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.
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.
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.
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.
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: Payroll Problems, Likely Fraud Hit Alamogordo Schools – Alamogordo Daily News, Associated Press
A new audit shows Alamogordo Public School 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.