New Mexico State Senate Democrats Roll Out Big Jobs Package

‘Ready to Work’ Will Get NM Working Again 

Democratic leaders in the New Mexico Senate today announced an ambitious package of legislation that would create 73,000 new jobs and stimulate economic growth. The Democrats’ ‘Ready to Work’ Jobs Package contains more than 40 bills introduced in the current Session that address the need for more employment and economic activity in urban and rural areas of the state, across a broad range of occupations. Democrats contrasted their legislative priorities with the Governor’s agenda of passing measures that they characterized as “symbolic”, including so-called right-to-work and other measures.

“Today we articulated our vision of the kind of actions we can take in this Legislative Session to build a better New Mexico. Our ‘Ready to Work’ Jobs Plan can reverse the low-growth course we’re on, if we have the will and the courage to enact it. We must be bold. We must be imaginative. That’s what has been missing for the last 4 years in the state’s economic policies,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia).

The emphasis of the Democratic jobs package is two-fold: prioritizing measures to make new employment opportunities available to those who have skills and are ready to work, but cannot find work; and getting those without needed skills or education (or who are entering the workforce) the training that employers seek. “Our top priority is creating jobs and getting the economy moving again in New Mexico. People are hurting in our state, and we are urgent about this. Democrats know how to create jobs. ‘Right to Work’ won’t create a single job; help one small business expand, or bring a new firm here. ‘Ready to Work’ will get people working again, and rebuild our economy,” said Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla (D-14- Albuquerque).

Democratic legislation in the package of bills announced today includes increased funding for job training (JTIP) through community colleges; $300 million worth of local roads and highway jobs paid for by a gas tax increase; a new 33 percent set-aside for New Mexico businesses in government contracts; tripling the LEDA Fund to help us compete for businesses locating from out-of-state; a substantial increase in early childhood education programs; investments in rural broadband, and many other job measures.

Senator Martin Heinrich Appointed Ranking Member Of National Parks Subcommittee

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) was appointed ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on National Parks. Heinrich will also serve on the Energy and Public Lands, Forests, and Mining Subcommittees.

“America’s public lands are part of the fabric of our democracy. In New Mexico, our way of life depends on the region’s land and water, and outdoor recreation contributes enormously to our economy,” said Sen. Heinrich. “Through my position on these subcommittees and as ranking member of the National Parks Subcommittee, I will have the opportunity to help shape our nation’s energy policies and tackle some of today’s challenges like climate change, providing full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and conserving our treasured public lands for future generations.”

The Subcommittee on National Parks exercises jurisdiction over the National Park System, Wild and Scenic Rivers System, National Trails System, national recreation areas, national monuments, historic sites, military parks and battle fields, the Land and Water Conservation fund, historic preservation, outdoor recreation resources, and preservation of prehistoric ruins and objects of interest on the public domain.

Advocates are Confident that Immigration Ruling by a Texas Federal District Court Will Not Stand – Individuals are Urged to Be Ready to Apply!

Early this morning, a U.S. District Court Judge in the Southern District of Texas issued a temporary injunction blocking the implementation of the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as well as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program. The Obama Administration is appealing the ruling.

The application process for DACA was scheduled to begin tomorrow. Approximately 230,000 individuals were prepared to apply for relief under the program. The Court’s Order delays implementation of the DACA program, and thus, those individuals are left waiting for relief until the matter is resolved. The ruling also temporarily affects 3.7 million undocumented parents of US citizens or legal permanent residents. The guidelines for DAPA were expected to be released in the spring, but now under the ruling may be postponed.

LULAC National Executive Director, Brent Wilkes, issued the following response.

