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Legislative Roundup: Feb. 23

on February 23, 2019 - 6:58am

Bob Finch, a retired TV production worker and engineer, addresses an Americans for Prosperity rally Friday outside the state Capitol in Santa Fe. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

DuWayne Shaver, school choir and band director from Capitan, directs the defending state choir champions in A-AAA, for 2018 during a performance Friday at the Rotunda in the state Capitol in Santa Fe. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

By The New Mexican

Days remaining in the session: 21

Confirmations: The Senate on Friday voted 35-0 to confirm Alicia Keyes as secretary of the Economic Development Department.

"She has had everything to do with the recruitment of Netflix to Albuquerque," said Sen. Bill O'Neill, D-Albuquerque, of Keyes, who previously worked as the head of the film office in Albuquerque.

Keyes said she plans to focus on building up industries, including film and television production, aerospace, bio science and sustainable "green" energy.

In a second decision, senators confirmed Stephanie Schardin Clarke as secretary of the Taxation and Revenue Department. That vote also was 35-0.

Schardin Clarke previously worked 14 years with the state, as an economist for the Department of Finance and Administration and the Legislative Finance Committee. She also worked as director of the state Board of Finance.

She told the Senate Rules Committee that she will work to "restore Tax and Rev to be a flagship department."

School days: A bill to increase the school year by 20 days squeaked through the Senate Education Committee on Friday in a 5-4 vote.

The sponsor, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, has long championed more school hours and days to combat what many call the "summer slide." His Senate Bill 554 also would raise the minimum salary levels of teachers and require at least 80 hours of professional development for teachers.

To pay for all of this, Cervantes would rely on a different measure, Senate Joint Resolution 18, calling for an additional annual distribution of 1 percent from the Land Grant Permanent Fund.

Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, led opposition to Cervantes' bill. Brandt said outstanding teachers, not more hours, are the key to more students succeeding.

"I support the intent of what you're trying to do. I just don't think it's fact-based," Brandt said.

The committee chairman, Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, joined three Republicans in opposing the bill. But the other five Democrats on the committee voted to move the bill forward.

Texas, anyone? Cervantes reported some rumored fallout from a spirited debate earlier this week about a bill calling for New Mexico to stay on daylight saving time year-round.

Cervantes opposes the idea, saying a time zone different from El Paso would create an economic mess for his border district.

During announcements on Friday, Cervantes said the sponsor of the time-change bill, Republican Sen. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell, had suggested the Las Cruces area could become part of West Texas.

Not so, Pirtle replied. Someone else made such a suggestion about secession but he disagreed with it.

"I like the shape of our state as it is now," Pirtle said.

Quote of the day: "Hopefully you can get the series Roswell to film in Roswell." -- Sen. Cliff Pirtle, to Alicia Keyes, the state's new secretary of the Economic Development Department. The show has been shooting in various cities in New Mexico, but not Roswell.

Jesse Parker, music fundamentals instructor, listens as Malachi Roberts, 17, takes a test in his class Friday at the New Mexico School for the Arts. Senate Bill 315 would make what is now a state-chartered fine arts school in Santa Fe a special statewide residential school. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

Students gather in a hallway at the New Mexico School for the Arts Friday in Santa Fe. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican