SANTA FE, N.M. — The latest state legislative session wrapped up Thursday as representatives and senators worked until the last second to get as many bills, memorials and resolutions passed before the noon deadline.
Below is a look at how three pieces of legislation — two of which directly affect the University of New Mexico — fared in the State Legislature.
House Bill 147
A bill proposing that the Lottery Foundation provide a $40 million flat rate annual allocation to the Lottery Scholarship was tabled in the Senate Finance Committee today.
Noah Michelsohn, director of communications for the Associated Students of UNM, said even though the bill died in the SFC, it showed progress and set a solid foundation for the next session.
“It’s disappointing it didn’t pass through the Senate,” he said. “Obviously we were hoping that it would.”
Rep. James E. Smith, a Republican representing Bernalillo, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties, sponsored the bill and said he was dissatisfied over the results.
When asked if he would try to push a similar bill next session, he said he is planning on retiring and “golfing and riding my motorcycle.”
Michelsohn said they can “get this through” next year, knowing that the bill received bipartisan support and that hopefully the next ASUNM team will pick up where they left off.
Senate Bill 140
The Lottery Scholarship did see some changes, however.
SB 140 was passed unanimously through the House of Representatives Thursday morning.
The bill distributes lottery money based on the “projected (enrollments)” and the type of institute a student attends.
For students at four-year universities, their scholarship allotment will be based on the first to seventh program semesters, for transfer students it will consider the fourth to seventh semesters and is based off of the first and third semesters for community college students.
The different types of higher education institutions are split between research institutes, such as NM Institute of Mining and Technology, UNM and NM State University, comprehensive institutes, such as Eastern NM, Western NM and Northern NM — the two-year colleges include branch campuses and community colleges.
Sen. William P. Soules, a Democrat representing Doña Ana County who sponsored the bill, said this will alleviate the stress students and parents have when trying to figure how much money they will receive.
Students at research institutes will be awarded a base of $1,500, comprehensive students will receive $1,020 and students at two-year institutes will get $380.
“I just think it’s good for the universities and the students,” Soules said. “It makes it a lot easier and clearer what their amounts will be and allows them to plan.”
Michelsohn said ASUNM’s position has been “pretty neutral” toward the bill, but ASUNM thinks it is going to stop tuition from rising because it moves away from the percentage system.
The bill will take effect July 1, 2018.
House Joint Memorial 12
A joint memorial was introduced to request the FBI to notify law enforcement agencies when someone who is prohibited from buying a firearm tries to do so within the state.
HJM 12 was the last topic discussed in the Senate Thursday afternoon and was eventually tabled.
Rep. Debra M. Sariñana, a Democrat representing Bernalillo County who was one of the sponsors of the joint memorial, said it is a shame that it did not get passed, because it was “what (New Mexico) needed.”
Rep. Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson, also a Democrat representing Bernalillo County, was the second sponsor of the joint memorial, but could not be reached by the time of this publication for comment.
The HJM did not die without opposition. Sen. William E. Sharer, a Republican representing San Juan County, said he agrees that there needs to be a stronger effort to keep guns away from domestic abusers, but only taking away one “medium” is not enough.
Sharer also cited inaccuracies in the statistics of deaths per day by firearm in the joint memorial saying the mistakes are a “simple thing that I don’t think we should allow in any memorial.”
The memorial comes at a sensitive time in light of a recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida and Thursday’s incident when a gunman was arrested after pulling a gun on people near and on UNM’s campus.
Sariñana said she will pursue similar legislation in the future. Her time as a teacher has exposed her to children who have been frightened to go to school due to gun violence and that this is something “we need to just fix.”
The next legislative session will kick off Jan. 15, 2019.
Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.