“It is disappointing, that after years of promises from Republican leaders claiming to support bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform their only response has been to block efforts that would bring relief to millions. We have heard from our Republican allies who say they have a moral obligation to vote against a position they believe to be unconstitutional. This position ignores the fact that Administrative action was only necessary because of the Republican failure to act on pending bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. Attempts by anti-immigrant proponents to block the implementation of the DACA and DAPA programs only fuel our resolve to assist the millions of undocumented individuals who could benefit from the President’s Executive Orders. We are confident that the President’s action will ultimately be found by the Court to be constitutional and cleared for implementation. In the meantime, LULAC will educate and assist families in preparing for the application process. LULAC is encouraged by the fact that the programs enjoy overwhelming support by the American people and looks forward to the day when millions of undocumented individuals can come out of the shadows and live productive lives. “

Weekly Address: Giving Every Child, Everywhere, a Fair Shot

In this week’s address, the President laid out his plan to ensure more children graduate from school fully prepared for college and a career.

Our elementary and secondary schools are doing better, as demonstrated by the news this past week that our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high, but there is still more that can be done to ensure every child receives a quality education. That’s why the President wants to replace No Child Left Behind with a new law that addresses the overuse of standardized tests, makes a real investment in preschool, and gives every kid a fair shot at success.

He reminded everyone that when educating our kids, the future of our nation, we shouldn’t accept anything less than the best.

Watch and share President Obama’s weekly address.

Senator Tom Udall Announces Major Legislation to Improve Health and Well-being of New Mexico Children

Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall announced that he has introduced major legislation aimed at helping improve the health and education of New Mexico children by increasing access to federal education and anti-poverty programs. The Saving Our Next Generation (SONG) Act is based on outreach and research Udall conducted over the last year, including workshops that brought together child well-being experts from across the state to discuss how the federal government can help lift New Mexico from the bottom of national rankings for children’s well-being.

“Every day across New Mexico, thousands of our children go to bed hungry. Many of these same kids have no structured child care and no way to see a doctor when they get sick. The reasons are complex and complicated, but they aren’t going to get better unless we all make it a priority to improve the state of child well-being in New Mexico. Not only is this crucial for our kids today, but it is a basic step to ensuring children escape the cycle of poverty and become healthy, productive workers,” Udall said.

“One major step is to make the investments that will help improve access to education and anti-poverty programs,” Udall continued. “That’s the purpose of the SONG Act, and I want to thank all of the community leaders and experts who contributed to writing this bill. By streamlining access and fully funding the most effective child well-being programs, the SONG Act will help ensure New Mexico children have the resources they need to grow up healthy and do well in school.”

While the SONG Act is oriented toward improving federal programs for children, Udall emphasized that outcomes won’t improve unless federal, state and local officials work together in partnership to improve New Mexico child well-being. Next week, in his annual speech to the New Mexico Legislature, Udall will discuss his bill and the need for a coordinated effort to improve child well-being.

The SONG Act calls for streamlining eligibility and fully funding programs that are proven to improve child well-being, such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Head Start, school meal programs, and housing assistance. Additionally, the SONG Act increases access to proven health and education services while calling on national leadership to assess steps that can be taken to further improve outcomes for our nation’s children. Udall is also cosponsoring legislation that complements the SONG Act, including the reauthorization of CHIP; a bill that expands access to pre-Kindergarten education programs; and the SMART Act, to examine the best ways to test for student progress. Udall continues to work on a number of other bills related to advancing science, technology and math (STEM) education; ensuring resources for schools to offer physical education; improving Indian education; and boosting graduation rates for all students.

Udall’s SONG Act is endorsed by numerous children’s well-being groups in New Mexico, including: CHI St. Joseph’s Children, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, RESULTS-Santa Fe, Families USA, YDI-Elev8, the N.M. Public Health Association, United Way-Santa Fe County, N.M. Early Childhood Development, CLN Kids, Native American Professional Parent Resources, The Food Depot, La Familia Medical Center, N.M. Voices for Children, ENLACE Statewide Collaborative, Southwest Women’s Law Center, HELP-New Mexico, Parents Reaching Out, Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico, FamilyCook, N.M. GRADS, and the LANL Foundation.

