Friday News Roundup: Senate Approves Proposal For Higher Minimum Wage

Feb 14, 2014

Senate Approves Proposal For Higher Minimum Wage - The Associated Press

The Senate has approved a proposal to allow voters to decide whether to raise New Mexico's minimum wage to about $8.30 an hour next year and provide for automatic annual increases for inflation.

The measure is one of the top legislative priorities of many Democrats in the 30-day session that ends next week.

The state minimum wage has been $7.50 an hour since 2009.

The Senate approved the proposed constitutional amendment on a 24-17 vote Friday and sent it to the House.

If approved by the Legislature, the wage proposal would be placed on the November general election ballot for voters to decide. It would bypass Republican Gov. Susana Martinez because a constitutional amendment doesn't go to the governor to be signed or vetoed.

House OKs Proposal To Fix Scholarship Program- The Associated Press

The House has approved a proposal to shore up a lottery-financed scholarship program by trimming the financial aid awards for college students to less than the full cost of tuition.

The measure passed the House on a 65-1 vote on Friday and goes to the Senate, which is developing its own proposal.

The program faces a shortfall because lottery revenue isn't keeping pace with rising scholarship costs.

Under the legislation, the state would set scholarship amounts each year as a percentage of tuition based on available revenue and the number of eligible students.

Currently, students can receive scholarships for eight semesters. That would drop to seven under the legislation.

Republican Rep. Jason Harper of Rio Rancho said the proposal was the most equitable way of fixing the program's problems.

Public Safety Head Named Albuquerque Police ChiefThe Associated PressAlbuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has selected the state's public safety secretary to take over the city's troubled police department.

Berry Friday announced he picked DPS head Gorden Eden, a former U.S. Marshal for New Mexico, over two other finalists from Dallas and Houston.

Former Chief Ray Schultz retired last year amid controversy and a U.S. Justice Department investigation into allegations of excessive force and three dozen police shootings since 2010.

His interim successor, Allen Banks, announced earlier this month he is leaving to take the chief's job in Round Rock, Texas.

As head of DPS, Eden oversees the State Police, which have also faced criticism in recent months for a string of shootings, including that of an officer who fired at a van full of children after a chaotic traffic stop near Taos.


  State fair commission head goes before NM panelThe Associated Press

The state fair manager says Expo New Mexico is better now than when he took over two years ago.

Dan Mourning appeared Thursday before the Senate Rules Committee after two contentious hearings this week and a threat of subpoena from the panel's leader.

Mourning told the panel that the state fair is now "financially solvent" and an audit citing management problems is two years old.

State fair commission nominees this week faced questions from Democrats over allegations of mismanagement and a much-debated lease that allowed Downs of Albuquerque to build a larger casino.

Mourning says the bidding process was far from secret. He said the proposal was advertised in the Albuquerque Journal and there was heavy news coverage.

Sen. Tim Keller, an Albuquerque Democrat, called the state fair's sole advertisement in the state's largest paper "laughable."

Three finalists named for Albuquerque police chief -The Associated Press

City officials have named three finalists who are vying to become Albuquerque's next police chief.

A spokeswoman for Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said Thursday the final candidates were chosen from 45 applicants after a national search.

Among the finalists are Craig Gosalski, assistant chief of Houston's Metro Police Department; Thomas W. Lawrence, assistance chief for the Dallas Police Department and New Mexico Department of Public Safety Secretary Gorden Eden.

Erin Thompson, a mayor's spokeswoman, said a decision on the police chief could come as early as Friday.

The Albuquerque Police Department currently is under a U.S. Department of Justice investigation after around three dozen police shootings since 2010 and allegations of excessive force.

NM lawmakers scramble to address child abuse - The Associated Press

The recent death of a 9-year-old New Mexico boy, who police say was kicked to death by his mother, has state lawmakers and other politicians scrambling to cast blame as they search for solutions.

A flurry of bills and memorials introduced this session tackle everything from staffing problems and overwhelming caseloads within the state's embattled child welfare agency to tougher penalties for abusers.

Another measure calls for giving the Children, Youth and Families Department more power to take immediate custody of children who show certain signs of abuse.

The question is whether any of the proposals go far enough to prevent more deaths and the widening of any cracks in New Mexico's already fragile safety net.


The state is among the worst nationally for child abuse deaths.

House approves creating 5 extra judgeships - The Associated Press

Lawmakers are proposing to create five additional judgeships in New Mexico to help cope with a case backlog.

The House unanimously approved a measure on Thursday that would establish an additional magistrate court judge in Dona Ana County and four district court judges across the state.

The judgeships are for the 1st Judicial District of Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties; the 2nd District of Bernalillo County; the 5th District of Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties; and the 13th District in Sandoval County.

The measure goes to the Senate for consideration.

NM Senate passes bill on corrections sales The Associated Press

The New Mexico Senate has passed a proposal to allow inmates in state prisons to sell more advanced woodwork and furniture.

The Senate voted to approve the measure Thursday that would allow the state Department of Corrections to sell the inmate-made products.

Corrections spokeswoman Alex Tomlin says the proposal would give inmates the chance to sell items like beds and chairs up to $300 to other state agencies.

Tomlin says the inmates would make the items themselves and learn new job skills.

The proposal now moves to the House.