Category Archives: Information

Ranked Choice Voting for Albuquerque, the Time Has Come

by Jerilyn Bowen

Come election time in Albuquerque next November, how would you like to be able to cast a ballot for your favorite candidate without worrying that your vote won’t matter?  Or that it might even serve to help an abhorrent candidate get into office?  Imagine being allowed to rank candidates in order of preference so that, should your top preference not land a majority on the initial tally, your second choice will automatically receive the vote you cast rather than getting lost to an either/or dilemma.

This common sense instrument of voter liberation is called Ranked Choice Voting.  It’s designed to allow democracy to flourish rather than struggle against unnecessary impediments.  RCV has accordingly been adopted to good effect by many locales across the country, including our neighbor Santa Fe.  It earns its stripes by making the electoral process fairer, less expensive, more efficient, less acrimonious, more participatory, and more user-friendly for both voters and candidates.  We of the Burque persuasion now have a chance to bring RCV to our fair city.   A bill to introduce this improvement is under consideration by the Finance Committee of Albuquerque City Council; if approved at their May 13th meeting to go to the full City Council, it could be passed and put into effect in time for next fall’s municipal elections.

Conserves City Funds & Increases Voter Participation

One great advantage of RCV is that it eliminates the high cost of runoff elections.  In an Albuquerque mayoral race, that cost comes to almost a million dollars.  In a council election, the runoff tab is similar.  In all cases, the money saved can be far better used in programs and public works that benefit the citizens of our city–everything from schools, housing, transportation, and community safety to water conservation, flood control, pollution abatement, and infrastructure upkeep.

Under RCV both publically and privately financed candidates benefit as well–first, from not having to rustle up the funding required by costly runoff elections; and second, by escaping the wear and tear of another round of campaigning.  Since runoff turnouts are notoriously low, the RCV instant runoff also ensures that more voters have a voice in the final outcome.

When people feel they can vote their conscience and their votes actually count no matter what, more of them show up at the polls.  In its first RCV election last year, Santa Fe saw a 10% increase in turnout over the 2014 mayoral election there.  Were Albuquerque to stick with its present old style runoff system in next fall’s election, given that the runoff would be held in the midst of the December holiday season, the usual lower turnout for runoffs would no doubt recur with a vengeance.

Encourages Issue-Oriented Clean Campaigns

Ranked Choice Voting offers many advantages beyond the immediately obvious ones.  By way of background:  when no one candidate gets 50+ percent of the vote on the first round, the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated and the second choice of those voters is counted.  If there’s still no candidate with a majority, the process continues by eliminating the remaining candidate with the least popular support and counting the next choice on those ballots; and so it goes until one candidate attains a majority vote.  In practice this means that some elections will be decided taking into account second and even third choice votes.  That being the case, Candidate X has good reason to consider the cost of trashing an opponent who will likely be the favored candidate of some voters, voters who by-the-by may be inclined to put Candidate X down as their second or third choice.  This game changer mitigates against the dirty campaign tactics that typically enmire our elections and encourages an upstanding focus on issues, policies, and overall vision of the common good.  Wonder of wonders, our elections could become about what matters most to us rather than about who did the best job of confusing the electorate with spin, stirring up fear, creating distrust, and inflaming antagonisms.

Voter Liberation within Our Reach

If that sounds like an attractive option to you, you are not alone.  And what high quality candidate would not find it a relief to be freed from dealing with personal attacks, not to mention being freed from feeling they must return such attacks in kind?  RCV gives everyone the opportunity to evolve into a more enlightened state of political being.

Along with that, Ranked Choice Voting is a critically needed antidote to the pervasive malaise that now threatens our democracy at every level.  Change always arises from the grassroots and Albuquerque is our high desert field of dreams.  Let us dream a better way to elect our leaders and make that a reality, right here, right now.

Action 

1)  Before May 13th call or email Albuquerque City Councilors on Finance Committee.  Urge them to vote for Ranked Choice Voting to come before the full City Council.

2)  Call or email other City Councilors, starting with your own.  Make the case for RCV and ask them to adopt it.