“CHI St. Joseph’s Children, with over a hundred year history in New Mexico and operator of the largest home visiting program in the state, urges passage of this legislation to create a brighter future for our children.”
- Allen Sánchez, President/CEO of CHI St. Joseph’s Children

“Our nation can only be strong when our families are strong. We build strong families the same way we build strong communities — by ensuring that the necessary resources are at hand and that no barriers to opportunity exist for anyone. … We firmly believe that poverty can be eliminated, but not without a comprehensive plan.”
- Veronica C. Garcia, Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children

“We strongly endorse and support the SONG Act, a bill that pulls together, aligns and proposes expansion of many federal programs that, together, address the needs of children and their families who are struggling with poverty.”
- Kathryn C. (“Kitty”) Sherlock and Lydia Pendley, Co-Leaders of RESULTS-Santa Fe

“We have diligently served our committed students and families over the past 15 years and are very familiar with the many needs in our diverse communities, specifically the importance of advancing access and success in education. The purpose of the SONG Act legislation is to improve childhood outcomes in well-being, to reduce childhood poverty by strengthening children and families, to improve graduation rates, to reduce school dropout rates, and to fully fund effective laws that benefit child health and wellness. We see these goals benefiting our beautiful state by furthering family and community partnerships and by helping our children to succeed overall.”
- Dr. Lawrence Roybal, Executive Director, ENLACE Statewide Collaborative

A full overview of the SONG Act can be found HERE and below:

Saving Our Next Generation (SONG) Act

Purpose of legislation: To improve childhood outcomes in well-being and reduce childhood poverty by strengthening children and families and fully funding effective laws that benefit child well-being.

Leadership – The bill calls for several federal and national level efforts to stay focused on improving child well-being, such as a President’s Commission on Children (with business, public, private, nonprofit, and advocate groups charged with identifying best practices, opportunities for federal coordination of child programs and funding streams, and evaluation of wages of those who work with children), a 2016 Surgeon General Report on Improving the Health of Children, a Decennial White House Conference on Children, and a federal budget report to assess the impact of the federal budget on child well-being. The bill also calls for Governors Working Groups on Children grants that provide innovative, independent, bipartisan, and sustainable leadership at the state level for improving the health status of children.

Poverty – The bill strengthens the social capital in communities by engaging academic and business leaders in mentoring vulnerable families; full implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow bonding with newborns and adopted children; establishing a minimum wage above poverty level; and permanent extension and modifications to the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit.

Health – The bill strengthens medical and family leave; the Children’s Health Insurance Program; expands the Community Health Workers programs; increases access to dental, nursing and behavioral health services in schools and underserved areas; streamlines enrollment into health and nutrition programs for eligible children and families; and expands Chafee Medicaid to age 26 for youth who have aged out of foster care. It also allows Medicaid coverage for behavioral health assessment and treatment for juveniles during intake and before adjudication in the criminal justice system. And it reauthorizes mental health courts and drug courts.

Education – The bill calls for demonstration grants to states to expand school calendars to enhance learning, to school districts to support pregnant and parenting students to graduate from high school, and to encourage business mentoring. It improvescollege affordability by strengthening existing student loan programs.

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act: What the President Just Signed

Today, President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Act into law in the East Room of the White House.

The new suicide prevention law is named in honor of Clay Hunt, an extraordinary young Texan and decorated Marine who served with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like too many of our veterans, Clay struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress after he came home. Sadly, Clay’s life ended much too soon when he tragically committed suicide in 2011 at the age of only 28.

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act is a testament to the type of man that Clay Hunt was — even after his death, his legacy of helping veterans lives on.

In America, our veterans and troops are still struggling. As a country, we must do more to help our veterans deal with injuries like post-traumatic stress and depression.


“Everyone can do more, with and for our veterans. This has to be a national mission.”

— President Obama


Ensuring that veterans have access to timely and effective mental health care is a top priority for the President and his Administration. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act will help the Administration take additional steps to address mental health and prevent suicide among veterans.

