Gov. Susana Martinez' introduction at her final State of the State address last week was interrupted by protesters displaying a banner and shouting from a gallery overlooking the House floor. In the opening moments of the governor's speech, a group of demonstrators unrolled a banner and began chanting. The demonstration was in support of the Dream Act, which would offer conditional residency to young immigrants and protect them from being removed from the country by the Department of Homeland Security. The protest was organized by the New Mexico Dream Team, a group made up of young people brought into the US illegally. Within moments, the demonstrators were removed from the assembly and Gov. Martinez was able to begin her speech, in which she advised stiffer penalties against criminals and said that she would “never apologize for our law enforcement officers doing their jobs.” She criticized a constitutional amendment that was approved by voters in 2016 which gives judges the authority to deny bail to defendants determined to be too dangerous and blocks authorities from jailing defendants who aren’t deemed dangerous or a flight risk because they cannot afford bail. Governor Martinez also spoke about comprehensive tax reform and called for a two percent raise in teacher salaries.
New Senate Majority Whip Elected
Last week, state Sen. Mimi Stewart was elected Senate Majority Whip by state Democrats to replace state Sen. Michael Padilla. Stewart is a retired educator who has worked for Albuquerque Public Schools and is a former Field Representative of the American Federation of Teachers. She is a member of New Mexico Women's Agenda and the New Mexico Women's Foundation. Stewart has been a state Senator since 2014, following 20 years as a state representative. She was one of the lawmakers who contributed to the Legislature’s new anti-harassment policy, which requires an outside consultant to be involved in cases of harassment filed against sitting legislators. Some state Democrats have expressed concern over what they point out is an all-white leadership serving a large Hispanic constituency in an area that has historically elected Hispanic leaders.
First Bill of Session Signed
The first bill to be signed during the 2018 New Mexico Legislative Session was done so under a closing deadline. Senate Bill 1, the Nurse Licensure Compact—which allows nurses certified in other states to operate in New Mexico as part of a multistate license program—was adopted in an unusually quick and efficient manner. The previous compact was set to expire Thursday, Jan. 18. Failing to sign onto the new compact would have resulted in the loss of all traveling nurses operating in the state, but the governor signed the approved the compact only hours after it had been endorsed by the house and a day after it had been approved by the Senate. SB 1 was sponsored jointly by Sens. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs; Howie Morales, D-Silver City; and Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.