City Council Finance Committee

  • Don Harris, Chairdharris@cabq.gov; Bonnie Sutter, policy analyst 505/768-3123.Seems to want to tank this bill. As chair of the Finance Committee, however, it’s important that he hear from Albuquerque residents about how much money the city could save by not having to hold separate runoff elections.
  •  Ken Sanchez kensanchez@cabq.gov;  Elaine Romero, policy analyst 505/768-3183.Not likely to vote for RCV in full Council but may be willing to vote in favor of passing the bill out of the Finance Committee to be considered by City Council as a whole. His vote on May 13th could make all the difference. Please call and ask that he vote the bill out of committee at the Finance Committee meeting so that it can get a hearing in City Council.
  •  Klarissa Peñakpena@cabq.gov;  Cherise Quezada, policy analyst 505/768-3127.Appears to oppose RCV. Even though she’s not likely to come around, it’s important that she get a lot of calls.
  • Patrick Davis patdavis@cabq.govco-sponsor of RCV, just email to thank him.
  • Diane Gibson dgibson@cabq.govsupports RCV, just email to thank her.

Other Council Members

  • Ike Benton  ibenton@cabq.govmain sponsor of RCV, just email to thank him.
  •  Brad Winterbwinter@cabq.gov; co-sponsor of RCV, just email to thank him.
  •  Cynthia Borrego cynthiaborrego@cabq.gov;Susan Vigil, policy analyst 505/768-3189. Seems quite open to RCV. Key person to call.  
  •  Trudy Jones trudyjones@cabq.gov;Aziza Chavez, policy analyst 505/768-3106. Needs to hear from RCV advocates.

 

Report to the PDA Action Alert Team: Key Outcomes of the 2019 Legislative Session

Hi, Everybody,

I want to begin by giving a huge thank you to everyone for all your email and phone messages urging our legislators to support legislation of importance to the progressive community. It is heartening to receive feedback from legislators agreeing with our sentiments.  Sure, there were the occasional responses disagreeing with our requests, but that just added evidence that they hear us and know that they have to deal with us.

There was a boatload of progressive legislation this year, as was expected because of the increase in number of progressive legislators.  We ended up following about one hundred bills, memorials, and joint resolutions.  About 60 of those were scheduled for committee hearings, and you emailed or called committee members about them.  Because of the progressive trend in the Legislature and the support of the governor’s office, much of the legislation of importance to us passed.  There were exceptions, often caused by conservative Democrats joining with Republicans to defeat good bills.

Both the good and the bad are discussed below:

  • This legislature was finally able to pass a bill for a State Ethics Commission (SB 668).  This bi- or multi-partisan commission receives and investigates complaints against public officials and employees, government contractors and lobbyists.
  • Renewable energy, climate crisis:
    • SB 489, the Energy Transition Act, passed.  It includes strong Renewable Portfolio Standards with a target of, among other things, zero carbon dioxide emissions from retail sales of electricity by 2045.  A disappointment was that this Act also included a provision for the costs of abandoning the current, fossil fueled generating plants to be borne solely by the public, rather than sharing those costs by the public and by the shareholders of the plant owners.
    • SB 518, New Solar Market Development Tax Credit, passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, had passed its last committee in the House, but never got a vote on the House floor.  Another casualty of more bills to consider than time to hear them for a floor vote.
    • HB 210, Community Solar Act, passed the House but didn’t make it through the Senate committee process in time to be heard on the Senate floor.  This bill would have established requirements for community solar systems that subscribers could use to meet their energy needs.  A community solar system would supply its power to the public utility serving the area, which would bill subscribers at rates determined by the Public Regulation Commission.
  • Health care:
    • HB 416 and SB 405, Medicaid Buy-In, to allow members of the public to participate in Medicaid by paying the costs, was tabled in House Appropriations while the Senate worked on the budget.  There is $142,000 in the budget for the “study and administrative development of the Medicaid Buy-In plan.”  This allows HSD to prepare to implement the Medicaid Buy-In, including seeking federal waivers to receive federal financing.
    • HB 308, Dental Therapists, passed.
    • SB 337, Surprise Billing Protection Act, passed unanimously.
    • HB 436, Align Health Insurance Law with Federal Law, passed.  This bill amends sections of the NM law governing Insurance plans to include many of the provisions of the ACA, such as prohibiting denial of coverage of pre-existing conditions, prohibiting charging higher premiums for disability, and eliminating co-pays for preventive services.
    • HB 88 and SB 101 to establish a Health Care Value and Access Commission did not progress in the respective committees, but money was allocated in the budget to work towards the goals of these bills:
      • Health Care Value and Access Commission: $275,000 to set up a commission that will review and make recommendations on the ways health care is currently being provided in New Mexico.
      • All Payers Database:  $900,000 to set up a much needed statewide database to track, in accordance with privacy laws, medical procedure usage rates, cost, outcomes and more to give the state data that it currently does not have and needs to better support positive health care outcomes.
    • SB 279 and HB 295, Health Security Act, also died in both House and Senate committees.  HM 92, Health Security Plan Analysis, passed the House and there is $389,000 in the budget for Legislative Finance to complete a fiscal analysis of the Health Security Act, which is the first step needed before implementing the Act.
  • Permanent funds for early childhood:  HJR 1 passed the House, but died in the Senate Finance Committee.  A replacement, SB 671, backed by the governor, also died in the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Voting rights:
    • SB 672, Early & Auto Voter Registration, passed. It combined earlier bills HB 84 and HB 86 to provide for voter registration at early voting sites, at polling places on election day, and to provide for automatic voter registration at Motor Vehicle Department offices as well as some other offices subject to negotiation.
    • HB 57, Restore Felon Voting rights, died in committee.
    • HB 55, National Popular Vote, passed.  This bill commits New Mexico to join a compact of states that agree to assign their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote, whether or not the state itself voted for the winner of the national popular vote.
  • Increasing minimum wage:  Several bills with differing increases in the minimum wage failed, but were replaced by SB 437, Raise Minimum Wage & Create Separate One, and was passed.  This bill, as introduced, would have raised the minimum wage to 11 dollars per hour by 2022.  It was amended to raise it to 12 dollars per hour by 2022, and to cost of living increases thereafter.  The bill also provides for a minimum wage of $8.50 for students in secondary schools working outside of school hours.
  • Increasing salaries of state employees:  A section of HB 2, General Appropriation Action of 2019, increases the salaries of state employees by an average of 4 percent, except that the salaries for teachers are increased by at least 6%.  HB 2 passed.
  • Reducing small loan interest rates to 36%:  HB 22, HB 375, and HB 386 were either not scheduled for hearing or died in committee.
  • Right to work laws:  HB 85, Union Security Agreements, passed.  This bill precludes local governments from adopting or continuing in effect laws that prohibit agreements requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment; i.e., this bill prohibits local governments from establishing so-called right to work laws.
  • Raising income taxes for high earners:  HB 6, Tax Changes, includes a provision to increase the rates for high earners.  For example, married couples filing joint returns will pay income taxes at a rate of 5.9% for earnings in excess of $315,000. HB 6 passed.
  • Background checks for firearm sales:  SB 8, Firearm Sale Background Check, passed and was signed by the governor.
  • Decriminalizing abortion:  HB 51, Decriminalize Abortion, passed the House but failed in the Senate.
  • Gender equality:  SB 25, No Differential Pricing Based On Gender, passed.
  • Decriminalizing recreational use of marijuana:  HB 356, Cannabis Regulation Act, passed the House, but died in the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Hemp:  HB 581, Hemp Manufacturing Act, passed.  This bill allows and regulates production, testing, research, and manufacturing of hemp products.
  • Healthy soil act:  HB 204 passed.
  • Public banking:  HM 41, Study State-Owned Bank, passed its only scheduled committee hearing, but was not considered on the House floor.
  • School ratings:  SB 229, School Support & Accountability Act, passed.  This bill repeals the A-B-C-D-F schools rating act, to be replaced by criteria developed by the Legislative Education Study Committee.

If you want to check the status of other bills of interest, or to see if the governor has signed bills, go here.

Until next year,

Pat Bartels, Laura Stokes, and Paul Stokes

Education Not Deportation Advocacy Day

Thank you for having me today at La Red. Please forward this to the rest of the partners. Our Education Not Deportation Campaign seeks to increase our state’s investment in public education while reducing the investment in federal immigration enforcement.

