Legislature: Legislative roundup–more than half of New Mexico grandparents are raising grandchildren

Note:  This story is part of a package of news articles about the current session of the New Mexico Legislature that the Quay County Sun has obtained from the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper.

Legislative roundup, Jan. 29, 2014
Days remaining in session: 22

‘Abuelos’ get their due: More than half the grandparents in New Mexico are raising their children’s children.

About 55 percent of grandparents in the state are raising grandchildren, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey. Often, the grandparents shoulder parental duties for five years or more.

The state Senate declared Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Day.” The memorial sponsored by Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, acknowledged the sacrifices, challenges and joys that grandparents face when they raise grandchildren.

It called on the Legislature to confront the underlying factors that create grandparent-headed households, such as addiction, domestic violence, unemployment, poverty and teen births.

Senators praised the role grandparents play in passing on heritage through language and culture, and lamented grandparents whose contact with their grandchildren is limited. Some even shared their personal experiences of being raised by grandparents.

“Children who are raised by their grandparents remain in a familial household where they receive the love and support necessary to reach their full potential,” the memorial stated, ” … in the eyes of a child, a grandparent is truly a hero.”

Geek as second language: Have you ever stumbled upon a couple of information technology folks talking shop, and it sounds as if they’re speaking in an alien tongue?

Senate Bill 148, sponsored by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, would make classes that teach computer languages actually count as a foreign language for high school academic requirements.

Candelaria’s bill would add a section to the state statute on “Minimum Instructional Areas Required” that reads, “Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, in all grades, school districts may offer a course in a modern, widely used computer programming language to satisfy language other than English requirements.”

Widely used computer languages include Java, Javascript, C, Perl and HTML.

High school students in the state have to complete at least 24 academic units to graduate. At least one of those units must come from a category that includes communication skills, business education with a major emphasis on writing, and a language other than English.

Line of duty: Police officers, firefighters and corrections officers injured in the line of duty no longer would lose part of their retirement under a bill Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, introduced Tuesday.

Called “The Line of Duty Injury Act,” the bill would encourage state agencies to provide pay for administrative time — 32 hours a week — to cover what the injured employees would lose toward retirement. Under current law, injured public safety workers no longer accrue time toward retirement when they’re off work during recovery. Workers’ compensation pays 66 percent of benefits, but injured employees and their employers both stop paying their portion of the employees’ retirement while they’re recovering and off work.

“Essentially, it’s a double whammy,” said Pacheco, a retired police officer. “They’re getting financially injured while they’re recovering and trying to get back to work. It’s really unfair.”

The bill would allow agencies to retain full control over determining which employees fit the criteria. It would not mandate that any of the agencies pay the contributions, due to the more limited resources of smaller agencies.

Native holiday: By a vote of 70-0, the House approved a measure that would seek the designation of the national “Native American Heritage Day” as a federal public holiday.

House Memorial 4, sponsored by Rep. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Taos, encourages the state’s congressional delegation to advocate for the legal public holiday in honor of Native American people just after Thanksgiving, on the fourth Friday of November, every year.

HM 4 states that declaring this day as a legal public holiday would provide more opportunity to educate Americans and correct misunderstandings about indigenous cultures, and to celebrate Native Americans’ contributions to the United States.

Gonzales, whose district includes Taos Pueblo, said one of his constituents proposed the idea.

“This is something that is way overdue, especially when you see the other holidays that we already have,” Gonzales said in a news release. “Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the United States and there is a strong history behind this.”

Looking ahead: Working Classroom will present its fourth annual Roundhouse Comedy Revue at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at The Lodge at Santa Fe, 750 N. St. Francis Drive, with a second show Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Paul Carpenter y Salazar Theater, 423 Atlantic SW in Albuquerque. This is an evening of original sketch comedy poking fun at the personalities, politics and policies of the Legislature.

o Former Sen. Dede Feldman, an Albuquerque Democrat, is scheduled to autograph her recent book, Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots, Suits and Citizens, at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Rio Chama restaurant, 414 Old Santa Fe Trail.

o Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an immigrant-rights group, will deliver 5,000 signed petitions to the Capitol at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, during an Immigrant Day of Action. The petitions urge the governor to drop her support for repealing the law that allows undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. The protesters also will hand out personalized milk cartons and hard hats to lawmakers as a symbol of how immigrants contribute to the state’s economy.

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