Legislative session low-down

 


PNT senior writer

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New Mexico’s Lt. Gov. John Sanchez said bipartisanship was exercised in this legislative session to pass the state’s $6.2 billion budget and other key bills.

The Republican spoke about the results of the 30-day session and other issues Tuesday with the Portales News-Tribune.

The bills that passed

Sanchez said more could have been completed this session had the budget been passed sooner; but of the legislation that made it to the Gov. Susana Martinez’ desk, Sanchez said the texting while driving ban is an important one.

“I say that as a parent,” Sanchez said, “I have two daughters in their 20s right now ... I think that it’s a public safety issue.”

Sanchez added the number of accidents connected to drivers texting while driving has risen across the country, so the bill is one common sense solution to the problem.

The budget, which Sanchez said was the reason for the session, was a compromise House Democrats wanted and Martinez who was pushing for her education initiatives.

“It was a good sign that even in an election year, legislators took a bipartisan approach,” Sanchez said. “I think (Martinez) was pleased. Compromise was the key word there.”

Minimum wage

A bill to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 was killed in the legislative session. Sanchez said if the minimum wage is raised too high, it can kill a lot of entry level jobs.

He said he remembered being a teenager sacking groceries for minimum wage, a job that taught him the value of work.

He said those will be the jobs that will be lost if the minimum wage is raised and feels those entry level positions should be reserved for high school students.

Sanchez said that Martinez said she was open to raising the minimum wage that extra $1, which she considers a good balance of what Democrats want and what can be realistically done.

But Sanchez said a better long-term solution is to create policies that will bring business here to create high-paying jobs so that people coming out of Eastern New Mexico University can have job opportunities with yearly salaries of $40,000 and $50,000.


“With a more competitive tax code and the state’s pro-business attitude, we’re starting to see New Mexico attracting companies,” Sanchez said.

Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera

Public Education Department Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera’s nomination to secretary has been a point of contention between state lawmakers and educators alike due to Skandera’s criticized education initiatives.

Three motions in the Senate Rules Committee to send her nomination to the Senate floor all failed.

“I think it’s unfortunate the chair of the Senate Rules Committee wouldn’t let the full Senate vote,” said Sanchez, a supporter of Skandera.

Sanchez feels Skandera is unscathed by the political tension surrounding her nomination and continues to serve in her role.

“I think Hanna Skandera has proven to be committed to the education of New Mexico kids and we’re starting to see great returns on her initiatives,” Sanchez said.

Poverty

With New Mexico ranking in the top three in the nation for its high poverty level, Sanchez said there are several ways to break the cycle.

“We need to be able to lift up New Mexican families through opportunities,” Sanchez said. “I like using the hand up versus the handout.”

Sanchez said citizens need a safety net of government assistance for the neediest residents in the state, but for most receiving assistance, “we need to have that safety net become a trampoline,” he said.

Sanchez said most families would take a high-paying job over receiving assistance.

“It’s innate; in their own DNA. They want to be productive.”

Sanchez said by ensuring the state’s education is competitive and a business-friendly environment is the right recipe to break the cycle of poverty in New Mexico.

 
 

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