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Senate Dems unveil jobs package; vow to block right-to-work legislation

With the New Mexico House poised to act soon on a high-profile right-to-work bill, Senate Democrats said today the measure could be in for a crash landing if it reaches their chamber.

At a news conference at which Democrats also cited their economic priorities for the 60-day session that ends next month, several top-ranking members blasted the proposed change in state labor laws.

“It’s a cheap political trick to try to divide people in this great state,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen.

Meanwhile, two¬†Democratic senators — Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces and John Arthur Smith of Deming —¬†that could be key votes on the right-to-work bill, told reporters they will oppose any attempts to “blast” the legislation out of a Senate committee.

Blasting is a tactic used to advance a stalled bill out of committee. Critics of the process, which has been occasionally used in the House in recent years but not in the Senate, say it undermines the Legislature’s committee process.

The right-to-work legislation, House Bill 75, had been slated for debate tonight on the House floor. But House GOP leaders have decided to hold off on the vote until a later date, the Journal has learned.

If approved, the bill would bar nonunion workers from having to pay union fees as a condition of their employment. Such fees are currently required in most workplaces covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Gov. Susana Martinez and top-ranking Republican lawmakers have said approval of a right-to-work law — 24 other states currently have such laws — would boost the state’s economic development efforts.

The other bills cited today by Senate Democrats as part of their “ready to work” package include an increase in the state minimum wage, a proposed 5-cent hike in the state’s gas tax rate and more funding for a state job-training tax break.

If approved, the package of bills could create up to 73,000 new jobs, Senate Democrats claimed.