There’s jobs to be had: The House Appropriations and Finance Committee held its initial meeting online Thursday, with lawmakers reviewing budget proposals of both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Legislative Finance Committee.
One big difference in the two budgets — which are about $600 million apart — is the LFC’s inclusion of $60 million for state, public school and higher education employees average raises of 1.5 percent, as well as $3 million for pay increases for essential health and social service front-line employees. The governor’s budget has no across-the-board raises.
David Abbey, director of the Legislative Finance Committee, told lawmakers the money could help in recruiting and retaining state employees. The state has an 18 percent vacancy rate. In terms of keeping up on salary increases, Abbey told the committee, “We’ve fallen behind”.
Tune in: If you want to watch organizational meetings for a number of committees in the House of Representatives, Friday is your day. The House Education Committee meets for the first time at 8 a.m., while the House Judiciary Committee holds its initial hearing at 1:30 p.m. Organizational meetings do not include debate on pending bills. Visit www.nmlegis.gov and click on the “What’s Happening” link for an updated schedule of hearings. The Senate does not plan to convene any hearings Friday.
Abortion bill heats up: In its Roundhouse Roundup electronic newsletter, the Republican Party of New Mexico urged recipients to contact members of the Senate’s Health and Public Affairs Committee to ask them to oppose a bill that would repeal a law that makes performing an abortion a fourth-degree felony. “We must keep life sacred and protect the unborn,” the GOP wrote. The group Abortion Free New Mexico, run by self-described pro-life missionaries Bud and Tara Shaver, also jumped into the divisive debate, writing in a news release the Legislature is dominated by “extremist” Democrats who are “reintroducing their radical Pro-Death agenda.”
Former lawmaker returns to former agency: Former Rep. Linda Trujillo, a Democrat from Santa Fe who resigned from the House last summer because of financial challenges, was appointed as the new superintendent of the state Regulation and Licensing Department, succeeding Marguerite Salazar, who retired late last year. Voters elected Trujillo to represent District 48 in 2016. For a time, Trujillo served as deputy director of the Boards and Commissions Division of the regulation and licensing department. She also was a member of the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education.
Quote of the day: “And pre-pandemic wasn’t exactly a stellar, robust economy,”—Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup and chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, referring to the state’s economic fortunes before COVID-19 arrived last spring.