NM Senate Democrats Keep Promises to New Mexico in 2015 Session; Push Legislation to Create Jobs, Improve Education, Protect Water and Air, Salvage Behavioral Health & More

During the 2015 Legislative session, Senate Democrats worked effectively for the people of New Mexico.  Senate Democrats’ top priority this Session was to create jobs and stimulate economic activity, reflected in their ‘Ready-to-Work’ legislative package.  Many job-creating measures were passed in the Senate and, if enacted, will help reverse the low-growth course the state has been experiencing.   Democrats also fought effectively to improve public education and job training, protect at-risk children, safeguard air and water, and help New Mexico’s most vulnerable citizens.

“I am proud of our substantial accomplishments in this Legislative Session to advance our vision for a better New Mexico.  Senate Democrats were bold and imaginative to try to create more jobs for hard-pressed residents of our state. That’s what has been missing for the last four years in the state’s economic policies,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia).

“We strongly disagreed with the Governor during this session on a broad range of issues, especially on capital outlay.  As a special favor to the oil and gas industry – which is enormously profitable today and which also happens to be her biggest political donor – she gutted $80 million for urgent funding for the facilities that serve thousands of our low-income seniors across the state daily, and facilities that serve our children in public schools and our colleges and university students.  Instead of helping them, she chose to ignore the needs in the capital outlay bill, so that taxpayers can foot the bill for expensive road improvements in Southeast New Mexico,” added Sen. Sanchez.

In the past four years, New Mexico has suffered from the lowest job growth in the nation and is losing many of its residents to surrounding states that offer better paying employment opportunities. This year, Senate Democrats introduced creative bills to better utilize New Mexico’s resources, help small businesses grow, and improve the opportunities for working people.

Some notable examples that passed both chambers include the Industrial Hemp Act, passed by both the Senate and the House, which will create thousands of jobs and give New Mexico’s agricultural industry a strong boost. Higher education institutions will begin research to prepare the state to grow this promising cash crop when approved by the federal government.

The Small Business Set Aside Act sets aside 33 percent of all state contracts for New Mexico businesses. It will help local businesses grow and encourage resident entrepreneurs to fill the gaps where we currently do not have a business that provides a specific product or service. Other important bills in the ‘Ready-to-Work’ package can be viewed here: Ready to Work Legislative Package.

Other Senate Democrat initiatives include:

  • The Sustainable Building Tax Credit bill encourages private sector design and construction of green, energy-efficient, sustainable buildings for commercial and residential use. This measure is a strong job creation bill.
  • Legislation that requires health insurance companies to help the State purchase vaccines for privately insured children in New Mexico.
  • The Governor’s behavioral health debacle shut down most of the state’s behavioral health providers two years ago.   Most were forced out of business for alleged ‘fraud’ without any due process. The Senate responded in this session by passing legislation that secures due process in such instances in the future. The bill clarifies the definition of Medicaid “fraud” and mandates that due process is given to health providers who are accused of Medicaid fraud.
  • Additionally, a new 22-year Indian Gaming Compact passed both the Senate and House, and now sits on the Governor’s desk. This measure ensures tribal casinos may continue their crucial economic development activities.

The Administration pushed again to repeal driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.  But senators from both sides of the aisle came together and passed bipartisan compromise legislation that is fair and keeps New Mexicans safe. Under the Senate’s two tiered license bill two types of licenses are available:  one that could be used for legal operation of vehicles and for official federal ID purposes and is REAL ID compliant, and one simply allowing for legal operation of vehicles. The bipartisan measure keeps drivers insured and the children of immigrants with legal transportation to school, the hospital and recreational activities.

Senate Democrats also prevented bills that would hurt New Mexicans.

Democrats were successful in stopping several anti-worker bills, including the Governor’s so-called right-to-work legislation that targeted workers who are organized into labor unions in order to advocate for better pay, health care, pensions and workplace safety. In addition, they blocked detrimental education ‘reforms’, and opposed successfully the bills that were not in New Mexico’s best interest.

Senate Democrats stopped bills to mandatorily flunk third graders – even over the wishes of their parents – based on their score on a single, standardized test.  Senate Democrats sided with parents and teachers, and agreed with researchers who show that this measure is detrimental to students’ education.

Senate Democrats ensured women’s health decisions remain between a woman, her family, and her doctor.

Senate Democrats were united in their commitment to work for the best interest of all New Mexicans. Senate Democrats fight for higher wages, for better schools, and a cleaner environment.