--2 IN SESSION: Minimum wage falls
Oct. 24, 2016
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IN SESSION: Minimum wage fails despite request from VP Biden

Democrats don't have the numbers in the House

February 20, 2014, 10:00 am
By Matthew Reichbach
Even a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden couldn't help a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage in New Mexico.

Joe Biden called New Mexico State Rep. Sandra Jeff, D-Crownpoint, to ask her to vote in favor of a  minimum wage constitutional amendment in the Roundhouse. While she initially told reporters Wednesday night that she had not received a call from the vice president, later that night she admitted the conversation took place. On Thursday she made a statement on the House floor revealing that she express support to  Biden for raising the wage, but not as a constitutional amendment.

Jeff missed the actual vote late Wednesday, and didn't reappear in the House chamber for any other votes until Thursday morning.

Even if she had voted, the legislation wouldn't have passed.

With the constitutional amendment, Democrats were on the wrong side of the numbers game. Constitutional amendments require a majority of the body, not a majority of those voting. So even though the House voted 33-29 to send the constitutional amendment on to voters, it didn't pass for failing to reach 36 votes.

Along with Jeff, Rep. Donna Irwin, D-Deming, voted against the legislation.

Both had voted the previous year to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour. That was a statutory bill that passed both chambers -- and then was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Martinez did not put a minimum wage increase on the call this year, so legislators could not introduce legislation to pass a law.

But constitutional amendments were fair game. The governor has no say in these -- if these pass both chambers, then the amendment heads straight to the voters in November.

Republicans alleged that constitutional amendment proposals were also aimed at increasing voter turnout in  a year where the governor is up for re-election and facing a Democratic challenger. There are more registered Democrats in the state than Republicans.

"Yes it's going to be a very popular thing. You and I know that," Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell. "It is a political ploy, I feel."

Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, said argued that increasing turnout was a good thing.

"I don't think it's an American institution to think that low voter turnout is what we want to work for," Thomson said.


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