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Legislative Roundup: Feb. 21

on February 21, 2019 - 6:24am
Max Rodriguez, left, and Sebastian Hatcher look up to the balcony of the Capitol Rotunda before performing music with other students from The Montessori Elementary & Middle School Wednesday in Albuquerque in Santa Fe. Olivia Harlow/The New Mexican
 
Zoelle Strober, a student from The Montessori Elementary & Middle School in Albuquerque, plays the violin during a musical performance Wednesday at the Capitol in Santa Fe. Olivia Harlow/The New Mexican
 
By The New Mexican
 
Days left in the session: 23
 
Confirmations: The Senate voted 31-0 Wednesday to confirm Kate O'Neill, the former head of the University of New Mexico's Taos campus, as head of the Higher Education Department.
 
O'Neill told members of the Senate Rules Committee that she will "strive every day to make New Mexico's colleges diverse ... and the best they can be for our state, our nation and our world.”

 The Senate also voted 40-0 to confirm Lynn Trujillo, a member of Sandia Pueblo with a background in tribal law, as head of the state Department of Indian Affairs.

Trujillo said the position means a lot to her because “people are putting their trust in me, people like our governor ... and 23 tribes and pueblos.”
 
Missing or murdered: Members of the Senate Rules Committee unanimously voted to approve Senate Memorial 38, which supports a call from U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M, to initiate a national investigation into cases involving missing or murdered Native American women.
 
The memorial, introduced by Sen. John Pinto, D-Gallup, says that 78 Native American girls and women have gone missing or been killed in some of the major urban areas of the state, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe, since 1956.
 
“We need to do more," said Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants. “A memorial just makes people aware. But something needs to be done about those missing indigenous women.”
 
Committee members added amendments asking for the memorial to be sent to the state's mayors and tribal leaders, among others.
 
Lottery tuition: The Senate voted 40-zero to give a “do pass" to an amended version of Senate Bill 283, which would ensure that at least $41 million of state lottery revenue goes toward college tuition scholarships.
 
The initial version, introduced by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, which was met with resistance, would have eliminated a section of state law requiring that 30 percent of gross lottery revenues be turned over for scholarships and guaranteed at least $40 million.
 
Critics, including college students, pointed out that last year the payout for scholarships was $40.2 million. That was an increase from $37.8 million in 2017 but a drop from 2016's record of $46.3 million.
 
Fred Nathan of Think New Mexico, an advocate for lottery scholarship funding, said in an e-mail Wednesday: “We are pleased that the sponsors of Senate Bill 283 have included important protections for students in the bill, including capping the lottery's operational costs at 15 percent, and ensuring that scholarships will receive at least $41 million a year or the 30 percent comes back.”
 
The bill goes next to the House of Representatives.
 
Quotes of the day: “College presidents have a reputation for being hard-headed, egotistical, dictatorial rulers. Now that doesn't apply to me, of course.” -- Rick Bailey, president of Northern New Mexico College, during a Senate Rules Committee hearing on confirmation of Kate O'Neill as director of the Higher Education Department.
 
“Let the record show that I've been apprised that Olé spoke in favor and against this!” -- Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, after a spokesman for the Albuquerque-based advocacy group Olé first stood in support of a proposal to create a central early childhood education department, and then later stood again to oppose it during a Senate Rules Committee, bafflling committee members.
 
Sherlin Ramirez, a junior at Santa Fe High School, joined other members of the schools Dream Team to present issues related to immigration Wednesday to various members of the New Mexico Legislature. Olivia Harlow/The New Mexican

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