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Updated: Gov. Martinez Starts NM Legislature With State of the State Address

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 12:59am

SANTA FE - New Mexico lawmakers met in Santa Fe Tuesday for the beginning of the 2012 New Mexico Legislative Session.

Governor Susana Martinez began the legislative session by delivering the State of the State Address.

Before Martinez could even say a word, she was interrupted by occupy protestors chanting inside the Chamber of the House of Representatives. The protestors were escorted from the building.

Martinez began her speech by telling lawmakers New Mexico's budget is back in order and credits cutting government waste to help balance the budget.

There are several controversial issues on the agenda. Education reform and repealing a law allowing undocumented immigrants to be issued state driver's licenses are at the top of the list.

Education reform has been a top priority for Governor Susana Martinez since she took office. Martinez campaigned on trying to repeal the law allowing undocumented immigrants to be granted licenses.

Martinez stressed the importance of reforming education during Tuesday's State of the State Address. She hopes the legislature will approve $97 million to improve schools in the state. The money would go to identify struggling schools and pay for extra teachers to get them back on track.

According to Martinez, 80 percent of fourth graders can't read proficiently. She hopes this year legislature will help change that.

"Passing children who cannot read from one grade to the next is not compassionate, it's morally wrong," said Martinez.

Even more controversial is the bill to repeal a law allowing undocumented immigrants to be issued New Mexico driver's licenses.

The current law requires only a copy of a birth certificate, a foreign passport and proof of a New Mexico residence to be issued a license. Since the law went into effect in 2003, the state has issued more than 80,000 licenses.

Opponents of repealing the law say it would prevent undocumented immigrants from purchasing auto insurance and be a safety threat because people wouldn't be easily identified.

The bill repealing the current law is expected to be the same as last year's. Last year the bill passed in the house, but failed in the senate.
 

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SANTA FE-- The 2012 New Mexico State Legislature is now in session.

Governor Susana Martinez delivered the State of the State Address today in the capitol.

She told lawmakers that New Mexico's state budget is back in order.

She talked about cutting government waste, including selling the state's luxury jet.

She promises New Mexico will increase spending by just 3.6 percent to meet inflation.

On education, Gov. Martinez said $97 million will go toward improving schools.

One measure she wants to see is reading levels improve for third graders. She said it's not an option to pass students who can't read well.

"Passing children who cannot read from one grade to the next is not compassionate," Martinez said. "It's morally wrong."

Toward the end of her speech, Gov. Martinez spoke about issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

New Mexico is one of the only three states that allow it.

A bill to repeal the law and refuse licenses to undocumented immigrants failed during last year's session.  

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