Legislative roundup — Jan. 24

Days remaining in session: 27

Minimum wage, Round 2: Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, says Democrats will introduce a bill to increase the state minimum wage, and he wants $10 an hour to be the starting point.

“It’s one of our top priorities,” said Sanchez, the majority leader.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez last year vetoed a bill that would have raised the statewide minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, a $1 increase. Martinez said she favored a smaller increase, to $7.80.

Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, already has introduced a proposed constitutional amendment to increase the minimum wage annually, based on inflation.

But Sanchez said Democrats would take up the issue in a bill, too, even though Gov. Martinez could veto it.

If Sen. Martinez’s proposal clears the Senate and the House of Representatives, it will go before voters in November for a final decision. The governor would not be able to stop his constitutional amendment with a veto.

Any push to increase the minimum wage is likely to face significant opposition from Republicans. They say businesses would be less likely to hire people or expand operations if they had to pay a higher minimum wage.

Santa Fe’s minimum wage already is higher than the $10 that Democrats are discussing. The city’s minimum is $10.51 and will rise another 15 cents in March. Albuquerque’s minimum wage is $8.50.

Robertson football team recognized: The state Senate honored the Las Vegas Robertson football team Thursday for claiming the Class AAA state championship last month.

The Senate memorial recognized individual players’ accomplishments in the title game and team’s successful season, as well as Cardinals coach Leroy Gonzales.

“This is a team of destiny, a team of heart,” said Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, beaming with pride for his hometown team’s success.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, joked that Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, hadn’t spoken to Campos since Robertson defeated Silver 34-7 in the championship game.

Morales finally gave the Cardinals their due for turning the season around after losing four of their first six games.

“It’s not how you start,” he said. “It’s how you finish.”

Colonias Day observed: A joint memorial sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, proclaimed Thursday “Colonias Day at the Legislature.” It called on Gov. Susana Martinez and her Cabinet to improve the quality of life in rural areas and “colonias” throughout New Mexico. The memorial urges addition of these areas to the state’s priority list for legislative funding to improve business prospects and infrastructure.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development classifies colonias as communities within 150 miles of the border of Mexico, which often lack infrastructure, services and organized governments.

“Residents of rural and colonias communities statewide face harsh challenges on a daily basis, but they are proud people who are reluctant to ask for help,” the memorial says.

Looking ahead: Former state Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, will discuss her new book, Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots, Suits, and Citizens, on KNME’s Report from Santa Fe. The show, hosted by Lorene Mills, airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on Channel 5.1.

• Journalists, including The New Mexican’s editorial page editor, Inez Russell Gomez, and former legislators will discuss Gov. Susana Martinez’s State of the State address at 7 p.m. Friday on New Mexico in Focus on KNME, Channel 5.1. Besides Gomez, panelists include former Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, former senator Eric Griego and Russell Contreras, a reporter for The Associated Press. The show repeats at 7 a.m. Sunday.

• The League of Women Voters of New Mexico is hosting a public information session at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, at the New Mexico Land Office auditorium, 310 Old Santa Fe Trail. Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, will discuss the need for campaign finance reform and ethics legislation, and Linda Siegle, representing the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, will discuss problems with New Mexico’s behavioral health care system.

Quote of the day: “(Sen. Howie Morales) has pouted, and pouted, and pouted since this loss.” — Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, referring to the Las Vegas Robertson Cardinals victory over Silver in the Class AAA state football championship last month.

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