Michael Sanchez in the News

Below are some recent local news articles covering Michael Sanchez and his hold on the New Mexico State Senate …

Senate Democratic Floor Leader Challenges Governor, Skandera to Take PARCC Exam

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On the heels of student protests against a new standardized test, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez has challenged Gov. Susana Martinez and Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera to take the high-profile exam.

Sanchez, a Belen Democrat who has clashed with the Republican governor over the last four years, said he’d like to find out whether Martinez and Skandera could pass the PARCC test, which will be administered to New Mexico public school students in grades 3-11 starting Monday.

“Legislators have heard the parents, the teachers and the students who are impacted by this controversial high-stakes exam,” Sanchez said in a statement released by Senate Democrats. “It is no laughing matter when you have to take the exam yourself.”

The PARCC test, short for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is a state-mandated exam. Results will be factored into the state’s school grading and teacher evaluation systems, both of which have been implemented since Martinez took office in 2011.

Earlier this week, more than 100 students from Santa Fe high schools staged school walkouts and protested the PARCC exam outside the Public Education Building and state Capitol.

In response to the protests, PED said the time spent on standardized tests in New Mexico has actually decreased in recent years. The agency also said it was “disappointing” the students were not in class during the middle of a school day.

Journal UpFront columnist D’Val Westphal took the PARCC practice exam and wrote about it in December 2014.

Late tonight, Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell blasted Sanchez’s challenge as a “ridiculous political stunt.” Here’s the complete statement he sent to the Journal:

“This is yet another ridiculous political stunt. An annual assessment has been required by federal and state law for decades.

As usual, it sounds as though Sen. Sanchez wants to just keep doing things the way they have always been done. That thinking has failed our students for too long.

Apparently he has no regard for the thousands of teachers who worked on designing an exam that better captures a student’s growth and understanding.”

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New Mexico Senate Democrats Roll Out Jobs Package

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Credit Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez
(D-29- Bernalillo & Valencia)

Santa Fe, NM – Democratic leaders in the New Mexico Senate today announced an ambitious package of legislation that would create 73,000 new jobs and stimulate economic growth. The Democrats’ ‘Ready to Work’ Jobs Package contains more than 40 bills introduced in the current Session that address the need for more employment and economic activity in urban and rural areas of the state, across a broad range of occupations. Democrats contrasted their legislative priorities with the Governor’s agenda of passing measures that they characterized as “symbolic”, including so-called right-to-work and other measures.

“Today we articulated our vision of the kind of actions we can take in this Legislative Session to build a better New Mexico. Our ‘Ready to Work’ Jobs Plan can reverse the low-growth course we’re on, if we have the will and the courage to enact it. We must be bold. We must be imaginative. That’s what has been missing for the last 4 years in the state’s economic policies,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia).

The emphasis of the Democratic jobs package is two-fold: prioritizing measures to make new employment opportunities available to those who have skills and are ready to work, but cannot find work; and getting those without needed skills or education (or who are entering the workforce) the training that employers seek. “Our top priority is creating jobs and getting the economy moving again in New Mexico. People are hurting in our state, and we are urgent about this. Democrats know how to create jobs. ‘Right to Work’ won’t create a single job; help one small business expand, or bring a new firm here. ‘Ready to Work’ will get people working again, and rebuild our economy,” said Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla (D-14- Albuquerque).

Democratic legislation in the package of bills announced today includes increased funding for job training (JTIP) through community colleges; $300 million worth of local roads and highway jobs paid for by a gas tax increase; a new 33 percent set-aside for New Mexico businesses in government contracts; tripling the LEDA Fund to help us compete for businesses locating from out-of-state; a substantial increase in early childhood education programs; investments in rural broadband, and many other job measures.

Michael Sanchez: Governor’s Reports About Benefits of “Right To Work” Are False

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Credit Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez
(D-29- Bernalillo & Valencia)

Santa Fe, NM – E-mails revealing that Governor Susana Martinez’s top political strategists began planning to create misinformation on a key state policy three years ago in order to gain political advantage today drew sharp criticism from Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29- Bernalillo & Valencia). Her closest political advisors discussed funding and writing a study to give the false appearance of academic or factual support for so-called ‘Right to Work’ (RTW) legislation now being pushed in the Legislature by Republicans. The E-mail discussions, which were released into the public domain long ago, show that the Governor’s team wants the policy in order to gain an advantage over their Democratic rivals at the ballot box, not because of any benefits to the economy. That contradicts Gov. Martinez’s statements on the policy, which claim that the policy will create jobs, and that is why she supports it.

