the public face of that agenda:
Noting that the governor often speaks about “compromise,” Sen. Timothy Keller, D-Albuquerque, said at the news conference, “It’s time to get past the talking points … and beyond the rhetoric of bold change. We do not think the ideas coming from the Fourth Floor [of the state Capitol] represent ‘bold change.’ ”
At the crux of the event was an attempt to spotlight two Democrat-backed bills on reading and math intervention, as well as to promote a bill that would create a statewide school-grades council to better clarify the governor’s existing A-F school-grading system.
- A bill to close a prostitution loophole (yeah, seriously) passed the House unanimously.
F. Chris Garcia, a political science professor, was arrested in 2011 and accused of helping to run a website called Southwest Companions, which promoted prostitution.
But last year, a state district judge ruled that the website did not constitute a “house of prostitution.” Whitaker also said the website wasn’t a “place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed.”
- Meanwhile the House approved a bill that would allow the state to tap into the permanent fund to potentially provide hundreds of millions of dollars to schools.
- While a bill to require those accepting government assistance take drug tests isn't going anywhere in the New Mexico legislature, it may be for the best. A federal appeals court upheld a lower court's injunction against a similar law in Florida.
- El Grito writes about the minimum wage bill passing a House committee.
- The Los Alamos Daily Post runs a memo from Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan and Acting NNSA Administrator Neile Miller on sequestration:
We will be in business as usual here tomorrow and next week. I will be at work and you should plan to be as well.
What remains uncertain is the final budget reduction numbers to each NNSA site. Once those numbers are shared with us, we will know which one or combination of options will make the most sense for the Laboratory. I remain convinced that a reduction of the permanent workforce here is not viable. However, further reductions in purchasing and subcontracts, use of carryover funds, and – as a last resort – short-term furloughs remain on the table.
- There were some controversial picks for promotions at the Albuquerque Police Department, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
wrote about the effect of sequestration. It spoke to btoh U.S> Senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall. The paper also spoke to Rep. Steve Pearce, even though he doesn't represent the district. The paper did not speak to Rep. Ben Ray lujan who actually represents the area.
- The Los Alamos Monitor writes about how sequestration will impact Bandelier National Monument.
“The fiscal situation is already tight, even before the sequestration. If we indeed do have to take a five percent cut it’s going to cut deep,” Lott said. “Until now, we’ve tried to keep these fiscal impacts away from the public. We have tried to protect opportunities and programs and our mission to provide enjoyment. With sequestration, there will be some public impacts, regrettably.”
- Milan Simonich compares Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, to legendary Major League Baseball commissioner A.B. "Happy" Chandler for Garcia's role in backing drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants.
Yes, there are con men who try to defraud the state, he says. But mostly the driver’s license law helps people because it is enlightened and humane.
With it, he says, people doing jobs that Americans will not touch drive to work without fear, earn a paycheck, support their family and help fuel the state’s economy.
Some who benefit from the licensing law are children born in the United States, Garcia says. Others arrived as babies, brought along by immigrant parents.
- Your daily drought update, as John Fleck writes about how water may not be flowing to farms for long.
- The Alamogordo Daily News reports that the New Mexico Museum of Space History will become a Smithsonian affiliate.
- The Rio Rancho Observer profiles Stolar Research Corp., a business that is moving to Rio Rancho from Raton.
- The Santa Fe Reporter writes about those big brown signs that mark historical sites in the state.
There are currently about 680 of those "familiar big, brown" historical marker signs, which began to appear along New Mexico roadsides around 1935. According the press release, the roadside markers “tell tales of the notorious and honorable, our geological marvels and the sites where history and prehistory were made. Recently, 64 markers were added to the collection, all of them devoted to women’s history thanks to a partnership among the New Mexico Women’s Forum, HPD, the Cultural Properties Review Committee, the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the legislature, HPD said.” Head over to the Roundhouse to check out the new Inez Bushner Gill marker.
- The USDA has designated 12 counties in New Mexico as primary natural disaster areas due to effects from the ongoing drought, the AP reports. Those counties:
Bernalillo, Grant, Luna, Sierra, Catron, Hidalgo, Otero, Socorro, Dona Ana, Lincoln, Sandoval and Valencia.
- Peñasqueros (residents of Peñasco) talked about crime at a local meeting:
According to the meeting’s sign-in sheet, Peñasco valley residents reported at least 40 burglaries in the past year. Some of the reported response times for law enforcement ranged from 45 minutes to 13 hours.
- The Luna Community College Board of Trustees has had a falling out. The Las Vegas Optic:
Last week, board member Abelino Montoya Jr. disclosed the thousands of dollars in payments collected by board chairman Jerry Maestas for attending meetings, accusing him of setting a bad example and lining his pockets at the expense of taxpayers.
- Former Gov. Gary Johnson headlined a fundraiser for the University of New Mexico men's soccer team where the team raised $50,000.