The New Mexico Legislation Session: What You May Have Missed
New Mexico state government is divided: both the state House and state Senate have a majority of Democrats, while Governor Susana Martinez is a Republican. Under such circumstances, there is bound to be some conflict. For instance, the governor has pledged to veto bills, passed by both the senate and the house, raising the state’s minimum wage above the federally-mandated minimum of $7.25 per hour. The governor insisted that the proposed increases – to $9.00 per hour by one bill and $9.25 by the second – were too high for small business owners to afford. On the other hand, the governor’s proposed budget, which included cuts to the state’s contribution to the pensions of public employees – but no revenue increases – was flatly objected by the legislature.
The result: a likely special session called by the governor to resolve the budget impasse – the third in the past three years. However, some legislation was actually signed into law during the 2017 regular session. The following four pieces of legislation represent changes to state law that occurred, even with the present divided government.
Senate Bill 75: Changes in the Deferred Compensation Act
This bi-partisan bill was co-sponsored by Democratic state representative Roberto Gonzalez and Republican state senator James White. The act updates definitions, investment options, methods of transmission, and notification requirements for deferred compensation for state and local public employees. It was passed unanimously by both the state House and the state Senate, and signed into law by Governor Martinez. One of the most important aspects of this legislation is that eligible deferred compensation is now limited to taxable income.
Senate Bill 103: Transfer of College Credits
Sponsored by Republican state senator Gay Kernan, this bill passed unanimously in the House and the Senate, and was signed into law by Governor Martinez. This bill establishes a statewide framework to evaluate substantively equivalent courses for college transfer credit from one university to another. The bill also calls for the establishment of a statewide core curriculum of meta-majors and transfer modules by August 2019.
Senate Bill 32: K-3 Plus Eligibility
This bill, also sponsored by Republican state senator Gay Kernan, calls for making the K-3 program, introduced during a six-year trial, permanent. Specifically, the K-3 program calls for full-day kindergarten and a longer school year,for children in grades 1-3, who attend schools in high poverty districts, schools whose programs are graded D or F, or schools already in the pilot program that want to continue their participation. The bill passed both houses of the state legislature unanimously, and was signed into law by the governor.
Senate Bill 28: Educational Retirement Changes
This bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by Democratic state representative Tomas Salazar and state senator Gay Kernan. The bill passed unanimously in both branches of the legislature, and was signed into law by the governor. This act establishes standards for use of a medical authority to determine disability. The bill also amends the Educational Retirement Act to declare eligibility for provisional membership.
While a special legislative session does indeed seem likely, the details of its outcome are unclear. Nonetheless, SaucedoChavez will continue to monitor the situation in Santa Fe, to ensure that we are able to provide the most knowledgeable and responsive service possible for our clients.