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Higher-education bills introduced at New Mexico’s 54th Legislature

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Higher-education bills introduced at New Mexico’s 54th Legislature

Courtesy: Ch'Ree Essary

Courtesy: Ch'Ree Essary

Courtesy: Ch'Ree Essary

Courtesy: Ch'Ree Essary

The first session of New Mexico’s 54th legislature began this past week in Santa Fe and members of the Associated Students of New Mexico State University have attended to voice their support or disapproval of various proposed bills.

The legislative session began Jan. 15 and will convene for 60 days with representatives from all over the state. Emerson Morrow and Linda Cisneros, ASNMSU president and vice president, were among the representatives from ASNMSU attending the first week of the session. Mathew Madrid, assistant director of Governmental Affairs for ASNMSU, said they will send different groups throughout the session to attend.

“Many lawmakers are great at listening to students,” Morrow said. “They look forward to meeting us and hearing from us at the Roundhouse. The powerful stories that students share about their experience with higher education, the lottery scholarship, and other policies really can make a difference.”

Madrid said ASNMSU has worked to develop a strong relationship with legislators in previous years so they are receptive when students voice their concerns about certain legislation.

ASNMSU outlined six bills that are especially important to the NMSU community.

The first is the Capital Outlay Project, where ASNMSU is asking for $750,000 to put towards increased security measures on campus. The other five bills involve money for scholarships and grants for university students.

The money for the Capital Outlay Project will specifically go towards installing more security cameras and lighting in parking lots to deter auto theft. Money will also go towards installing electronic locking systems in buildings on campus. Madrid said this will help security during emergency situations.

ASNMSU will also be supporting Senate Bill 80, sponsored by Sen. William Soules, which involves transferring unclaimed prize money from the New Mexico Lottery Authority to the Lottery Scholarship Fund. Madrid said this will add between $1 and $3 million per year to the fund while the average amount in the fund for the past 10 years has been $42 million.

“What we usually focus on when we go up to Santa Fe, that’s for this year and last year, is in regards to the Lottery Scholarship and that affects a huge majority of the students on campus,” Madrid said.

House Bill 146, which proposes making the Lottery Scholarship needs-based, will not be supported by ASNMSU. They claim this would negatively impact students in the state and go against the original idea that all students should have access to the scholarship.

Senate Bill 81 and House Bill 127 involve increasing the amount of money that goes towards the College Affordability Scholarship and Senate Bill 155 proposes creating a research grant closing fund which will bring more research opportunities to the university. These three bills will be supported by ASNMSU.

Morrow and Madrid both said the decisions made at the session will unquestionably affect NMSU and its community.

“Especially as students at a public university, we should try to stay informed about what is happening at the state legislature, because it really will directly impact us,” Morrow said. “The laws passed in Santa Fe could decide how much student employees are being paid, whether there is funding for a new building or program, and a lot of other things. Students should try to follow along and reach out to their representatives to make sure they know how we feel about issues.”

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Higher-education bills introduced at New Mexico’s 54th Legislature