- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - State senators should finally vote on the nomination of Hanna Skandera as New Mexico public education secretary and work with the governor on education reform, the Senate’s top-ranking leader said.

The Democratic-controlled chamber has wasted too much time by preventing the nomination from coming to the floor over the past four years because of disagreements, Senate President Pro-tem Mary Kay Papen said Friday.

The Las Cruces Democrat said Gov. Susana Martinez has a right to appoint her cabinet members and the Senate has the responsibility to vote to approve or reject them.

“We just need to get on with it,” Papen said. “Hopefully we can decide on this and (Skandera) can get on with her business.”

Skandera’s nomination has been languishing in the Senate Rules Committee. Some Democrats have used hearings on Skandera to question her qualifications and bash Martinez, a Republican, over her teacher evaluation plans and her proposal on third-grader retention.

Skandera, who has clashed with teachers unions, remains on the job as a designate but can still perform all the duties of a public education secretary.

Papen also said she was pleased to hear Martinez calling for bipartisanship in her inaugural address last week.

After the GOP won control of the New Mexico House for the first time in 60 years, the governor said at her inauguration that voters wanted elected leaders to draft reforms together. Martinez said she was willing to compromise - to a point.

“I will meet anyone halfway if we’re focused on the same goal of student achievement, but I will never compromise on lowering standards for our children. Never,” Martinez said.

Papen said she could see the Senate and the GOP-led House coming to agreements on education and mental health reforms.

“I’m always open to working in a bipartisan way,” Papen said.

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Follow Russell Contreras on twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras.

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