Bill For Higher Teacher Salaries Passes Key Committee, Minimum Wage Bill Advances

Jan 23, 2019

Key Panel OKs New Mexico Teacher Salary Bill – Associated Press

A key committee has approved a proposal that would incrementally increase minimum salaries for New Mexico teachers and principals.

The bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mimi Stewart passed the House Education Committee on Wednesday with bipartisan support amid a push to give New Mexico educators pay hikes.

Under the plan, the starting salary for Level 1 teachers would go from $36,000 a year to $40,000 in 2020. The salary eventually would jump to $45,000 by 2022.

The proposal also calls for Level 2 teacher pay jumps from $44,000 a year to $55,000 by 2022.

Level 3 teacher pay would go from $54,000 to $65,000 by 2022.

Republican Sen. Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho says the bill makes educator salaries more competitive with other nearby states.

Bill On Yearly New Mexico Teacher Salary Jumps Gets 1st Test - Associated Press

A proposal that would incrementally increase minimum salaries for New Mexico teachers and principals faces its first test.

The bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque is heading to the House Education Committee on Wednesday amid a push from Democrats to give New Mexico educators pay hikes.

Under the plan, the starting salary for Level 1 teachers would go from $36,000 a year to $40,000 in 2020. The salary eventually would jump to $45,000 by 2022.

The proposal also calls for Level II teacher pay jumps from $44,000 a year to $55,000 by 2022.

Level III teacher pay would go from $54,000 to $65,000 by 2022.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has vowed to increase teacher pay by 6 percent.

2 Fort Bliss Soldiers Killed, 7 Hurt After  Training CrashKTSM-TV, Associated Press

Authorities say two soldiers from an Army base in Texas have died and seven other military members remain hospitalized after two military training vehicles crashed in southern New Mexico.

El Paso TV station KTSM reports the soldiers were part of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss that's headquartered in El Paso.

The crash reportedly occurred Tuesday night on U.S. Route 54 close to Otero County Prison, about 30 miles from El Paso, and involved two Stryker vehicles.

Fort Bliss officials say the crash is under investigation.

The names of the two soldiers who died are being withheld until their families can be notified.

Authorities Find Suspected Stash House For Human TraffickingLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

Authorities from the United States and Mexico are investigating after a 17-year-old from Guatemala and his father say they were held against their will in a house in Mexico as part of a human trafficking operation.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported Tuesday that the teen, after being apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents near Mount Cristo Rey in Sunland Park, told agents he was able to escape the house and run north across the international border.

Border Patrol says the teen's father later was apprehended by agents near where his son had been encountered.

The father and son were reunited at the Santa Teresa Border Patrol Station.

Border Patrol says an investigation uncovered the location of the stash house where the two males say they were held and extorted for money in Colonia Rancho Anapra south of Sunland Park.

New Mexico Legislature Weighs Tax ReformsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Legislature is considering tax reforms that would increase state income tax rates on top earners and lower economy-wide tax rates on sales and business services.

The lengthy reform proposal from Democratic legislators was schedule for discussion by a House panel on Wednesday. A fiscal analysis of the proposed changes shows a substantial increase in state government income.

Major provisions of the bill would increase the top rate on state personal income taxes from 4.9 percent to 6.5 percent and extend the collection of taxes from online retailers.

As drafted, the bill would increase the sales tax on gasoline by 10 cents a gallon to 27 cents. A tax on motor vehicle sales also would rise. And New Mexico would collect more taxes from nonprofit and government hospitals.

Republican Party To Express 'Undivided Support' For TrumpAssociated Press

The Republican Party's governing body is set to offer its "undivided support" for Donald Trump and his "effective presidency," lending its backing to the president and his re-election campaign.

The Republican National Committee's resolutions committee unanimously approved the measure Wednesday at a winter meeting in New Mexico, clearing the way for its passage before the full membership Friday.

The expression of support comes as Trump's re-election campaign is taking steps to scare off any potential primary challenger in 2020.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Wednesday shows Trump's approval rating stands at 34 percent, its lowest point in more than a year.

A more strident resolution, which explicitly endorsed Trump for re-election, was not taken up by the committee.

US Panel To Hear Arguments In Nuclear Waste Storage Case - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Environmentalists and nuclear watchdog groups are lining up against plans to build a $2.4 billion storage facility in southeastern New Mexico for spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the United States.

Attorneys for the groups are scheduled Wednesday to make oral arguments before a panel with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission during a hearing in Albuquerque.

The panel will determine which groups have standing and which objections will be considered as part of the case.

New Jersey-based Holtec International has applied for a license to construct the facility about 35 miles east of Carlsbad. It would be capable of storing as much as 120,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste.

Opponents have concerns about the project's legality, the safety of transporting the fuel across the country and potential environmental effects.

Minimum Wage Bill Advances In New Mexico - Associated Press

A proposal to increase the statewide minimum wage in New Mexico from $7.50 an hour gradually to $12 in 2021 has received its first committee endorsement.