This new law builds on a long history of executive actions the President has issued to improve access to mental health services for members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families. The Clay Hunt Act will:

  • Require annual third-party evaluations of VA’s mental health care and suicide prevention programs
  • Create a centralized website with resources and information for veterans about the range of mental health services available from the VA
  • Require collaboration on suicide prevention efforts between VA and non-profit mental health organizations

Veterans’ mental health is an issue that President Obama cares deeply about, and he has directed VA Secretary Bob McDonald to make it a top priority. Read more about the VA’s ongoing efforts to support veterans and their families here.

And if you are a veteran in need, know that you are not alone.


“America is here for you. All of us. And we will never stop doing everything in our power to get you the care and support you need to stay strong and keep serving this country we love.”

— President Obama


For more information on suicide prevention and the veterans crisis line, visit: http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/

Read the President’s full remarks from the event here.

Watch and share President Obama’s remarks here.

DNC Chair Announces Philadelphia to Host the 2016 Democratic National Convention

Today, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced Philadelphia will host the 2016 Democratic National Convention the week of July 25, 2016. The DNC signed the final contract with Philadelphia this morning.

“I am thrilled to announce that Philadelphia will host the convention where we will nominate the 45th President of the United States,” Wasserman Schultz said. “In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering. I cannot wait to join Democrats across the country to celebrate our shared values, lay out a Democratic vision for the future, and support our nominee.”

The DNC’s Technical Advisory Group evaluated cities across the country, looking at factors such as hotel capacity, transportation, security, financing and logistics.

“The City of Philadelphia is excited and honored to be selected as the host city for the 2016 Democratic National Convention,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter said. “We believe that it was our proven track record of hosting big events safely and efficiently with a dynamic team of top-tier professionals to organize and manage a conference of this magnitude, paired with our City’s tremendous amenities, its accessible location and historical significance, which made Philadelphia the ideal choice for the 2016 DNC.  I want to thank our great team at PHL DNC 2016, Governor Rendell and Governor Wolf, Senator Casey, Congressman Brady, Congressman Fattah, and former Congresswoman Schwartz.  I especially want to acknowledge our great partners in the Labor unions, business and political communities, clergy and our citizens, who are eager to see Philadelphia on the national stage as the host city.  We’re all delighted to make history again, here in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.”

Additional details on the convention structure, host committee, and staff, will be made available in the coming weeks.

Senator Heinrich Urges Republicans To Stop Unfairly Targeting DREAMers And Pass A Clean DHS Funding Bill

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich delivered a speech on the Senate floor yesterday urging Senate Republicans to pass a clean appropriations bill to fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The House-passed DHS funding bill includes a number of anti-immigrant provisions, including deporting DREAMers, which Republicans know cannot pass the U.S. Senate and would be vetoed by the president. Funding for DHS is set to expire on February 27.

“With threats emerging everyday both at home and abroad, casting doubt on future funding for the Department of Homeland Security is a terrible idea,” said Sen. Heinrich in his remarks. “A DHS shutdown would threaten public safety, it would hinder interstate commerce, hurt our economy, and jeopardize critical funding for state, local, and tribal government activities.”

In his speech, Senator Heinrich told the story of an Albuquerque DREAMer named Yuri who is currently studying chemical engineering at the University of New Mexico. He said in his speech, “I’ve met many DREAMers over the past ten years in New Mexico. They are smart, they’re hardworking, and most of them don’t know how to be anything but an American. They grew up here and they want to give back.”

Homeland security funding supports DHS and its related agencies, including the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Security Administration, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, among others.

Watch and share Senator Heinrich’s Senate speech.