“Facts should matter, even when we may disagree as Democrats and Republicans. We should care about the facts, and we should not make them up wholesale as the Governor’s people intended to do,” Sen. Sanchez said. “What we now know is that the Governor’s push for so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation is all about politics, not about facts, or even policy to help New Mexicans get jobs. Her people cynically commissioned a study to ‘prove’ that it creates jobs, economic growth, and more businesses locating in New Mexico, even if this were not true.”

In the State of the State Address, Governor Martinez said, “Studies have shown that states where workers [have these anti-worker laws] have higher employment levels, and companies locate there more often”.

“Did she know that her advisors had commissioned a study with a pre-determined result, a study asserting phony facts to give Republicans a future advantage, in their view, at the polls at a date in the future? This Administration continues its culture of deception,” added Sen. Sanchez.

Presented by the Governor as a great economic tool, the policy is a smoke-screen for the failed economic policies of the past four years. Site location professionals say it’s ‘old thinking’ and not an important factor in business relocation decisions. Congressional Research Service says workers make on average of $7,000 less in RTW states. Quality of life is worse in RTW states, with higher poverty levels, less health insurance through their employers, and public education funding is weaker.

Democrats understand the daily struggles and anxieties of working people, and are on the side of working people and their children, and on the side of veterans and seniors. Democrats will continue work to find solutions to the big challenges we face.

Democrats Respond to the Martinez “State of the State”

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Credit Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez
(D-29- Bernalillo & Valencia)

Santa Fe, NM – New Mexico Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia) today delivered a Democratic response to Gov. Susana Martinez’s State of the State address which was given at the State Capitol. Sanchez laid out significant differences between Democratic priorities and the Governor’s policy agenda, including so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation, repeal of drivers’ licenses of undocumented immigrants, mandatory retention of third graders, over-testing in public schools, funding of early childhood education, environmental protections, and other issues. He said Democrats will push for a minimum wage increase, paid family leave, and more help for economically struggling families.

“We strongly oppose so-called the ‘Right to Work’ laws that Gov. Susana Martinez supports. Contrary to her assertions today, these laws are not important for attracting businesses that are relocating. Such laws are in fact anti-worker, and they lower the wages and incomes of working people. Workers make an average of $7,000 less annually in states that enact such laws than workers in states that protect workers’ economic security, according to the Congressional Research Service,” Sanchez said.

“We already have some of the lowest median incomes in nation, how low can we go? Working people need a stronger voice in the workplace today. Democrats will fight to make sure their voices are heard,” Sanchez added.

Democrats will push for an increase of $2.60 hourly minimum wage to bring the statewide minimum wage to $10.10 from its current $7.50. Last year Senate Democrats passed a modest pay raise for the lowest-paid working families, but failed in the House. Gov. Martinez said then she would have vetoed that measure if it had reached her desk. At that time she pushed a tax cut for the biggest out-of-state corporations.

“The Governor’s claims about children being her number one priority are not enough, and photo-op politics will not improve our children’s future. Holding back third graders based on their score on a standardized reading test, even if a child excels in math or social studies or is a poor test taker is wrong, and we will oppose it,” said Sanchez. “It is an unproven and punitive policy that strips parents of their control over major decisions in their kid’s education.”

Majority Leader Sanchez vowed that Democrats would fight for a major, substantial and ongoing investment in early childhood education programs to be paid from the State’s permanent fund. That is not part of the agenda presented by Gov. Martinez today. New Mexico has ranked 50th worst on the nation for children’s well being until last year. Sanchez said Democrats would fight for the early education funds for children in New Mexico in this session.

Sanchez said Democrats opposed the Governor’s renewed call for repeal of the New Mexico law that allows undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses. “The Governor wants to take away licenses from 90,000 undocumented immigrant drivers in our state while other states are following our lead, and now are allowing these immigrants to get drivers licenses. Her plan would negatively impact public safety. Most importantly, what will happen to the100,000 children of those undocumented immigrants when a parent can no longer take them to see a doctor when they are sick? To a dental visit when they have a tooth ache? From basketball or band practice after school? If this Administration cares deeply about children, it will drop its continued push for repeal,” Sanchez said.

Senator Sanchez said he welcomed Gov. Martinez’s agreement with the Legislative Jobs Council on several economic growth measures, including an increase of LEDA funding for local economic development; an increase for the Job Training Fund, and funding for NM Partnership, a nonprofit group working with the Economic Development Department in business recruiting and marketing in rural areas.

