Are You Tired of Good Bills Dying in Roundhouse Committees? ¡No más! 

Late breaking news on Santa Fe Women’s March, plus update on Retake Roundhouse strategy 2018-2019, you may be impressed with what a small band of advocates have done over the last nine months. Ready or not, it is time to get to work to ensure that good bills become law. And Retake has a plan.

Screenshot 2018-01-08 13.52.41Sun. Jan 21, Noon. Santa Fe Women’s March II. The march will begin at the Roundhouse at noon and march down Old Santa Fe Trail. We should reach the Plaza around 1:00 pm. For those who can’t march, please meet us at the Plaza. T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts are available for sale at Roadrunner Printing on 1235 Siler Rd. The theme for this year is using the vote to advance women’s rights and women’s issues. A speakers’ list has not been announced, but as it becomes available, we will report.

Event Tonight: Chainbreaker, The Edge of Equity Series begins Tuesday, Jan. 9 5:30-7:30pm, with Health Without Displacement at Santa Fe Community Foundation, 501 Halona St, Santa Fe. Arrive EARLY as this will be JAMMED and for good reason.  

Action: Wednesday, Jan. 10, 9:30am. Public Regulation Commission. Public Hearing. 4th Floor Hearing Room of the PERA Building at 1120 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Details on these and other events, click here.

Are you tired of watching good bills die in committee? ¡No más! 

This place isn’t progressive enough. Let’s change that.

The 2018 Roundhouse session will be a shortened one, mostly focused on creating a budget. The budget introduced by the Governor is only somewhat different than the one introduced by the House and it appears that there is the beginning of a bipartisan consensus regarding that budget. But there will be work to be done in 2018. We will have to oppose a range of Martinez inspired abortion, death penalty and other poisonous bills. Yesterday at Journey, Sen. Wirth indicated that we will also have to find a solution to a looming nursing shortage in NM and to attempt to first grasp and then to address the impact of the Federal tax bill. What’s more, there will be one very contentious bill where we need to pay close attention: SB 47. This is the very complicated PNM Securitization bill. This bill would provide PNM $355 million to reward them for making “imprudent” business decisions. What will PNM offer in return for the state’s largesse?  Nothing, at least as the bill has been written and introduced. Without amendments, I am confident this bill will go nowhere, but as PNM realizes that it must offer something in return for $355 million, expect them to introduce amendments designed to seduce legislators into drinking the PNM Koolaid. Given the number of legislators, both Democrats and GOP, who have a history of siding with PNM, we will need to be paying lose attention to this one. Finally, if a Democrat wins the Governorship, the 2019 Roundhouse session will be the first time in almost ten years that progressives can go on the offensive and push for progressive legislation to become law. And so, we want to use 2018 to cultivate relationships with legislators and continue developing our understanding of how the legislative process works.

If you want to be part of the Retake Roundhouse Advocacy Team and advocate during Roundhouse hearings, please write Lynne Fischer at lynneafischer@gmail.com. We will have a presence at the Roundhouse beginning at noon on Saturday January 16 when the legislative session begins and through February 15 when the session ends. This would be a great way to get familiar with the Roundhouse and how it works, which will provide a solid experience base for when we go on the offensive in 2019.  Read On.

Now, for motivation: close your eyes and imagine April 1, 2019––bills that have died in committee for years are suddenly law:

  • The Health Security Act has finally been signed after 8 tries;,
  • A predatory lending bill capping lending rates at 36% has been signed and will become law in January 2020;
  • A significant funding increase has been realized for pre-K and K-12 education;
  • Automatic voter registration will be in place for the 2020 general election; and
  • A myriad of tax loopholes benefiting corporations and the wealthy have been closed.

There is mounting evidence that this dream could become reality. Things are rapidly changing nationally and here in New Mexico. Progressives are sweeping state and local elections. Grassroots groups like OurRevolution, PDA, Working Families, Indivisible, Democratic Socialists of America and Retake Our Democracy are springing up everywhere, while revelations about Trump collusion leak daily and GOP poll numbers plunge. Here in NM, we bucked the national trend and Retook the Roundhouse because grassroots groups like those above collaborated, hit the pavement, and made the calls. We now have a progressive Mayor in Albuquerque and have achieved sweeping wins in the Las Cruces City Council races.

