In your front page story on the recent legislative session printed April 14, one Republican legislator complained that “What we saw happen up there (in Santa Fe) was not good for New Mexico.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The 2019 legislative session was an extremely productive session for the citizens of New Mexico.
Before taking office the Governor talked of an education “moon shot” that would help raise New Mexico from the bottom of national education rankings. The 2019 Legislature passed a budget that significantly increased education funding and addressed a court ruling that found New Mexico was neglecting its constitutional duty to adequately educate at-risk students. New Mexico is struggling to retain experienced, fully-licensed teachers, so part of that funding will give long-overdue pay raises to teachers and administrators.
In 2020 a new Early Childhood Department will coordinate resources and focus on children from birth to 5 years of age. This department was created in part because New Mexico has fallen to last in the nation in child well-being, according to 2018 KIDS COUNT Data. A coordinated and well-funded effort will be required in the years ahead so that we can put more children on the path to productive lives.
The minimum wage was raised to $9 and will gradually increase to $12 by 2023. There were bills signed into law that made it easier to register and vote, that prevent another behavioral health scandal, and that require background checks on most firearm purchases.
On the energy front, the “produced water” legislation creates the regulatory framework for recycling the immense amount of freshwater used in fracking operations. This was supported by both environmental groups and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. Despite insistence from the other side, there was no war on oil and gas that resulted from the Democratic Party control of the Legislature.
There was, however, strong legislative support for renewable energy in the form of legislation that gradually requires large electric power providers to transition to renewables such as solar and wind to fuel their power plants.
With the most women elected in the history of the state, this session was also a first in more accurate representation in leadership. With that representation, Gov. Lujan-Grisham and the Democratic Party leadership had landmark accomplishments in the 2019 session that reflect the goals and values of the vast majority of New Mexicans.