Legislative Roundup: Feb. 5

Roundhouse by Carol 1-15-19_0 (1)
The Roundhouse in Santa Fe. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Legislative Roundup: Feb. 5

Days left in session: 39

Looking for tips: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham doubled down Monday on her commitment to raising the state’s minimum wage of $7.50 an hour.

But she also acknowledged that the restaurant industry is fighting hard against a provision in House Bill 31 that would eliminate the lower $2.13 minimum wage for tipped workers, such as servers.

“It’s an important discussion and debate to have. But it hasn’t changed my mind about the value of raising the minimum wage for every single worker in the state of New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said at a news conference.

Asked if she would like to see the provision scrapping the lower minimum wage for tipped employees stay in House Bill 31, the governor added: “I want the debate to continue but, again, I’m really clear that no one has been able to show me data that indicates that raising — including tipped wage personnel — to a minimum creates the kind of problems that particularly the restaurant association has identified.”

Congresswoman in the House: Freshman U.S. Rep. Xochiti Torres Small, who represents the district covering Southern New Mexico, on Monday urged political parties to work together to “find the best solutions to the challenges we face.”

Torres Small limited her talk to five minutes, much briefer than is typical for members of Congress when they address the state Legislature.

She spoke of the need to improve the state’s roadways, expand access to veteran health-care services and ensure that all New Mexicans have quality internet service.

Of the recent government shutdown prompted by President Donald Trump’s demand that Congress fund his border wall, she said: “We have to make sure that Congress and the government feel the pain when they fail to negotiate. New Mexicans shouldn’t have to bear the burden of government’s brokenness.”

Torres Small is married to state Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces.

“His goodness grounds me, and his love lifts me up every single day,” she said, a comment that drew a collective “awwwww” from the assembly.

Background checks: The House Judiciary Committed voted along party lines, 10 Democrats to four Republicans, to advance a bill requiring anyone buying a gun to undergo a background check.

About 60 people, including police officers and sheriffs, turned out to testify on House Bill 8. They were about evenly divided on its merits.

Opponents said it would do almost nothing to reduce violent crime. Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, said a wide majority of the state’s 33 sheriffs oppose the measure, leading him to conclude that it’s a bad bill.

Rep. Elisio Alcon, D-Milan, countered that the bill will help everyone, including responsible gun owners, learn who is buying and selling firearms.

The bill goes next to the full 70-member House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats 46-24.

Foster kids: The Senate Education Committee on Monday unanimously advanced a bill to allow more foster children to attend any state college free of charge.

The measure, Senate Bill 251, applies to students who on or after their 14th birthday are in legal custody of a tribe or the Children, Youth and Families Department. It would expand an existing law.

A staff analysis of the measure states that as of last summer 430 foster children age 14 lived in New Mexico. The bill next goes to the Senate Finance Committee.

Quote of the day:

“Some folks have asked me how I’d do in front of the Senate. The good thing is they know me. The bad thing is they know me.” — Former state Rep. Bill McCamley, who was confirmed Monday by the Senate as Cabinet secretary of the Workforce Solutions Department. He had nothing to fear. The vote in his favor was 35-0.