As we have conveyed throughout the legislative session, sometime progress is slow and in other cases, it seems like everything happens all at once.
Wednesday was an “all at once” day for legislation that our union supports and has been advocating for on behalf of our members.
Wednesday, five major pieces of legislation advanced in their respective committees, and we are beginning to see more clarity about legislative outcomes relating to both healthcare and minimum hours of instruction in our schools.
Read below to see what happened Wednesday:
Wednesday, March 1:
Senate Education Committee
House Bill 127 is an effort to raise the minimum wage for educational assistants/instructional assistants and their role group to $25,000/year. It is sponsored by Reps. Susan Herrera, Brian Baca, Willie Madrid, Debbie Sariñana, Christine Trujillo, Patricia Roybal Caballero, Luis Terrazas, Liz Thomson, and Sens. Mimi Stewart and Linda Lopez.
As we reported last week, our union was able to secure funding in House Bill 2 (the FY ’24 budget) to fund these minimums, and the entire House of Representatives adopted those budgetary recommendations before sending House Bill 2 to the Senate.
Even though the funds for HB 127 are in the current version of the budget, advancing HB 127 is necessary so these newly won minimums are permanently in statute. Wednesday morning, members of the Senate Education Committee advanced HB 127 unanimously. The legislation now heads to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.
Senate Finance Committee
House Bill 181, carried by Reps. Joanne Ferrary, Debbie Sariñana, Christine Trujillo, and Sen. Bill Soules, was heard earlier this week by members of the Senate Education Committee, who unanimously advanced the bill out of committee.
The legislation seeks to expand the definition and eligibility of Nationally Board-Certified Teachers to receive a differential for their certification. If enacted, HB 181 would extend differential eligibility to NBCT counselors and administrators with a current certification.
HB 181 received ‘do pass’ this morning from members of the Senate Finance Committee on a vote of 8-1. HB 181 now heads to the full Senate. If passed by the Senate, HB 181 would be sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her signature or veto.
House Bill 126/a, sponsored by Reps. G. Andres Romero and T. Ryan Lane, seeks to adjust the state requirements for high school graduation. This legislation is a result of the work of the Legislative Education Study Committee, and our union has been part of the conversation and feedback as this bill has been developed.
Most notably, HB 126/a would remove the Algebra II requirement for graduation and allow local school districts to establish two local units for graduation which fit the needs of their community. The re-worked graduation requirements also allow for greater inclusion of career technical education as part of a student’s pathway to graduation.
We believe that with greater flexibility and local decision-making in structuring what a graduating high school senior looks like, we can keep more students in school, reduce absences, and increase graduation rates by offering classes that appeal to our students. HB 126/a received unanimous support this morning in the Senate Finance Committee. HB 126/a now heads to the full Senate. If passed by the Senate, HB 126/a would be sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her signature or veto.
House Appropriations and Finance Committee
House Bill 130, entitled K-12 Plus Program, had its third hearing this afternoon. Sponsored by Reps. G. Andres Romero and Joy Garratt, the bill addresses the effort to expand school instructional hours to 1140 per year, inclusive of 60 hours of adult time to be used for collaboration, coaching, professional development, and other similar professional activities.
Two amendments were initially proposed to HB 130, but only one of which was ultimately debated. The amendment debated would have introduced a higher funding multiplier for districts who adopted additional instructional days beyond the minimum of 1140 instructional hours established in the bill. While we generally support flowing more funding to schools, we did not support this amendment because of the emphasis on days over hours. The amendment was not adopted.
AFT New Mexico spoke in support of HB 130 to advocate for local control and flexibility. House Appropriations and Finance Committee members recommended a ‘do pass’ based on the testimony from our union, many superintendents, and other educational stakeholders. While the vote was not unanimous, it was a strong majority of House Appropriations and Finance Committee members who heard and listened to practitioners who offered testimony this afternoon. HB 130 now heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
House Bill 533, carried by Rep. Ray Lara, would codify the levels of insurance coverage for educators which are currently provided for in House Bill 2, the FY ’24 budget. As a reminder, the chart below outlines the new coverage levels:
House Bill 533 also achieves another long-standing goal of AFT New Mexico – as it is currently written, it removes the insurance coverage cap that a district can provide its employees. Specifically, current law says a district “may cover up to eighty percent,” however, HB 533 changes that maximum amount to “one hundred percent.” This means that if a district is already providing the maximum amount under statute of 80 percent, it could now provide more coverage if that is a decision that a local district wants to pursue or negotiate.
AFT New Mexico stood in strong support for HB 533 this afternoon and supports the removal of the statutory coverage cap. We want to thank Rep. Ray Lara for his leadership and tenacity on this issue. HB 533 passed the House Appropriations and Finance Committee unanimously.
Friday, March 3:
Senate Education Committee
House Bill 151, carried by Reps. Christine Trujillo and Patricia Roybal Caballero. HB 151 seeks to grant access to unemployment benefits for adjunct and contingent faculty when their class schedules are abruptly cancelled. Currently, this group of educators do not have access to unemployment benefits in these scenarios.
AFT New Mexico supports this legislation, and Higher Education members from the United Academics of UNM have also added critical testimony in support of this legislation. HB 151 was intended to be heard this morning but was rolled over in order to have a few amendments prepared and is expected to be heard Friday morning.