“Even though we agree on some issues, the fact remains that her policies have left New Mexicans struggling, even desperate, and anxious about their own and their children’s futures. After the speeches are forgotten today, Democrats will still be working to find solutions to the big challenges we face. We are every bit as optimistic as the Governor about our state’s bright future, but we have a better way to get there,” Sanchez added.

New Mexico Senate Leader: “I Don’t Believe Right-to-Work is Anything for Our State”

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The toughest battle for right-to-work legislation in New Mexico may take place in the state Senate during the 2015 legislative session.

The toughest battle for right-to-work legislation in New Mexico may take place in the state Senate during the 2015 legislative session. Sen. Michael Sanchez, a Democrat from Belen and the Senate floor leader, has the power to call — or not call — legislation to a vote on the floor.

Sen. Michael Sanchez, a Democrat from Belen and the Senate floor leader, has the power to call — or not call — legislation to a vote on the floor. And on Tuesday, he told Business First he’s not interested in hearing right-to-work legislation during the 2015 legislative session.

“I don’t believe right-to-work is anything for our state,” Sanchez said. “Those are philosophical beliefs of both Democrat and Republican parties we tend to disagree about.”

Mayor Richard Berry, who is a Republican, as well as the new Republican Speaker of the House, Don Tripp of Socorro, are both pushing for the legislation, which could fundamentally change New Mexico’s labor laws and prohibit requiring workers to join or pay dues to a union. Right-to-work laws in New Mexico could affect fewer than 10 percent of the workers in the state.

Berry, Tripp and others have said passing right-to-work legislation could help bring in more manufacturers that are concerned about union representation here.

But this year, as Republicans take over the House for the first time since the 1950s, passing right-to-work legislation will not just be a possibility, but a priority, Tripp added. “It’s one of those things that you check off when you’re doing economic development. We need it,” he said.

“I believe we can get it out of the House; the Senate is a challenge,” he said.

Sanchez, however, said he’s interested in hearing other economic development proposals that will help the state and, he said, stop brain drain here. He’s said he’s pushing for more Job Training Incentive Program funds, as well as a larger Local Economic Development Act fund for the next fiscal year.

“I believe I’ve indicated that New Mexico is at a critical stage, and we’ve been in this critical stage for the last four years, since Governor Martinez has come into office,” Sanchez said. “We’re losing jobs and we’re losing people, and I don’t know if the LEDA fund would generate leading people back, but it could help us turn a corner by attracting good clean jobs that can pay good salaries. I’m in favor of generating special funds. Last year, we asked for $15 million [for LEDA]; the business community is looking at $50 [million].”

That $50 million LEDA proposal was made when the state thought it would receive millions more from oil taxes, he said. But as oil prices slide, “it doesn’t help, in terms of the state’s coffers,” he said. “We rely on oil and gas to make it through. I’m going to make sure we have money in that LEDA fund.”

Though much of the special fund, which is used to build public infrastructure around businesses, is used for recruiting out-of-state firms, “we forget our mom’s and pop’s,” Sanchez said. “We can be looking at incentives for them as well.”

Because the session is only 60 days long this year and allows presentation of legislation that is not germane to the budget, it will be busy for all legislators.

“We have a full agenda; we’re going to move full speed ahead, and I understand it’s a different dynamic,” he said. “The Senate will move forward the way the Senate has, and the Democrats will have an agenda for families, economic development, and we’ll make our state better and better every single year.”

Political Power Shift Raises Questions for New Mexico Senate

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SANTA FE – A new dynamic lies ahead for the Democratic leadership of the New Mexico Senate, with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez about to begin a second term after a resounding re-election win and a Republican majority poised to take over in the House for the first time in 60 years.

While some progressive groups will likely count on the Senate being a bulwark of sorts against GOP-driven legislation, at least one Senate Democrat has already called for changing some chamber procedures given the new political landscape.

SANCHEZ: Intends to work fairly with House

SANCHEZ: Intends to work fairly with the House

The man at the center of it all, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, recently expressed confidence to civic and business leaders in Albuquerque that leadership of the Senate and House will be able to work together despite their political differences, saying the Legislature will not “end up like Washington, D.C.”

But in an interview, Sanchez, the Senate’s top-ranking Democrat, also described the Senate as a “pretty independent body” and said the chamber will stick with time-honored procedures for dealing with bills during the coming 60-day session.

“We’ll continue to do what we’ve always done, which is to look over the legislation carefully,” he said. “We have a process and procedure that have served us well in the past.”

The current process has prompted criticism – specifically from the governor – that Sanchez simply bottles up legislation he does not like. He has disputed such claims.

