Good or bad, Legislature was busy
March 27, 2019
Depending on your political persuasion, this was either the best or the worst state legislative session in a long, long time.
According to nmlegis.gov, the New Mexico Legislature’s website, there were 477 bills, memorials and resolutions passed during the 60-day session that ended earlier this month, which is down from the 507 bills passed in 2017, the previous 60-day session.
There may have been fewer bills passed, but they’re packing a bigger punch.
From the environment, to the minimum wage, to a whole new department to address the needs of preschoolers, and to just about everything else Michelle Lujan Grisham promised she’d do when she was running for office, she did. Or at least the Democratic Party’s legislative majority did, under her executive leadership.
Here’s just a small handful of the bills that passed in this year’s legislative session:
• Tougher gun control measures regarding the buying and selling of firearms were passed, and they’ve stirred up law enforcement all over the state. Nearly all of the state’s 33 counties have passed “Second Amendment Sanctuary” measures in support of sheriffs who see no need to enforce new and tighter restrictions on our right to bear arms. The New Mexico Sheriffs Association contends the bills are duplicative, unnecessary and in violation of our greater constitutional rights, and so they’re not planning to enforce them.
Maybe such a rebellion will lead to a showdown between those who believe that restricting gun rights of law-abiding citizens doesn’t take guns away from criminals versus other American citizens who are tired of the mass shootings that have gripped our nation like an epidemic. And while Second Amendment proponents have demonstrated their willingness to object to additional gun restrictions, as the mass killings continue, the anti-gun crowd is proving to be all the more vocal as well.
I can’t remember a time when guns weren’t a political hot-button issue, but this time seems different. Now there’s a whole new generation of young people (some of whom are school shooting survivors, so for them it’s deeply personal) who seem determined to reign in gun rights in an effort to protect our children.
• As for the education of those children, there is no rebellion yet here in New Mexico. Lujan Grisham called for a “moonshot” — a massive infusion of money into a bold new approach to public education — and she got it. Our schools will now be impacted with across-the-board raises for public school educators and support staff, longer school days for some in at-risk districts, and a whole new cabinet-level department to specifically address early childhood “education and care.”
Plus, along with all the extra tax dollars going into education, a more pragmatic approach was also written in, with restrictions on how much money a district can spend on its central office administration. The idea stems from a 2017 study by the nonpartisan think tank Think New Mexico that showed the most successful districts are the ones that invest a greater percentage of their money directly into the classroom. It makes perfect sense, since it’s in the classroom, not at central office, where learning takes place.
• Then there’s the economy, which will also be impacted in significant ways by bills passed this year. The minimum wage is going up, from $7.50 an hour now to $9 in 2020 and $12 by 2023. But, to my disappointment at least, lawmakers rejected proposals to tie future increases to inflation, which means it is sure to remain a political football in the years ahead.
Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at: