Persistence pays off on early childhood bill

By WALTER RUBEL/ Southern New Mexico Journalism Collaborative

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — After years of failure, the effort to increase the annual distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood programs achieved final passage with a 26–16 vote in the Senate Thursday, March 19.

House Joint Resolution 1 would increase the distribution from five percent to 6.25 percent, following an amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee that will send 25 percent of the additional money to public schools. The remaining 75 percent would go to early childhood programs.

Because the distribution is established in the state constitution, it will require an amendment approved by voters in the 2022 election to make the change. Before that can happen, Congress must give its approval, since the Land Grant Permanent Fund was established by an act of Congress.

Sponsor Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, has introduced the legislation every year since 2013, and it has passed the House for six years in a row. But it had never been able to get through the Senate Finance Committee. The former chairman of that committee, John Arthur Smith of Deming, was defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary election.

Paid sick leave

Legislation to provide paid sick leave to all workers in New Mexico passed the Senate on 25–16 vote Thursday, and now moves back to the House for concurrence to Senate amendments.

House Bill 20 would require employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours that an employee works, up to 64 hours a year. It was opposed by business groups, who said many businesses in the state cannot absorb that added expense at this time.

Supporters said the bill was needed to ensure sick workers can stay home and not spread their illness.

“The essential workers who we’ve depended on so much this year are the least likely to have earned sick days available to them,” said cosponsor Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque. “It’s just not right for them to be forced to choose between going to work sick and putting food on the table or keeping their job.”

Trapping ban

Legislation to ban trapping on public lands passed the House by a single vote, 35–34, Thursday, and now heads to the governor for consideration.

Senate Bill 32, called Roxy’s Law in honor of a pet dog killed in a snare trap, will ban the use of traps, snares and poison in the taking of wildlife on public lands. There are exceptions for ecosystem management, scientific research and cage traps used to protect property. There is also an exception for use by tribal members in religious or ceremonial events.

“Trapping is cruel. Animals suffer before they are killed or left to die. That alone is enough to ban the practice,” said sponsor Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Santa Fe. “But because trapping is indiscriminate, it is also a threat to public safety and our pets.”

Walter Rubel can be reached at



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