And with the new GOP-controlled House expected to send the Senate legislation that has gotten fatally sidetracked in recent years – examples could include a voter ID bill and so-called right-to-work legislation – Sanchez’s vow to work with the House and desire to avoid political battles could face serious tests.

Other bills expected to face scrutiny in the Senate include two high-profile proposals backed by the governor: a mandate that third-graders who cannot read proficiently repeat the grade level; and a proposed repeal of a 2003 law that allows immigrants in the country illegally to obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses.

As majority leader, Sanchez has the authority to decide which bills get voted on by the full Senate, and in what order. However, he does not have unchecked power to assign bills to committees for vetting.

Senators were not up for re-election this year – but they will be in 2016 – and Democrats currently have a 25-17 majority in the chamber.

“Fair Debate”

At least one Democratic member has chafed at the Senate’s way of doing things. Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, has been critical of Sanchez for not bringing up some business-backed bills for a vote by the full Senate after they cleared all assigned committees.

GRIEGO: More bills deserve to be heard

GRIEGO: More bills deserve to be heard

In 2015, he says, it’s even more important that be done.

“Now that the tables have turned in the House, we need to give everybody a fair shot … at getting their pieces of legislation heard,” Griego said in a recent interview.

If not, there could be repercussions for Senate bills when they reach the GOP-controlled House, he said.

However, Sanchez told the Journal the Senate will continue to consider all bills introduced by senators before moving on to bills approved by the House, as has been the chamber’s practice in recent years. Senate Republican leaders have said they support the practice.

Sanchez also said he’s hopeful the Senate steers clear of “blasting” bills out of committee, a procedural maneuver that has been used in recent years in the House – but not in the Senate – to dislodge stalled legislation and advance it for a floor vote.

“We haven’t gotten to that point, and I’m hoping that’s not a tactic anyone is thinking of using,” Sanchez told the Journal.

Several Senate Republicans also said they hope to avoid attempts to blast bills out of Senate committees, though they didn’t rule out such action.

PAYNE: Activists will pressure Democrats

PAYNE: Activists will pressure Democrats

Senate GOP Whip Bill Payne of Albuquerque said blasting bills is an embarrassment to committee chairmen, though he said there are “probably times when it’s warranted.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said he’s hopeful lawmakers can compromise on some issues, adding that Senate Democrats should heed this year’s election results – specifically, the election of a GOP majority in the House for the first time in 60 years and the re-election of Martinez – as evidence voters want a new direction for the state.

“All bills and ideas should get a fair debate,” Moores said. “I hope the politics of just sending the big-ticket bills to committee to die doesn’t happen.”

Griego, chairman of the Corporations and Transportation Committee, also objects to blasting bills out of committee. But a bill that makes it through Senate committees “definitely needs to be heard,” he said.

Optimism

During a talk before an Albuquerque Economic Forum breakfast in early December, Sanchez said he intends to work fairly with House Republicans, adding that he believes he has a good relationship with Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro, whom Republicans nominated last month to serve as the next House speaker.

Tripp sounded a similar tone, saying he and Sanchez have known each other for many years and worked together on various issues.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and look forward to strengthening our friendship,” Tripp said in a statement. “We don’t see eye to eye on every issue, but it is my hope that he will allow bills that pass the House to be voted on in the Senate.”

Sanchez said some areas of agreement are already clear, such as a proposal to spur business growth in New Mexico by beefing up a state “closing fund” used to help offset the costs of business expansion or relocation.

“I think the House Republicans, along with the minority (Democrats) in the House, understand that we’re in a critical stage here in New Mexico in terms of turning the corner,” Sanchez said during the forum, referring to the state’s struggling economy. “If we sit there in Santa Fe and yell and scream at each other like they do in Washington, D.C., and make ugly remarks about each other, it doesn’t solve one problem.”

Other senators are also voicing optimism – at least for now.

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, said he believes lawmakers should be able to come to bipartisan agreements on at least some economic development measures.

“I hope the Senate can be a place where we craft responsible compromises,” he said. “I don’t think we can afford two years of stalemate in Santa Fe.”

But GOP Senate whip Payne said he expects Sanchez and other Senate Democrats to feel pressure from activist groups to halt legislation they oppose.

“I think if the House can pass its agenda … it’s going to place more pressure on the Senate than normal,” Payne told the Journal.

Other issues facing the Legislature during its 60-day session include a approving a budget – the state is required to approve a balanced budget annually – and proposals to increase the state’s minimum wage and divert more money from the state’s largest permanent fund for early childhood education.

During his Dec. 3 remarks, Sanchez said he supports increasing the minimum wage and opposes right-to-work legislation, which would prohibit labor unions from requiring workers to join a union or pay it dues for representing them.

