Good Bills, Good Budget, Bad Governor

Good Bills, Good Budget, Bad Governor

We called for courage, not cuts, and the Legislature delivered. But, this governor’s inflexible, regressive political attitudes doomed that living state budget to be dead on arrival.

During the 2017 NM Legislative Session, Democrats and Republicans, Senators and Representatives, worked together to pass good education bills and craft a responsible and responsive budget.

For the first time in a very long time, we witnessed bipartisan bills and votes. The budget created and supported by both houses and both parties was a measured response to devastating deficits—almost a billion dollars in just the last 2 years.

By all accounts, many were courageous and did the job they were elected to do—to take care of the State of New Mexico and the citizens who live here.

At adjournment, Susana Martinez said the session was a waste of time.

Gov. Martinez said some lawmakers acted like it was their way or the highway.

She said many in the Legislature failed to do their jobs.

The statements above do not describe this session. In fact, they only represent the verbal tantrum of an executive who has shirked her responsibilities and, with a “my way” attitude, presided over the largest decline of our state in modern times.

On March 17th, the legislature sent the governor a $6.1 billion budget plan with $350 million in responsible tax increases attached to it—the only way to avoid cuts to education and health care.

A total of 277 bills passed both chambers during the session. Of those, Martinez has signed 11 into law and vetoed 14 . . . so far.

Before the end of the session, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed legislation that had drawn broad bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature. She offered no explanation for her decisions. Some bills didn’t even receive a constitutionally-required veto message. Seven of the eight bills vetoed by Martinez over the last few days of the session originated in the Senate.

That’s the same chamber that voted to override her veto of a different bill, House Bill 241, which would have allowed teachers to take more sick leave without damaging their annual evaluations.

By the way, when a bill is vetoed without a message it violates the New Mexico’s Constitution. Because of this, it is the opinion of the New Mexico Senate (and legal scholars) that several of Governor Martinez’s vetoes are illegal/improper and thus the bills become law. We will keep you notified as this issue develops.

As with her comments at the end of the session, Martinez described the override as petty, a description which better suits her vindictive veto behavior. At some point, this governor will need to abandon her failed political default positions and actually work with a bipartisan Legislature.

Districts need to plan for next year, as do we all. The anxiety of the uncertain budget is an added stress for us all. The one thing that seems certain is that this Governor won’t do the right thing—not for the schools, not for the educators, and not for the citizens of this state.

With tremendous gratitude for the Senators and the Representatives who had our back in public education, we say “thank you.” They planted the seeds of good policy this session and they will grow—in 2018.

We’ll keep you posted as we learn more about the looming special session and how the budget discussion will impact our lives and our schools.

So, what DID happen to those bills we were following? Here’s a condensed recap:

HB 42: Instructional Materials Definitions & Fund- VETOED

This bill, carried by ATF member, Representative/Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton, would have made our lives as educators trying to purchase instructional materials so much easier! No longer would we need to use PED-approved textbooks. We would have the autonomy to purchase the most relevant and supportive instructional materials for our students! Majority Leader Stapleton has carried and passed this legislation for three years and Susana keeps vetoing it—even though it doesn’t cost her a dime!
HB 124: Teacher Competency for Licensure Advancement- Governor’s Desk

Thanks again to our great ATF member-legislator Sheryl Williams Stepleton, this bill has also found its way to the Governor’s desk. It allows teachers to advance to level two and three licenses via 3 different paths: a professional development dossier, or an electronic dossier, or scores on their evaluations.

HB 125/SB 34: Teacher and Principal Evaluation System- Governor’s Desk

Yet another bill carried by champions of public education, Representative Williams-Stapleton and Senator Howie Morales. This bill would create a council consisting of unions, teachers and principals that would create a uniform system for teacher and principal evaluations. This bill has been carried and passed for multiple sessions, however, has been vetoed every time. We expect that the Governor will either veto or pocket veto this piece of legislation that was supported by both parties and had previously passed through both houses.