The bill advanced Tuesday out of a House panel on labor issues on a 6-3 vote with only Democrats voting in support. It has yet to come to a floor vote in either chamber of the Legislature.

The bill from Democratic Reps. Miguel Garcia of Albuquerque and Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces eventually would tie minimum pay to a federal index for inflation to ensure continued wage growth. It has the backing of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Restaurant owners are objecting to provisions that entitle tipped employees to the full statewide minimum wage, regardless of tips received.

The bill would not affect cities that mandate higher minimum wage provisions.


Senator Denounces 'Cruelty' Of Federal Shutdown - Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall says more than 10,800 federal workers in New Mexico have been furloughed or are working without pay under the partial federal government shutdown.

The state's senior senator expressed opposition Tuesday to President Trump's proposal to reopen government in an address to members of the New Mexico state Legislature.

Trump wants $5.7 billion to start building his prized border wall and has offered to back immigration law reforms that Democrats call inadequate.

Udall says the "cruelty of this shutdown must stop" and that negotiations for stronger border security can take place later.

He also accused the Trump administration of gutting federal environmental oversight and urged state lawmakers to take action to combat global warming by better regulating methane emissions.

New Mexico Governor Appoints Taxation Secretary - Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is appointing a public finance expert with lengthy experience in state and local government to lead the New Mexico's taxation agency and companion Motor Vehicle Division.

The Democratic governor announced Tuesday that Stephanie Schardin Clarke will leave her job as finance director for Santa Fe County to take the reins of the state's embattled Taxation and Revenue Department.

The agency has been without a permanent secretary since the resignation of Demesia Padilla to confront charges of embezzlement and using a position in government for personal gain.

The department also has been mired in controversy over new identification requirements initiated in 2016 for driver's licenses and alternative identity cards. Unresolved tax abatement and refund claims have soared to $320 million.

State's Indian Affairs Agency Gets New Leader - Associated Press

An administrator of federal rural development programs has been chosen to lead New Mexico's Indian Affairs Department that coordinates state relations with more than 20 local Native American tribes.

Lynn Trujillo was appointed on Tuesday to the Cabinet-level position by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Trujillo has been working with tribes across the state as a Native American coordinator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She is a tribal member of Sandia Pueblo, where she previously served as general counsel.

Trujillo says she wants to restore respectful relations between tribal governments and the state of New Mexico.

Felon-Voting Measure Gets Committee Hearing – Associated Press

A New Mexico proposal to ensure convicted felons do not lose voting rights while incarcerated or on parole has drawn debate in a committee hearing in Santa Fe.

The legislation proposed by Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey, of Albuquerque, received its first hearing Wednesday before a House committee.

Supporters told lawmakers the bill represents a step toward boosting voting among minorities who have historically faced disproportionately high incarceration rates.

Opponents questioned the reasoning behind extending voting rights for criminals, especially those who committed violent crimes.

Republican lawmakers say the measure is radical, and does not clarify the district where an inmate would be considered a resident.

Felons' voting rights in New Mexico are supposed to be restored after they've completed their sentence, parole or probation.

New Mexico Lawmakers Review Felon-Voting Rights Proposal - Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are expected to weigh whether the state should stop removing felons from the state's voting rolls while they are incarcerated or on parole.

The Democratic legislation proposed by Rep. Gail Chasey, of Albuquerque, is set on Wednesday to go before a House committee — marking an early hurdle for the bill. State analysts say the measure if approved would make New Mexico one of three states where felons would not lose their right to vote at any point.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says convicted felons' voting rights in New Mexico currently are restored after they've completed their sentence, parole or period of probation.

Republican lawmakers say the measure is radical, and does not clarify the district where an inmate would be considered a resident.

Audit Finds Payroll Problems, Likely Fraud Hit Alamogordo Schools - Alamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

A new audit shows Alamogordo Public Schools is plagued by procurement issues, payroll problems and possible fraud.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports an independent audit released last week revealed 17 findings, including some that needed reporting to the State Auditor's Office and law enforcement.

According to the audit, a former technology director negotiated an agreement in April 2018 for telecommunications services without either a purchase order or going out to bid.

The audit also found that last year the district prepaid salaries for July 10 to 14 totaling $101,603 being dispersed without benefits. The district didn't recover the money when employees left.

In September, Alamogordo Superintendent Adrianne Salas stepped down amid pressure following two schools receiving "F'' grades.

Abortion Protesters Descend On New Mexico Legislature - Associated Press

Advocates for abortion rights were chanting and unfurling banners in the New Mexico House of Representatives in support of efforts to overturn the state's dormant ban on abortion.

A cluster of protesters chanted "repeal the ban" and hung banners from a balcony on Tuesday in the House of Representatives in violation of a prohibition on large signs in the Capitol.

Leading Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham are seeking to remove the state's criminal ban on abortion in case the U.S. Supreme Court overturns a 1973 decision that made the procedure legal nationwide.

Several legislators yelled out for security guards and police to eject the protesters.