Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As I reflect on my two terms in office, I want to share what I think are important accomplishments. I campaigned on the issues of land and water, rural economic development, and education, and I have worked to merge that platform with real programs that impact the constituents of House District 41.
- Predatory lending reform
When I ran in 2018, I promised you I would take on predatory lenders, who were taking advantage of the most financially vulnerable people in our community by charging an APR of up to 175% on loans under $10,000.00. In 2020 I introduced legislation, but it failed in the senate. This year I decided to introduce House Bill 128, the legislation caps APR at 36% it passed both the House and the Senate and was signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Community advocates worked for over sixteen years to get this legislation passed, and together we made it happen, saving New Mexicans thousand of dollars. I have to say this is a wonderful victory for New Mexico.
Since 2019 we have seen the biggest increase in educational funding in 8 years. In 2020 we increased funding for education by 28%, and gave all teachers a 5% raise and all school personnel a 4% raise. This year we increased teachers pay to $50,000 for tier one teachers, $60,000.00 for tier two and $70,000.00 for tier three teachers. Additionally, all support staff will receive a minimum starting wage of $15.00 an hour and provided funding to ensure salaries are fair and equitable across the board. Our teachers now make more than their counterparts in Texas, Colorado, Arizona and Utah. This is one of many significant changes we made in educated since 2019. We continue to concentrate on improving education for all students. We created an Early Childhood Education Trust Fund in the amount of$300 million and have increased investment in early childhood programs by 28%.
- Higher Education Opportunities for New Mexicans
This past legislative session, we passed legislation making New Mexico one of a few states to provide free tuition to it’s residents. We were once viewed as backwater when it came to education, we are now amongst the most progressive and forward thinking states in the country. In 2019 I carried legislation to create a technical trade school at Northern's El Rito Campus and joined with the school districts of Espanola, Taos, Jemez Springs, Pojoaque and Mesa Vista to pass a bond issue to support the long term funding of a technical trade school. Northern 's El Rito Campus which opened last year. They will offer dual enrollment programs for the Pipefitters, Plumbers, and Electricians. Next year, juniors in high school may begin taking courses at both their high school and Northern. Upon graduation they will be certified trades workers, leading to jobs at the Lab with beginning wages of $60,000 a year plus benefits. I was instrumental in getting Dual Enrollment Credit for our colleges, which brings sustaining revenues to Northern New Mexico College for the coming years.
- Substance Abuse Treatment
When I ran in 2018 I promised you I would work tirelessly to provide funding to address the substance use disorder in our communities. Since then I worked to create a drug treatment center at the old nursing home in Espanola. In April of 2020, I attended the ribbon cutting event for Darren’s place, today the facility houses 110 clients and create jobs for approximately 70 people. In addition, the Hoy Recovery Program will has expanded to house 22 women and their children for long term drug abuse treatment programs while also creating about 25 jobs. This model is now being used in Taos County, in order provide the services people need right in their community.
- Grandparents raising Grandchildren
People often ask me what is the most difficult thing facing our senior citizens? I have to say in District 41 it’s grandparents raising grandchildren because many time parents may suffering from substance use disorder, or mental health issues, might incarcerated or worse may have passed away. That’s I cosponsored SB… allowing grandparents and other kin to adopt their grandchildren and keep them out of foster care. This legislation provides for federal and state resources to help this families, who many times struggle to make ends meet.
- Tax Breaks
In January, I voted to eliminate the state tax on Social Security, this vote and legislation ensures our seniors keep more of their hard-earned money.
As we move out of Covid I voted to give tax breaks to working New Mexicans, who will receive $1,200.00 for a family of four and single New Mexicans will receive $600.00 to help our citizens who continue to struggle in tough economic times.
- Acequias and Land Grants
In January, I was appointed at the Chair of the Rural Development, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs Committe. As your State Representative, I represent more Acequias and Land Grants then any other Representative in the State. This year we passed legislation to provide Land Grants/ Merceds an annual operating fund for the first time in our states history. This funding will help maintain our Merceds, pay property taxes, and provide opportunities for future economic development opportunities.This year I used 'junior' funding to provide $50,000.00 to pay for additional staff at the New Mexico Interstte Stream Commission (ISC). The ISC is in desperate need of additional staff to ensure our acequias can use the capital outlay they receive around the state. I have helped workshops to assist our acequias to understand the process in requesting capital outlay, and the reporting necessary to ensure they maintain positive audits and can request funding in the future.
- Mutual Domestic Water Associations
In 2020, I carried the Census Bill (SB4) in the House and it was signed by the Governor on February 10th. This bill will help bring in an additional $7.8 billion a year in federal funds to our state over the next 10 years. I'm working on HB 248 to provide about $10 million a year for Mutual Domestic Water Associations to help repair and rebuild aging systems in rural unincorporated areas of our state.
I was appointed to the House Appropriations & Finance Committee for 2020 and, in that capacity, I have helped create a new judgeship for the First Judicial District (Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba).
This will help clear up the backlog in our courts.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to serve you, and I look forward to seeing you in the coming months.
Susan Herrera, D-41
Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, Taos