HB 130/ SB 200: School Program Units for School Employees- VETOED

Another bill carried by yet another ATF member-legislator, Rep. Christine Trujillo in the House and Senator Sapien in the Senate. This bill would have allowed for National Board Certification to extend to all licensed school employees. ATF believes that having counselors, social workers and administration who deeply understand the practice of teaching will lead to improved school qualities for all. Susana vetoed this piece of legislation and bashed every Board Certified educator out there by stating that, “there is no evidence that suggests that student outcomes improve when school employees are certified through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.” So, there– alternative facts for her alternative reality.

HB 185: Limit Statewide School Testing Days- Governor’s Desk

Thanks to Representative Joanne Ferrary for carrying this piece of legislation! The bill is simple: limit state testing days to five per semester. Let’s see if the Governor is going to do what’s right for our students or if she’ll veto the bill to continue to fill the already-too-deep pockets of testing corporations!

HB 241: Use of Attendance in Teacher Evaluations- VETOED with an override in the Senate, failed override in the House.

We heard from several legislators that YOUR activism around this bill made a difference in the Senate override of this bill. Hundreds of educator-activists flooded their legislators stating the urgency of passing this piece of legislation that would take sick leave out of teacher evaluations. It was devastating to see that every single Republican in the House of Representatives voted AGAINST the override of this bill—even one of the sponsors of the bill himself! Bottom line: our profession will become valued again when we elect a new Governor and more Representatives with courage to stand up for public education. Thanks to Senator Brandt and Representative Christine Trujillo for leading the veto override and having the courage to do the right thing!

HB 307: Career-Technical Professional Development- Governor’s Desk

Yet another bill carried by ATF member-legislators Sheryl William’s Stapleton and Christine Trujillo (Geeze, they’re on fire!). This bill aligns with the focus in ESSA on Career-Tech classes. It requires PED to develop a framework for professional development for career-technical teachers and educational assistants similar to requirements for other teachers. It also requires the development of guidelines for integrating career-technical education content into academic instructional practices.

SB 134: Computer Science for School Graduation- vetoed..or perhaps passed into law (for now) because Susana forgot to cross her t’s and dot her i’s.

We are incredibly proud that another one of our ATF member-legislators, Representative Debra Sariñana as well as friend of public education, Senator Jacob Candelaria, worked together to pass this bill out of the House and Senate with bipartisan support! It would allow high schoolers greater flexibility en route to receiving their high school diploma, allowing computer science to be used as an optional math or science credit. This bill landed on the Governor’s desk and against the good of the public, she vetoed it—without an explanatory message.

SJM1: Student Assessment Policy Working Group- Governor’s Desk

Friend of public education, Senator Michael Padilla, worked tirelessly to ensure that this bill was passed. It allows PED and the Legislative Education Study Committee to convene a group of education representatives and researchers to develop recommendations for a new, alternative student assessment model, as allowed by federal law ESSA (Every Students Succeeds Act). It’s sitting on the Governor’s desk, waiting for her to sign into law. Because this memorial challenges PED’s authority, we predict that this bill will not be signed by the Governor.

HB 442 & SB 386- Raise the Minimum Wage

Susana has two minimum wage bills in front of her, each of which is far too low for a full-time worker to stay out of poverty. Arizona and Colorado are both ramping up to $12/hour in the next few years, while New Mexico stagnates at $7.50/hour.  Having said that, even $9.00 or $9.25/hour is a real improvement for current minimum wage workers, and while the Federation of Labor opposes any local labor pre-emption or training wage, the ones in these bills are narrow and limited.  The chance for a minimum wage worker to add $3,000-$3,500/year to his or her take home pay is too significant to pass up, so even though these bills are not as strong as they need to be, we call on Gov. Martinez to sign one of them into law.

Good Bills, Good Budget, Bad Governor

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