Friday, March 24, 2023

4 takeaways and the quote of the day from the legislature yesterday


Senator livid after bill tabled: A bill that sought to shield the names of applicants of high-level government jobs, including city managers, school superintendents and police chiefs, likely is dead after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-1 to table the measure Friday.

And Sen. Bill Tallman, the bill's sponsor, was frank about his feelings.

"I'm really pissed off," Tallman, D-Albuquerque, said after the vote. "I've worked hard on this."

Tallman said Senate Bill 39 was designed to attract better candidates for public-sector jobs in New Mexico, arguing it could allow candidates to apply without word leaking to their employers.

"Think about it," said Tallman, a former city manager who said he had "personal experience" with the issue after a mayor where he was working in Pennsylvania found out he had applied for a job in Florida. "Would you want your boss to know you were looking for another job?"

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government opposed the measure, describing it as an anti-transparency bill that would making the hiring process for the most important public offices much more secretive.

Despite Friday's defeat, Tallman said he would consider bringing the measure back in the future.

"Two years ago, we got it all the way to the House floor on the last day, and it ran out of time," he said.

Public works apprenticeships: House Bill 21, introduced by Rep. Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque, would amend the Public Works and Apprentice and Training Act. The changes in language require public works projects involving street, highway, bridge, utility and maintenance jobs to include apprentice and training programs, with employers paying for those initiatives.

Garratt said the bill would build a new cadre of trained workers for those public works and eventually allow interns and trainees to earn more money, which would then be invested in their local communities. House Republicans, as well as some Democrats, argued it would cost small-business owners, already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, more money to pay for those programs. After about two hours of debate, it passed the House on a 36-30 vote.

Seniors and jury duty: The House unanimously approved a measure that would cut senior citizens over the age of 75 some slack when it comes to jury duty. While House Bill 185 does not automatically excuse them from service, it no longer requires them, as is the law now, to obtain an affidavit to prove they are 75 or older if they request to be excused because of their age. Bill sponsor Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said that task can be a chore for seniors, particularly during the pandemic. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.  

Food bill to be heard: New Mexico ranks near or at the top of most national lists when it comes to hunger issues. Feeding America reports that some 316,000 New Mexicans struggle with hunger every year, and 1 in 4 children faces food insecurity — meaning their families don't have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Several House Democrats banded together to introduce a bill creating a Food, Hunger and Farm Act to address those issues.

House Bill 207 would create a council of tribal, agricultural, educational and governmental leaders, among others, to first look at the state's food assets, agricultural infrastructure, food processing facilities and other entities. That council will develop an emergency relief plan to provide food for an emergency like another pandemic.

"We have to address these problems in a systematic approach," said Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-Albuquerque, one of the bill's sponsors. "We have to fix the entire system, from the roots to food distribution system to the way food is made available in communities to the actual access of food for individuals and families." The House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee is scheduled to hear the bill Tuesday morning.

Quote of the day: "That will stick with me and was a meaningful moment in my life and career." — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, describing a meeting at the Oval Office on Friday in which she was among the women of color, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the "vast majority" of the president's and vice president's executive staff.


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