Updated with House vote and comments from the governor
Despite all you've read about partisan warfare in the House of Representatives, two lawmakers, a Democrat and Republican came together this afternoon to promote bills designed to help state social workers.
Reps. Jimmy Hall, R-Albuquerque and Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces talked about House Bill 341, which would create a program to repay student loans for eligible employees of the Children, Youth & Families Department.
Hall said the program would cost about $600,000 and would help about 400 employees. "There is enough money to get started and make a nice dent [in the loans]," he said.
The House is expected to hear the bill today, sponsored by Hall and co-sponsored by Gallegos, at its evening session. Gallegos said she's hoping for a unanimous vote. Hall noted most members of the House signed onto the bill.
The bipartisan duo also are behind HB 506, which would make assault and battery of a CYFD employee a crime. Gallegos, who worked for more than 25 years as a social worker with the department, said social workers are often in danger in investigations where the loss of parental rights is a possibility.
"When I did investigations, you're going to people's homes, you're knocking on the door and you never know what's going to come at the other end," Gallegos said. "Is there going to be a gun pointing at you? When you're dealing with people's children we often go out without law enforcement before we know whether we're going to take custody."
The bill would make both battery and aggravated assault on CFYD "public service workers" fourth degree felonies.
That bill is still awaiting hearing in the House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee.
UPDATE: 5:58 pm The House voted 63-0 to pass HB 341
UPDATE 6:39 pm Gov. Susana Martinez supports both these bills. In a news release, she said:
"Our caseworkers do one of the toughest jobs around,” said Gov. Susana Martinez. “Caseworkers put in long hours, often in the middle of the night, and make difficult judgment calls every day to keep children safe. These initiatives will help recruit, retain, and protect these dedicated professionals who are on the front lines in our continuing fight against child abuse in New Mexico."