Alibi V.28 No.6 • Feb 7-13, 2019 

New Mexico News

Spirits of Donkeys and Elephants

Bipartisan flavors get work done

Michelle Lujan Grisham and Susana Martinez
Michelle Lujan Grisham and Susana Martinez
Courtesy NM Political Report

There’s a way to get things done in the Legislature folks. And though the process still resembles the mythic sausage-making that today’s reporters have been warned to watch only in short, fitful bursts—lest they too be consumed with the desire to organize, orchestrate and manifest what are essentially methods of control—the resulting meat product apparently tastes better when both parties are involved.

That spirit of bipartisanship was in clear view this week at the state Legislature when our newly elected Democratic governor held a press conference on Monday. As more than 20 lawmakers from both parties looked on, Michelle Lujan Grisham signed 42 bills into law—a grouping she referred to as a “rocket docket”—while proclaiming a new era in reaching across the aisle for the betterment of all New Mexicans.

Before taking a look at some of the bills from both sides that Lujan Grisham signed into law this week, it’s worth noting that her predecessor, the Republican La Tejana, was just a bit better known for wielding the veto pen—and thereby truncating the hopes of a Democratic party she saw as intrinsically hostile.

In fact, former Governor Martinez became known for her propensity to put the kibosh on much of the progressive and bipartisan agenda shaped by legislative bodies during her tenure.

Martinez vetoed nearly a third of bills that reached her desk last year, including HB 19, a broadly supported highly touted, bipartisan crime bill. The year before that Martinez vetoed nearly 50 percent of legislation sent her way, saying no to some bills that passed through both houses on unanimous votes.

The last Republican governor was taken to task for these actions and in April of last year, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that 10 of those vetoes from 2017 were invalid.

Clearly 2019 is going to be different.

At the press conference to announce the success of bills on the state’s “rocket docket,” members of both parties could be seen sharing the joy of moving forward with governance in New Mexico.

The local daily—a longtime bastion for Republican beliefs and initiatives—even reported that a state representative from the formerly perpetual red lands to the south championed the new vision of bipartisanship. Representative Candy Spense Ezzell (R-Roswell) told the newspaper that “It does take working with both sides of the aisle to get something accomplished for the good of New Mexico.”

How’s that for progress, mijos y mijas?

The grouping of new laws—call it whatever you want, but here at Alibi HQ we’re refering to the package deal as “Christmas,” both red and green mixed together deliciously—is certainly varied and provides a clear sketch of where the new Democratic administration wants to travel towards as we all work together renewing and reassembling the Land of Enchantment after eight years of divisive leadership.

Here’s what caught our eye and tempted our taste buds on that big New Mexican, two-color enchilada plate:

HB 227 limits the use of teacher attendance in fashioning yearly performance reviews and calls for the state to adopt and use highly objective uniform statewide standards of evaluation for the annual performance evaluation of licensed school employees. The legislation was sponsored by two donkeys and a longtime elephant, Jason C. Harper of Rio Rancho.

In line with the new focus on education reform, HB 44 mandates professional devlopment for school personnel, including administrators, career-technical teachers and educational assistants. This bill was cosponsored by Representative Melanie Stansbury (D-Albuquerque) a new legislator endorsed by Weekly Alibi and identified as a potential mover and shaker in a progressive administration.

Meanwhile, the new Electronic Communications Privacy Act (SB 199) sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth is directly related to improving civil liberties in the state by defining personal protections from government access to electronic communications. The new law does that by providing necessary definitions and quantifying the type of access allowed to authorities and private parties.

Senator Sander Rue (R-Bernalillo) proposed and saw through to signing a bill (SB 58) that directly relates to government accountability to science. By mandating that state agencies seeking funding identify and prioritize evidence-based and research-based sub-programs within their respective ken, the law sees to it that funding is prioritized for programs that incorporate “methods demonstrated to be effective for the intended population through scientifically based research.” Go science!

Part of an initiative to provide local governments with the funds necessary to create sustainability, SB 18 will appropriate $3 million from the state public project revolving fund for use in local government planning. This law will also give the New Mexico Finance Authority the aegis to administer and make grants available “to qualified entities to evaluate and estimate the costs of implementing the most feasible alternatives for infrastructure, water or wastewater public projects or to develop water conservation plans, long-term master plans, economic development plans or energy audits and to pay the administrative costs of the local government planning program.” We are confident that this new law will make our city’s mayor smile more than listening to Metallica might.