Commentary: Santa Fe, NM – House Democrats took a stand for New Mexico teachers today by pushing to override the Governor's reckless veto of a bill that ensured teachers would not be penalized for taking their allotted sick days. Despite initially passing the House with wide bipartisan support, today most Republicans changed their vote and the House failed join the Senate in voting to override the Governor's veto. The final vote was 36-31.
“I would be failing not only as an educator, but as a legislator, if I did not vote to override this veto,” said Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque). “This is not about politics. It is about the future and the success of our children. A teacher has made the difference in all of our lives. We are defending this legislation because it is the right thing to do.”
“This is a bill that parents, teachers, and students need in this state. We need to retain good teachers in New Mexico and we do that by treating them fairly,” said Rep. Christine Trujillo (D-Albuquerque), a sponsor of the bill. “We cannot continue to punish our teachers for taking the sick days they rightfully earn. This isn’t an issue of politics. This is about simple human needs.”
“This veto was a slap in the face to New Mexico teachers. The bill is part of a bipartisan effort to make New Mexico a better place to be a teacher and to improve our education system,” said Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos), a sponsor of the bill. “If a sick teacher feels she has to force herself to come to work, who suffers? Not just the teacher, but children in the classroom. While I am sad to see that we couldn’t muster the votes from the other side to override this veto, Democrats will keep fighting for New Mexico teachers and students.”
Numerous House Democrats spoke on the floor in defense of teachers, imploring their colleagues across the aisle not to backtrack on their initial support of the bill.
“Our teachers are our heroes and every single one of us has a teacher that helped them in hard times,” said Rep. Bill McCamley (D-Mesilla Park). “This is a good bill and if we made the right vote then, we should make the right vote now.”
“Allow me to go back to my students and say that we were able to stand up for a good piece of legislation,” said Rep. Andrés Romero (D-Albuquerque), a teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy in Albuquerque.
Sponsored by Representatives Garcia Richard, Trujillo, Jason Harper (R-Rio Rancho), Dennis Roch (R-Logan) and Senator Craig Brandt (R-Rio Rancho), House Bill 241 ensures that teachers are not penalized on their evaluations for using their allotted sick days through fair leave policies. The bill initially passed the House with broad support, 64-3, and unanimously passed the Senate before being vetoed by the Governor.