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Legislative roundup, Jan. 23, 2019

January 24, 2019 GMT

Days left in legislative session: 52

Jampacked: Legislators always say they want the people to take part in their government.

Sometimes, though, they make it difficult.

This was the case Tuesday when dozens of people came to the Capitol for a hearing about House Bill 31. It would raise the statewide minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $12 an hour in the next 2½ years.

The House labor committee normally meets in the smallest committee room. It can accommodate 66 people sitting elbow to elbow. This includes the nine legislators on the committee.

More people interested in the minimum-wage bill were stuck outside the committee room than could be seated in it. Those on the outside could enter only as seats opened.

Roomier quarters were available, but the committee did not move the hearing to a place where everyone could be comfortably seated, such as the House chambers.

People stuck in the corridor said they would complain to House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.

Protest disrupts House: About 10 self-described socialists took security personnel by surprise Tuesday when they unfurled a string of banners and began chants against a 50-year-old state statute that bans abortions. Their protest occurred while the 70-member House of Representatives was conducting business in its chamber.

State police officers and security guards escorted the group outside. The old law the socialists object to has not been enforced since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. But members of the Party of Socialism and Liberation want the old state statute repealed as a hedge against the nation’s high court reversing course on abortion rights.

Satya Vatti, spokeswoman for the socialists, said they support HB 51, which would decriminalize abortion and erase the 50-year-old statute.

Vatti also said her group does not support either of the state’s major political parties.

“They serve millionaires or billionaires,” she said. “Not working-class people.”

Protecting pets: An advocacy group says victims of domestic violence are often intimidated further by perpetrators who threaten to harm household pets.

“Animals are too often used as pawns in domestic abuse cases,” Jessica Johnson, a lobbyist for Animal Protection Voters, told the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.

The committee voted 4-1 Tuesday to advance HB 52, which would make it a crime to commit domestic abuse against a pet or domestic animal. Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, cast the dissenting vote.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

Quotes of the day: “I never worked for a boring suburb like Rio Rancho.” — Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, a former deputy city manager of Santa Fe. He took his swipe at suburbs while lauding his old employer during testimonials on City of Santa Fe Day.

“It’s a wonderful place to visit, but you still can’t beat the food in Española.” — Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, also speaking of Santa Fe’s virtues.