By Lance Chilton
New Mexico may not be at the top of all lists, but it is very near the top in its excellent legislative website, nmlegis.gov. Here’s a little of what you’ll find there, and at the bottom of this list, you’ll find a link to more complete guidance as to how to use our great site.
- On the home page, you’ll have a choice of Legislators, Legislation, Committees, Publications, What’s Happening, Webcast, Quick Links, Highlights and Contact Us.
- Click on Legislators. If you don’t know who he/she is, search by your address for both senator and representative. Once you do know, you can search by his/her name to find out which committees they serve on, what legislation they have sponsored, and their home and Santa Fe phone numbers and addresses. Call them up! Invite them for coffee and to hear your views!
- Click on Legislation to find bills introduced in any session since 1996! You can search by keyword (for example, “vaccines”), by the legislator who introduced them (for example, Sen Lopez), by the bill number and year, or you can get a complete list of an entire session’s bills. Then you can find out what happened to each of them in which you’re interested (a little info on abbreviations needed – see below).
- Click on Committees (often very helpful to find out who is most likely to affect your favorite bill’s chance of passage.) Both session and interim committees are listed, and committee agendas are included if one has already been planned.
- Click on Publications. A great variety are listed to click on, including House and Senate rules, economic analyses, and a variety of important program reports from the Legislative Finance Committee, the Legislative Educational Study Committee, and the Legislative Council Service (example: Early Childhood Planning and Capacity)
- Click on What’s Happening. House and Senate floor and committee calendars are posted here during session evenings for the following day. Remember that things change, though.
- Click on Webcast. Virtually all floor and committee sessions are televised as they’re happening. You don’t have to be there to watch – except, oops, if you want to testify before a committee. You can’t do that remotely. But you can watch archived recordings of previous floor and committee meetings.
- Click on Quick Links. Lots of varied info available. My favorite: finding out what’s happening around Santa Fe and especially in the Capitol Rotunda in the link marked “Social Calendar.” For example, I now know that January 23 is “Children and Youth Day” in the rotunda.
- Click on Highlights. You can get the Legislative Council Service’s summary of the results of every session going back to 2002. Be careful what you ask for, though: the 2019 session’s very readable version stretched to 220 pages!
- Click on Contact Us. A short list of standing committees (such as LFC, LESC, LCS) can be found there, or you can just call the Capitol at 505-986-4300 or 505-986-4600 to be put through to the person or agency you want to speak with by the always helpful Capitol operators.
So that’s the basics. There will be more here. Or just noodle around. The site is very intuitive; a real joy to use.
PDA Citizen Advocacy
This month PDA is asking our Representatives and Senators to sign on to a Climate Emergency Resolution introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, Representatives Blumenauer and Ocasio-Cortez. In the same letter we are asking that they sign a letter to DNC Chair Perez requesting a national climate debate. The information below provides the PDA letters to the House and Senate, a helpful fact sheet which contains the text of the Resolution, a list of sponsors of the Climate Emergency.
Huge Climate Emergency Resolution Push
Click here to see if your Rep. is on the house version. Click here to see if your Senator is on Senate version.
Click here for the Resolution Letters: Dem. House; Dem. Senate; Republican House; Republican Senate.
Click here for an online fact sheet with some helpful links. Click here for a printable/deliverableversion of the fact sheet. (Suggested for your delivery.)
Click here for a downloadable/printable version of the resolution.
Here’s a list of the endorsers:
- APAL Communications Connections
- Architects Advocate for Action on Climate Change
- Bold Iowa
- Brattleboro Common Sense
- Bronx Climate Justice North
- Catholic Divestment Network
- Chicago Water Protectors
- Climate Justice at Boston College
- Climate Reality Project Southern CT Chapter
- Climate Revolution Orlando
- Ecocentric Media
- Englewood Indivisible
- Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality
- Fridays For Future Sacramento
- Global Warming Education Network (GWEN)
- Great Plains Zen Center
- Greenbelt Climate Action Network
- International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
- Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition
- Liology Institute
- Mass Interfaith Worker Justice
- Mid Ohio Valley Climate Action
- Mid-Hudson Valley Sunrise Movement
- Moms Clean Air Force
- Movement for a People’s Party
- North American Climate, Conservation and Environment (NACCE)
- North Bronx Racial Justice
- NYCD16 Indivisible
- Open Source Healing
- Orange County for Climate Action
- Our Green Challenge
- Parents For Future Seattle
- Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC)
- Redwood Campaign Advisors
- Refuge Ministries of Tampa Bay International
- RESTORE: The North Woods
- Santa Cruz Climate Action Network
- Shoegnome Architects
- South Beach District 6 Democratic Club of San Francisco
- South Beach District 6 Democratic Club of San Francisco
- Sunrise Movement of Howard County
- Sustainne, LLC
- Teens Against Pollution
- The Clime
- Touching Earth Sangha
- Volcano Rainforest Retreat
- We, the World
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