Senator William “Bill” Soules: Commentary: Senator Cotter Gets it Wrong on School Fees

In his disingenuous letter to the editor that ran on Sunday, February 8 in the Las Cruces Sun News, Sen. Lee Cotter states that because I voted against Senate Bill 207 (SB 207), I do not support a free, public education, and that I support “illegal” collection of fees by public schools.  As anyone who knows me can attest, this characterization cannot be further from the truth.  Some clarity and truth-telling about this bill is clearly needed:  this legislation would prevent public schools from charging and collecting any fees for elective courses.  Since it provides no appropriation with it, SB207 would force schools to either stop offering all courses with fees, such as culinary, art, band, engineering, etc., or to take money away

State Senator Bill Soules

State Senator Bill Soules

from instruction in other non-elective courses to cover the increased costs.

Ideally, removing fees would be a good thing.   But the reality is that our public schools are underfunded in New Mexico.  That explains why the practice of collecting fees for participation in many elective courses has grown.   Elective courses help keep many students in school, rather than becoming drop-outs.  Eliminating these programs, as Sen. Cotter’s proposal would do, is unconscionable. Our state already struggles with high drop-out rates.  Let’s not make things worse.

Sen. Cotter’s claim that the fees are illegal is ludicrous.  The New Mexico Courts have already ruled that the collection of fees to cover supplies and materials for these courses is appropriate and legal.  The blanket statement that all of these fees are illegal is reckless, destructive, and political theatre.

I am offended when a legislator tries to smear my character and commitment to the students, schools, teachers, and parents with misinformation.  I would invite anyone to compare my voting record with Senator Cotter’s and judge for yourself how well public education is being served by your elected legislators.

I am happy to discuss education legislation with anyone.  My cell phone number is (575) 640-0409, my email is bill.soules@nmlegis.gov, and I am also available on Facebook and Twitter.

State Representative Jeff Steinborn: Commentary: Bring transparency to lobbying process in state

Reposted from the Las Cruces Sun-News, Sunday, February 8

Now is the time for greater transparency of lobbying in New Mexico. We all deserve to have a government that works for all of us — not just those at the top or out-of-state special interests. As a public servant, I want our legislative process to be as transparent as possible and I will keep fighting to ensure this for every hard-working New Mexican.

This October I was honored to receive the Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. I was chosen to receive this commendation for working toward greater transparency of our state government including passing legislation to broadcast our legislative hearings over the Internet. As important as these reforms were, New Mexico has a long way to go to level the playing field between hard-working New Mexicans and the special interests that influence our laws and legislative process.

To get a clear picture of how laws are created and passed in New Mexico, it’s important to know who is influencing legislators and the governor. More importantly, it’s crucial to know how much money is being spent to affect the process. One of the most important improvements we can make is to require full disclosure of all lobbying spending in the state and put this information online for all to see. In 2013 there were approximately six lobbyists for every one of New Mexico’s 112 legislators.

To modernize New Mexico’s lobbying laws I have introduced HB 155. It will require companies and interest groups who hire lobbyists to report all of the money they are spending to influence our state government. This legislation will also require lobbyists to specifically report on the issues they have been hired to lobby on. Finally, HB 155 will require that all of this information be placed online on the Secretary of State’s website in an easy and accessible format for the public to see.

HB 155 will have its first legislative hearing today in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee. Committee members will have the opportunity to vote for greater transparency, or continue to keep New Mexicans in the dark and protect the status quo. I am hopeful that they will embrace the transparency New Mexicans deserve.

This legislative session we are hearing legislation on critical issues that affect us all. Lobbyists are spending a significant amount of money to either pass or defeat these bills. It’s our right to know who is trying to influence our state policies, and ensure we all have a level playing field to make our voice heard. We need a government that works for everyone, not just those at the top or out-of-state special interests. HB 155 is a critical step forward to help us achieve that.

Rep. Jeff Steinborn is a four-term Democratic legislator from Doña Ana County. He sits on the Appropriations and Finance Committee and the Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment Committee.

Citizens who wish to contact their representatives and senators to support HB 155 and watch the webcast of the committee hearing today at 1:30 p.m. can go to www.nmlegis.gov

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