Journal staff writers James Monteleone and Deborah Baker contributed to this report.

We Will Not End Up Like Washington, Senate Majority Leader Promises

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Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez recently held forth in what some might consider enemy territory. The Belen Democrat addressed Economic Forum, an Albuquerque organization of CEOs and power brokers.

They had two things on their minds: wages and Right to Work. And, of course, the question that follows Sanchez everywhere he goes: With a new Republican majority in the House, will there be gridlock in Santa Fe?

The discussion was civil, respectful and productive, an example of what happens when people listen to each other.

Sanchez let them know up front that he’s not anti-business. “I come from a family that’s business oriented,” he said. He and brother Raymond, a former House Speaker, grew up in their parents’ bakery and restaurant in Belen, and his law practice is a business.

He’s felt the lingering recession. “In my practice it’s been difficult. It’s hard for people to pay. There just isn’t money going around.”

In a conversational tone of voice, Sanchez touched on the hot-button issues: tax cuts (he’s not convinced they bring new business to the state), drought (we need a comprehensive water plan), and education (we need to listen to teachers about what works and doesn’t work).

On Right to Work, he said, “The issue has been out there many, many years. I am not for Right to Work – never have been, never will be. Unions have a place in our country and have done a lot for us. They also create protections for workers and higher wages.”

A Forum member asked, “Don’t you think employees should have a choice about paying union dues or keeping their money?”

Sanchez responded that because the unions negotiate for everyone, all employees benefit and should pay union dues.

He supports an increase in minimum wage: “Ask yourself if you can live on $7 or $8 an hour. Can you raise a child?”

John Rockwell, CEO of Marpac, employs 100 people at his manufacturing plant. He told Sanchez that one of his customers decided it could buy the product cheaper in Mexico; the loss of that business meant he had to eliminate six jobs. “Those are good, loyal employees,” he said. But the minimum wage went up in Albuquerque, and the health care law will raise costs. “I can’t compete with other suppliers,” he said. “What do I tell my employees?”

Sanchez couldn’t answer that question, but when Rockwell spoke to Sanchez afterward, he invited Sanchez to come visit his operation, and Sanchez accepted. He then invited Rockwell to come to the Legislature.

Each wanted the other to experience his reality. For Sanchez, it’s the reality of stretching a limited budget around many pressing needs, which are on vivid display during the legislative session. For Rockwell, it’s the reality of doing business and meeting payroll in an increasingly demanding climate..

When Sanchez turned to next month’s legislative session, he had everybody’s attention.

“One of the biggest questions is how to get along with the House,” he said. “Some things we just won’t agree on. The Senate talks way too much, but it’s good to vet legislation. Some bills may have unintended consequences. I have a lot of respect for (Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro, the new House Speaker). There will be discussions and arguments, but I will promise you we will not end up like Washington where we can’t talk to each other and we disrespect each other. We’re at a critical stage in New Mexico in terms of turning the corner. If we sit and yell at each other, we won’t solve one problem.”

Keep Sanchez and Rockwell in mind. One party will try to look out for workers; the other will try to look out for the Rockwells. Neither side is wrong in that. Balancing the two will be just one of many legislative exercises.

Senate Democratic Leader Expects Fights and Some Common Ground With New GOP House

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Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez told Albuquerque business leaders today he plans to stick to his guns in support of raising the minimum wage and opposing right-to-work legislation when Republicans take control of the state House in January.

“There are some things that we’re just not going to agree on. Philosophically, we will not agree,” Sanchez, D-Belen, told members of the Albuquerque Economic Forum at a breakfast event on Wednesday.

But Sanchez said he also would try to build positive relationships with House Republicans while looking for areas where the two chambers can find common ground.

“Are there going to be differences? Yes. Are there going to be discussions and a few arguments here and there? Absolutely there will be,” Sanchez said. “But I will promise you one thing: … We will not end up like Washington, DC, where those people can’t talk to each other, can’t agree with each other and are disrespectful to each other.”

Sanchez said he has “a lot of respect” for House Republicans’ nominee for speaker, Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro.

Sanchez said some areas of agreement already are clear, such as efforts to attract new businesses to New Mexico partly by increasing money available to help local governments offer incentives.

“I think the House Republicans, along with the minority (Democrats) in the House, understand that we’re in a critical stage here in New Mexico in terms of turning the corner,” Sanchez said, referring to the state’s struggling economy. “If we sit there in Santa Fe and yell and scream at each other like they do in Washington, DC, and make ugly remarks about each other, it doesn’t solve one problem.”

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