Tuesday, February 19th a day full of experience-based learning at the state’s capitol. During the day we will visit legislators offices and advocate for the bills that are directly impacting our communities. For preparation participants will engage in advocacy activities and civic engagement training on Saturday, Feb 16th. We would love to invite you and your members to join us for this day.

To be part of our day long advocacy program register for this day please fill this registration form. If you cannot participate in our program but you would still like to help, make sure to be at the Rotunda at 2pm to catch our closing of the day with a visual of people power!

What: Education Not Deportation: The Rise
When: February 19
Registration
Facebook Event
If you have any questions you can contact me at this email or at 505 210 2966

Sincerely,
Felipe Rodriguez
Campaign Manager
NM Dream Team

Have you experienced “Surprise Medical Billing”? Your stories are needed!

Rep. Nathan Small has introduced SB 207, the Surprise Billing Protection Act to protect consumers from this unfair billing practice. If you have a story to tell please send it to PAIGE.DUHAMEL@state.nm.us in the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance who is in support of this bill.

Surprise medical billing occurs when an insured person is treated by an out-of-network provider that the patient had no role in choosing.  This occurs most frequently in medical emergencies or major surgery situations when an insured person is treated 1) at an in-network facility for a medical or behavioral  emergency and services are provided by ancillary out-of-network providers (surgeon, radiologist, anesthesiologist, pathologist) or 2) patient receives in-patient surgery by an out-of-network provider (physician or ancillary providers) without consent of insured person and is hospitalized  or 3) with elective inpatient admissions at in-network facilities.

These surprise bills can be quite large. Patients may receive bills from multiple providers. One study showed that ambulance rides were billed out-of-network roughly half of the time.

The goals of the bill are to:

1)    Limit the amount billed for out-of- network emergency room care to what the patient would owe an in-network provider,

2)    Limit the amount billed for major surgery costs provided by out-of-network providers to what the patient would owe an in-network provider,

3)    Advise emergency patients that they could run up excess charges if they are in an out-of- network hospital; obtain statement signed by patient that they have been told and understand

4)    Eliminate “Balance Billing” or the ability of a provider to bill a covered person for the difference between the provider’s billed charges and the amount allowed by the insurance plan.  Payment disputes would be resolved by physicians and insurance and not involve consumers.

* The New Mexican Patient Protection Act allows insurers to bill only what a patient would owe an in-network provider for out-of-network emergency care.

There have been other efforts to regulate health care plans to mitigate surprise billing, including a bill introduced in Congress in 2017 by now Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, “The Fair Billing Act of 2017.” Without federal legislation, states are stepping forward to regulate plans themselves.  Other considerations are to establish legislative guidelines for out-of-network providers to seek more payment from insurance carriers based on a formula set up by either state rules or through a federal formula.

Medicare for All Calculator

The Medicare for All Calculator is a free, online, user-friendly tool based on a proposed financing plan for H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All bill in Congress. With this calculator,mfacalc.com, anyone can enter information anonymously about the number of people in the household with health insurance, their current income, a typical year’s health insurance premium and out of pocket health costs. Once this information is entered the calculator will determine the savings (in most cases) that HR 676 would provide if enacted.

H.R. 676 would expand Medicare to cover all Americans, regardless of age, income or disability. It eliminates ALL individual healthcare costs, premiums, co-pays and deductibles. It adds comprehensive healthcare coverage, including dental, vision, mental health, long-term care, prescription drugs and other benefits.

We are indebted to Kris Hardy, owner of Albuquerque Software for his role in developing the Medicare for All Calculator. And to Health Action New Mexico for their sponsorship.

A group of concerned citizens, many who are former healthcare providers and associates, have formed the Medicare for All Speakers Bureau. We have created a 30 minute Power Point presentation which compares single-payer health system myths vs facts, gives the pertinent points of the bill and a picture of the financial analysis done by Gerald Friedman, PhD., Economics Professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, on how to pay for this bill if enacted, “Funding HR 676”, published in 2013.

If your group would like to schedule a presentation email  mc4allnm@gmail.com for more information.