But even though we Retook the Roundhouse, in the 2017 Roundhouse Session so many good bills died. What happened?  Retake had dozens of Roundhouse advocates at the Roundhouse throughout the 2017 session. We learned a good deal but it was still unclear to us why so many good bills died. Retake was determined to understand how and why this could happen.  Meeting twice a month for nine months, a Roundhouse Advocacy Team comprised of volunteers from Retake Our Democracy, Española Indivisible and New Mexico Resistance worked with progressive non-profit advocacy groups like Common Cause, 350.NM, Sierra Club, Conservation Voters of New Mexico, and NM Voices for Children. Using a structured interview tool, we spoke with lead staff from15-20 of these progressive advocacy groups with a goal of learning more about how the Roundhouse works and to create a set of legislative priorities for 2019. We learned about how bills can die in subtle ways, ways that are not captured in floor votes that can be tracked and recorded. Bills die when a bill is assigned to a committee where the chair simply never schedules that bill for a hearing, or when a vote is called and a couple of key legislators’ absence is ‘excused.’

We also learned about the best ways to counter these subtle moves. Meet with legislators well before the Roundhouse session begins and let legislators know what your priorities are and why. If you introduce yourself to your legislator during the 2018 session and then meet with them in May and October to discuss bills that matter to you, they will remember you next January when you remind them of the bills you are watching. Perhaps the most important lesson we learned was that it is of critical importance who is meeting the legislators and making those calls and sending those emails. Legislators from San Juan County don’t really care how many emails they get from Santa Feans. They DO care about what they hear from their own constituents. And so we realized we needed to identify key ‘swing’ districts and cultivate relationships with constituents in those districts, engage them and develop plans for their cultivating relationships with their elected officials. Finally, we learned that the best strategy for ensuring that good bills become law is to increase the proportion of legislators who will vote for our bills.

Out of these conversations, we learned a good deal and out of that work we have:

  • Developed a 2019 Legislative Priorities Platform to vet 2018 candidates, focus advocacy in 2019, and hold our leadership and elected representatives accountable in 2019 and beyond;
  • Created an online survey that will ask New Mexicans statewide to prioritize these bills and to tell us in which Senate and House districts they live so that we can =show legislators exactly how their constituents feel about each bill;
  • Identified committees where good bills often die and specific legislators who have too frequently undermined good bills;
  • Developed a plan for a statewide Rapid Response Network, targeting swing districts where legislators have historically been responsible for killing good bills; and
  • From the list of key districts and committees, we identified a few districts where 2018 election wins could move the Roundhouse further left;

Once our ideas became crystalized, we met with legislators in leadership roles in the Democratic Party to get their input. So the strategy that has emerged is not one concocted by a handful of Santa Feans, but was forged from conversations with two dozen expert lobbyists and a half dozen legislators. From all this work, Retake and our partners developed a two-prong strategy for taking the offensive in 2019. It involves and election strategy in 2018 and a legislative strategy that will begin right after the 2018 session, extend throughout 2018 and reach critical mass in January 2019. On January 20, one year to the day from Donald Trump’s inauguration, Retake will unveil this strategy at the ProgressNow NM Progressive Summit at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Click here to get your tickets for this important event.

In closing, the one thing missing from this strategy might be you. For to be successful, the first thing we must do is ensure that we have a large number of New Mexicans completing the survey. With only 500 respondents, legislators will not be impressed. With thousands, they will have to pay attention. So, we need folks who will:

  • Use social media and email to disseminate the bill survey to people they know and encourage people to complete the survey;
  • Make calls to legislators, non-profits, church groups, and others to encourage them to disseminate the survey;
  • Join us in lobbying at the Roundhouse this year and learn the ropes;
  • Join our Roundhouse Advocacy Team and help us build relationships with activists in key districts; and
  • Help elect progressives in 2018, progressives who will champion our bills and help make sure good bills don’t die, they become law.

We will keep you posted on the Summit presentation and on our emerging two-prong strategy. If you want to get involved or if you have questions, contact please write Lynne Fischer at lynneafischer@gmail.com.

Let’s be candid: Life under Trump is awful, but here in NM we have an opportunity to make good things happen, to advance social, economic, environmental, gender and racial equity. Join us.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

2 thoughts on “Are You Tired of Good Bills Dying in Roundhouse Committees? ¡No más! 

  1. Yes, certain “Democrats” need to be replaced. Dems control the legislature so progressive legislation should easily pass through committees. But, certain “Dems” like Sen Munoz (a member of ALEC and now running for Land Commissioner) are really Republicans. Author Smith is way to conservative to be a Dem. Mary Kay Pepin, also. We need to target these cons and get rid of them.

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