Hello. Welcome to the beginning of the two-month journey that will be the 2013 session of the New Mexico Legislature.
This Legislature convenes with 35 new members and new leadership, chosen shortly after both houses went into session shortly after noon today. The House elected Rep. W. Ken Martinez (D-Grants) as the Speaker of the House. Martinez carried a 38 - 32 partisan vote over former minority leader Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Farmington). In the Senate, an anticipated showdown between Democrats Pete Campos and Mary Kay Papen for the position of President Pro Tem never developed. Sen. Papen (D-Las Cruces) was elected unanimously, becoming the first woman to hold that leadership position in more than 70 years.
Governor Susana Martinez delivered her third State of the State address, challenging New Mexicans with a call to compete as their charge for the next century. With federal funding cuts looming, the Governor believes the state can be more competitve by developing a fair tax structure and creating "a world-class workforce through common sense education reform." She outlined several reform initiatives, including the Bridge Program modeled in Las Cruces - a partnership of business, public schools and higher education that established a successful "early college high school." She hopes to bring the Bridge to other areas of the state. And in order to field more math and science teachers throughout the state, the Governor mentioned potential loan forgiveness for college graduates who elect to stay in the state to teach.
The Governor and the leadership in both the House and Senate all spoke of the need and desire to put aside their differences and work together. It is, after all, the first day of the session.
The Speaker and President Pro Tem will now go about the business of populating legislative committees and selecting committee chairs. House Appropriations is meeting this afternoon to look at HB 1 - the "feed bill" that will pay for the session.
Several bills of interest to UNM were prefiled in the days leading up to this session. So now is a good time to bookmark the 2013 Bill Tracker which can be found on the Office of Government and Community Relations website. It is your one-stop for the progress of bills that impact the University.
Your Santa Fe Connection
UNM's legislative team will be immersed in the action at the Roundhouse for the two-month duration. As always, they stand ready to help coordinate the efforts of UNM constituents who are heading to Santa Fe to attend committee hearings, to talk to legislators and to advocate for UNM.
The main job of the Legislature is to pass the FY14 budget. The main objective of the University is to secure its fair share of I&G; and capital outlay funding in a year where the state has about $283 million new dollars. We will also be closely following the progress of scores of bills that affect UNM and the HSC, especially those dealing with the solvency of lottery scholarship funding , retirement plans and pension solvency, and the graduate students' employment tax credit.
Please watch for almost daily news from Santa Fe, along with legislative updates that will keep you apprised of what's happening with bills and what's occurring in committee.
It is our privilege to be on the front lines and to bring you the twists and turns of legislative fortune.
Susan McKinsey, Office of Government and Community Relations