Senate Bill 347, sponsored by Sen. Michael Sanchez (D-Belen), has received a unanimous do pass recommendation in Senate Finance. This is the committee where all lottery bills will eventually land and in most cases languish. Committee chair John Arthur Smith (D-Deming) indicated that additional bills will be heard, but with time growing short, they “needed to get one rolling.”
Briefly, this bill expands the credit hour load for four-year institutions to 15 hours and “frontloads” or gives higher awards to the earlier three of seven semesters. The bill provides $11 million to cover this Spring 2014 semester with money coming from HED student aid balances. Next year, $11.5 million would come from non-recurring general fund monies. Than in subsequent years, the lottery scholarship would keep pace with solvency, thanks to recurring $18 – 20 million in liquor excise tax funds.
Bill proponents say this legislation would continue to encourage high school students to go on to higher education. Historically, that was the premise behind the lottery scholarship.  Sen. Sanchez was one of the original architects. Now this debate will go to the Senate.
Other Senate Action
The Senate today approved SB 36, which is known as the “brain drain” bill. This legislation, sponsored by Sen. Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque), would provide gross receipt tax credits to New Mexico companies that employ NM graduates with masters or doctoral degrees in the STEM-H fields. UNM grad students created this bill in the 2012 session. It now goes to the House in these final days of the 2014 session.
As of late-Monday afternoon, the Senate remains on a call of the chair and could go back into session and could talk about the state budget.  Both Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans have scheduled a caucus at 5:30 p.m. 
Honoring The Chairman
Members of the House today took the time to honor one of their own – House Appropriations and Finance Chairman Henry Kiki Saavedra (D-Albuquerque) who is retiring at the end of this legislative session. It was noted that Saavedra has spent fully half of his life in the House, having served for close to four decades.
The members celebrated Saavedra’s service to the state, the value of his institutional knowledge, his mentorship, his fairness and his elegance.  Every member who spoke, from both sides of the aisle, made a point of thanking Saavedra for being a friend and always making time for them.  And in the days to come, they will line up to buy him breakfast at the Barelas Coffee Shop.