Feb. 1 First News: Legislative Slowdown Expected As GOP Bills Move to Senate-Listen

Feb 1, 2016

Legislation that rapidly moved out of the GOP-led House will likely slow down as those bills move to the Democratic-controlled Senate. That's because Senate Democrats have assigned bills related to REAL ID, strengthening three strike laws and closing child pornography loopholes to three committees. A proposal’s referral to three legislative panels is considered a kiss of death for legislation. Republicans say the moves show that Democratic Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is trying to kill legislation he doesn't like. They say the assignments are "vindictive" since the bills are supported by Republican Governor Susana Martinez. But Democrats say they are only properly vetting the bills to examine their fiscal impact at a time when expected revenues will be lower than anticipated. Proposals over making New Mexico compliant under the federal REAL ID Act are expected to draw the most attention in Senate committee hearings.

State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino is back this legislative session with another attempt to get a proposed Constitutional Amendment through the legislature that would ask New Mexico voters to legalize recreational marijuana. An Albuquerque Democrat, Ortiz y Pino says this is his third effort to put legalization onto the ballot. If New Mexico lawmakers approve and voters were to approve such a question in November, the state would follow the lead of four other states and the District of Columbia.

And Ortiz y Pino says this year’s effort—which includes two proposed amendments, one to legalize recreational use, the other to regulate where sales proceeds would go—has public opinion behind it. He says a recent poll indicates some 61-percent of New Mexico’s citizens support legalization.\

       020116-AM-Feature-Cannabis   Q: to the state’s economy.”   2:31

As with all proposed state Constitutional amendments, his proposals must clear both legislative chambers before going directly to voters in November’s elections.

The New Mexico Public Education Department has announced new changes to its much-debated teacher evaluation system amid a court challenge and feedback from educators. Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the revisions unveiled late Friday will simplify the system and will likely lead to less testing of students. She also said teach evaluations will be more uniform statewide instead of each district submitting 89 different versions. Under the changes, teacher evaluations will be based on improved student achievement, observations and teacher attendance or student surveys. Before districts had more flexibility on what criteria they could use to evaluate teachers. In December, a Santa Fe judge ruled the New Mexico's teacher evaluation system couldn't be used to affect teachers' licensures amid an ongoing legal fight between teachers unions and the state.

A plan to create an ethics commission to evaluate complaints about the conduct and campaign finances of public officials in New Mexico received a unanimous endorsement in its first legislative committee hearing in Santa Fe. Republican Jim Dines of Albuquerque fielded questions Friday from lawmakers about his proposed constitutional amendment to create an independent agency of nine ethics commissioners appointed by the governor, leaders of the state Senate and House, and the chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court. The amendment would need to be approved by the Legislature and a statewide public vote in the fall. Competing initiatives for an ethics commission from House and Senate Democrats have languished so far. Dines said officials accused of wrongdoing would have a chance to respond before complaints are published online.

Santa Fe Weather: A 90-percent chance for snow today and windy, with the daytime temperature falling to 29. Tonight: Cloudy with a 50-percent chance for snow, the overnight low, 22. Tomorrow: Cloudy with a 50-percent chance for snow and the high, 37.