New Mexico Legislative Roundup: Jan. 22

5429760_web_012119XGR_29_CMYK
Ruthy Watson, director of the Center for Advocacy Resources Education and Support at New Mexico Highlands University, delivers the keynote speech Monday during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance at the State Capitol. Photo by Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

New Mexico Legislative Roundup: Jan. 22

Days left in the session: 53

Lottery tuition bill: The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously Monday to advance a bill by Sen. Liz Stefanics that would allow students with disabilities who attend schools in other states because of their needs to take advantage of New Mexico’s lottery scholarship program.

Stefanics, D-Cerrillos, told the committee that her Senate Bill 179 would only apply to three to five students a year. Though the House of Representatives and the Senate supported a similar version of Stefanics’ bill two years ago, former Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed it.

It’s one of many bills that House and Senate leaders have said they want to get to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as soon as possible as part of a “rocket docket.”

The plan is to quickly move forward legislation that has been passed by both legislative bodies in past years.

Delayed launch: Efforts by the House Judiciary Committee to fast forward some of the “rocket docket” legislation got off to a slow start Monday.

Committee members became embroiled in a lengthy debate about the merits of voting on a bill to sufficiently fund instructional materials for public schools after they realized that whichever way they go, they may be violating a court decision.

Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, introduced House Bill 45 to provide at least $29 million in funding for books and materials. But her bill would not have allowed private schools access to those funds, despite a recent New Mexico Supreme Court rejecting claims that the practice of not providing textbooks for private schools violates the state constitution.

Stapleton asserted that her bill complies with a recent ruling by state District Court Judge Sarah Singleton that finds that state government is not providing sufficient funding to schools to comply with constitutional requirements.

Some committee members asked for more time to study the bill and have legislative legal analysts explain how the court decisions apply to the proposal. The committee could return to the bill on Wednesday.

Inmate lactation: The Senate Judiciary Committee without discussion gave a do-pass recommendation Monday to Senate Bill 124, which would require jails and prisons to develop and implement policies that would allow inmates to breastfeed their babies during visitation hours and pump breast-milk and have it stored for later.

The bill cleared both chambers of the Legislature in 2017 but died via “pocket-veto” when former Gov. Susana Martinez failed to act on it.

It also is one of the “rocket docket” bills.

Sponsor Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, noted there has been one change in the language of the bill since it was introduced two years ago: a provision that directs the detention facilities to allow medication-assisted addiction treatment for lactating inmates. State prisons currently only allow pregnant prisoners to receive medication-assisted addiction treatment.

Quote of the day: “I’m on time today.” — Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, upon taking his seat Monday on the Senate Education Committee. His comment led Sen. Padilla to add: “In my previous life, it was my job to find him and bring him here.”

Christine Johnson with the Santa Fe Branch of the NAACP leads the crowd in singing 'We Shall Overcome' Monday during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance at the State Capitol. Photo by Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican
 Doris fields, left, and Patricia Schipp of Santa Fe hold hands during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the state Capitol Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. Photo by Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican
 Two participants clasp hands during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance at the state Capitol Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. Photo by Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican