Mon March 21, 2011
2011 Legislative Recap
By Peter St. Cyr
Santa Fe, NM – After a flurry of last-minute hearings, a few long-winded filibusters, and backroom negotiations, lawmakers have wrapped up their 60-day legislative session in Santa Fe. While they didn't re-define marriage, or re-instate the death penalty, they did agree to trim spending and balance the state budget.
Republican Governor Susana Martinez won a few small victories on some of her education bills including a new grading system, which will assign a letter grade to schools statewide. But, lawmakers rejected her social promotion plan, which would have required third graders with poor reading skills to be held back.
On the final day, a committee of lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on a controversial proposal to revoke illegal immigrant driver's licenses.
Still, earlier in the session, they did come to an agreement on film incentives. Instead of reducing the rate from 25 percent to 15 percent, the governor agreed to cap the incentives at 50 million dollars a year.
"By doing so we were able to protect funding for classroom instruction, and preserve healthcare services for those in our state who need it the most," said Governor Martinez, "and, I'm proud to say that we accomplished this without raising taxes on New Mexico families and small businesses."
Democrats, like long-time Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, say they tried to colloborate with the new governor, but he says Martinez relied on campaign tactics to push a divisive agenda. "I think that we need to mount an effort to unite New Mexicans instead of divide New Mexicans," said Ben Lujan concerning Governor Martinez, "I feel like she did not engage us in constructive discussions. As elected officials we feel like it is our duty to serve the public's interest, and to govern."
Lawmakers will be back in Santa Fe this Fall for a special session to redraw voting districts using data released last week from the U.S. Census Bureau.
That's when the governor says she'll try again to push some of her priority legislation, and when she hopes some of her political nominees will have another shot at confirmation by the state Senate.