PubliusNM is back into operation! And to start off the new year, we give you a list of the most anticipated issues to look out for in the 2013 NM legislative session.
Both the Governor and the Legislative Finance Committee have released their budget proposals for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Surprisingly, both propose a 4.1 percent increase in spending. This may be due to apprehension caused by the uncertainty of what will happen in Congress, considering how dependent New Mexico’s economy is on her allowance from uncle Sam.
However, there are specific areas in the two proposals where certain spending allocations differ.
Major areas of contention to watch out for:
1% Pay Raise (across the board)
While the LFC plan calls for $32.2 million to be spent in order for all state employees and teachers to receive a 1 percent salary increase, Martinez said she does not believe the time is right for such a measure. “I don’t think when we are losing government jobs, 400 alone in the month of November, is a time for us to start giving pay increases,” Martinez said.
Corporate tax rate cut from 7.4% to 4.9%
Meanwhile, Martinez’s budget proposal would leave nearly $50 million available for tax breaks designed to make the state more economically competitive with its neighbors.
That includes a proposal to lower the state’s corporate income tax rate from 7.4 percent to 4.9 percent. That tax cut would likely be phased in over several years, Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford said Thursday.
Education will definitely be an issue in this year’s roundtable session as the lawmakers spar over:
Social promotion (whether or not failing 3rd graders should advance forward)
Nearly half of New Mexico’s third graders cannot read to grade level, according to a 2011 state-standardized test.
And if you listened to the rhetoric in the debate over what to do with those students, you might think the choice is simple: hold them back or pass them on to fourth grade without any consequences.
Should advancement in grade school become those “thanks for trying” medals we all got on field day and science fairs?
Funds for remediation/intervention for students struggling to read K thru 3rd grade
The administration has proposed $13.5 million to pay for remediation and intervention for students struggling to read in kindergarten through third grade, said Enrique Knell, the governor’s spokesman. Additional dollars also are being proposed to help students in early grades, Behrens said.
Funds to reward high-performance teachers
Martinez proposed $11.3 million in funds “to recruit, retain, and reward our best educators.”
“Reform in education should have no political party label. It’s not about party or politics,” Martinez said. “It’s about having the courage to challenge the status quo, to put student achievement and nothing else at the very top of our list of concerns.”
High performing teachers would need to be evaluated using standardized testing. This is something that Sanchez does not agree with.
“We can’t recruit teachers if we continue to insist they spend more time testing than teaching and blame them for all of our problems,” Sanchez, whose wife is a school teacher, said in his State of the State response.
Student achievement is the key phrase here. While legislators discuss whether or not 3rd graders who cannot read should advance to 4th grade, they essentially squabble over whether our children should be expected to achieve. Our best educators should be rewarded for EDUCATING and our best students should be rewarded for learning. The idea of merit based pay is a good one and worth exploring while we iron out details of how to measure the results we’re rewarding.
Driver’s Licenses for Illegals
This continual controversial issue will remain so throughout this legislative session. Will they actually reach an agreement? Don’t hold your breath.
Gov. Susana Martinez has been pushing to repeal the law since taking office, but so far, she hasn’t been able to get Democrats behind her.
Martinez said it’s a public safety issue. Authorities arrested seven illegal immigrants last week who were allegedly trying to fraudulently obtain licenses.
But Hispanic groups said repealing the law isn’t the right move.
“But to give a driver’s license to somebody we know here is illegally in the country, that is where New Mexicans have said no and asked me to fight for it over and over and not give up,” Martinez said.
“We shouldn’t be looking at stepping backward because it’s going to be a seesaw battle forever. Let’s find the right solution, and then end it there,” Lulac resident Ralph Arellanes said.??Arellanes said state lawmakers need to compromise. He wants the state to strengthen the requirements to get licenses, and then require drivers to renew them every year.
Read the rest of this article here.
Santa Fe’s minimum wage is increasing this year by 22 cents, from $10.29 an hour to $10.51–surpassed only by San Francisco nationally–due to its wage mandate tied to an annual CPI for the western United States. Similarly, Albuquerque voters has tied their wage mandate to inflation as well with the passing of a resolution increasing their minimum wage to $8.50 an hour.
With Albuquerque passing such a measure, we could very well see the Democrats this session push for a statewide minimum wage increase to $8.50 an hour (it currently sits at $7.50).
Mayor Coss may be relishing in his “triumph” over poverty and the lowest unemployment rate in the state, but the city’s 16-24 year olds unemployment rate (the group most affected by wage mandates) is already hovering about 22%.
In the aftermath of the most recent mass shooting, there has been a wave of gun control and anti-gun control fervor sweeping across the nation. New Mexico is no different in this regard. This session will see both legislation calling for more gun control and legislation counteracting federal gun control measures:
Gun control bill - HB77 :
Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, D-Albuquerque, introduced legislation to close the “gun show loophole” by requiring mandatory background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows or from a private vendor.
Gun rights bill - HB 114 :
Republican legislator Nora Espinoza introduced the bill yesterday, which has been co-sponsored by ten other New Mexico legislators. If passed, the law would make it a third degree felony for federal or state agents to restrict, register or seize firearms under color of federal law. The protections of the bill would apply assault weapons and high capacity magazines, which the White House seeks to ban, as well as semi-automatic handguns. The bill would also require the New Mexico Attorney General to defend any state resident charged by the federal government with violation of federal gun laws.
Many other state legislatures are finding similar bills being proposed. You can read more about the HB 114 here.
There are many recurring issues this legislative session, and there are many new players we have to watch out for. Between drivers licenses for illegals and gun bans vs bans on gun bans, we’re going to be busy here at PubliusNM. We’re happy to be back and look forward to watching the drama unfold (much like a bad reality tv show). Hold onto to your wallets and liberties, folks, they’re up for auction while the legislature is in session.