ABQ Journal Points to NM Senate as Serious Impediment to Progressive Legislation

This post focuses on the emergence of Aubrey Dunn, Libertarian Land Commissioner turned environmental activist and an ABQ Journal report on how moderate and conservative Democratic Senators in the Roundhouse can join with GOP Senators to block progressive legislation. Find out what we and our allies can do to overcome these obstacles. Starting TONIGHT.

Roundhouse Advocacy Team (AKA RAT Pack) Orientation, Training & Strategy Development. TONIGHT, Thursday Nov. 29 from 6-8pm at 1420 Cerrillos, the Center for Progress and Justice.  If you want to explore becoming involved, come at 6pm to listen to a 30 minute orientation to what Retake is up to. If you like what you hear, stick around and from 6:30-8pm we’ll have a brief presentation from Dana Millen from the Health Security Act, followed by training and make plans. We will clearly lay out important work you can do from home between tomorrow and our next meeting. If you can attend this meeting, please email me at paul@retakeourdemocracy.org. It makes it MUCH easier to plan if I have a rough idea of the numbers. There is more information on this meeting at the end of this post.

Retake Our Democracy on KSFR, 101.1 FM, Saturday, Dec. 1, 8:30am-9:00am with Miranda Viscoli, Co-President of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.  Listen in as Mirada lays out NMPGV’s priorities for meaningful gun violence prevention legislation in 2019 and some of the hurdles we face in doing so. Miranda is always an engaging interview, full of wit and sharp observations. Worth a listen.


Update on Decision to Double Drilling Operations in San Juan and Rio Arriba Being Questioned by Attorney General and Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn.  Aubrey Dunn has suddenly become the planet’s advocate. And Jeff Sessions is now a folk hero. Some crazy times we live in.

Dunn expressed disbelief with the decision of the Oil Conservation Commission to double the number of oil drilling operations in northern NM, voicing concerns about the legality of the decision–as it appears there was a failure to appropriately notice the meeting. Dunn reserved his most critical comments to his own appointee to the Commission, Ed Martin who Dunn said: “acted against the State Land Office’s interests in granting the request of a Texas oil and gas company to double the density of wells in the San Juan Basin’s Blanco-Mesaverde formation.” Dunn removed Martin from the Commission, the right thing to do. He then deferred on appointing a replacement, leaving it to incoming Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richards.  Also the right thing to do. Dunn is a Libertarian, but apparently he has a social conscience and a respect for process. Where are those kinds of GOP and Libertarians in Washington?

Dunn also contacted Hector Balderas, NM State Attorney General and asked that he investigate the legality of the meeting and the decision. So this terrible decision may yet be reversed. But even if it is reversed, long term the Oil Conservation Commission will remain a problem until Garcia Richards and incoming Governor Lujan Grisham act decisively, as this is one stacked Commission.

Even if Garcia Richards appoints New Energy Economy Director Mariel Nanasi to the Oil Conservation Commission, it will still be strapped with a 2-1 vote for the gas and oil industry until one of the other two appointees are replaced. Until Martin was removed from the panel, it included him and two members appointed by the head of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources, Ken McQueen, himself a former gas and oil executive. Not surprisingly his appointees have been Chairwoman Heather Riley and Robert Balch. Riley is a former regulatory manager for WPX Energy, an oil and gas company. Balch is director of the Petroleum Recovery Research Center at New Mexico Tech. According to the State Land Office website, Martin joined the commission after 12 years with oil and gas outfit Western Geophysical Co. and 20 years as an employee of the state Oil Conservation Division.

So, if you are counting, that is 3 solid gas and oil votes on a Commission of just three. While removing and replacing Martin will help, the next step will be for Governor Lujan Grisham to replace the current head of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Ken McQueen and replace him with someone who is not borne and bred within the gas and oil industry. With a more environmentally-focused Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources director, the other two gas and oil representatives on the Commission can be replaced and a more balanced Commission could better represent the interests of all New Mexicans. We will be tracking this closely and will convey to the incoming Governor the critical importance of replacing McQueen. Stay tuned. 

A NM Blue Tsunami May Not Result in Progressive Change in 2019 Roundhouse Session

A Democratic Governor, a $1.2 billion+ surplus, a 46-24 House majority, a 26-16 Senate Majority and a growing grassroots activism advancing good bills that have died before . Not bad. One would think that it would be a snap to raise the minimum wage significantly, reform the most regressive tax system in the nation, pass meaningful climate change legislation, the Health Security Act and increase investment in early childhood and K-12. Not so fast, a handful of moderate to conservative Democratic Senators pose a very significant challenge.

The Albuquerque Journal published an in-depth report on the various land mines that pose a very significant impediment. Led by Senator John Arthur Smith and depending upon the issue, often supported by Senators Clemente Sanchez, Jacob Candelaria, Mary Kay Papen, John Sapien, Daniel Ivey-Soto, and John Munoz. It isn’t as if all seven of these Senators will bolt and align with the GOP on many issues, but the problem resides in committees where two or three of these Senators can join with the GOP to kill most anything. Senator Smith has been particularly adept at squashing any efforts to eliminate tax giveaways, reform the tax system by rescinding past tax giveaways to corporations and top income brackets, or investing seriously in early childhood education.

In fairness, many of the Senators identified above have played important positive roles, especially in playing defense against horrible bills that got out of the House pre-2016. They successfully fought off right to work bills and many other battles. But each of them have had moments when they sided with the GOP and killed good bills. Our thinking is that with respectful, informed pressure from their own constituents we may be able to deter their diluting or blocking important legislation in 2019. There are obstructions in the House, as well, but fewer than in the past thanks to the ousting of Carl Trujillo and Debbie Rodella and the House now enjoys an enormous 46-24 Democratic majority, but there are House Districts where we will have to press for support for key bills.

As to the Senate, from the ABQ Journal:  “ ‘I can’t understand why you’re wanting to rob the gold out of Fort Knox,’ Smith said. Another moderate Senate Democrat expressed similar views. Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, the chairman of the Senate Corporations Committee, said he’s hoping to find common ground with the new governor and state House leaders on budgetary and other issues. ‘There’s always pressure, but the Senate will do what we need to do,’ Sanchez said. ‘I’m not going to worry too much about what progressives’ views are.’ He also said such progressive policies are being pushed primarily by groups in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe metro areas.”

My answer to Senator Smith’s “why would you rob Fort Knox”: is simple:  We have one of the largest permanent fund reserves in the country. I believe on Alaska’s is larger. And we rank 50th in everything. Maybe a strategic investment of some modest portion of the permanent fund could jump start transition to renewable energy, fund the building of energy generation and transmission infrastructure so that NM became the largest renewable energy provider in the Nation instead of the largest methane producer.  I am sure you could come up with some other suggestions, but it ain’t robbing if you invest wisely and put hundreds of New Mexicans to work building a renewable generating capacity.

The entire reason that Retake Our Democracy’s Roundhouse Advocacy Team is creating a statewide Roundhouse Rapid Response Network is to build bases of support in districts where moderate Democrats, like, Senator Smith, have habitually undermined passage of good bills. Those legislators shouldn’t be terribly concerned about the views of liberal Santa Feans. But if we can generate constituent pressure, that may be a different story.

And what happens if these Senators stand fast and stall important legislation from becoming law?

From the Journal: 

Former state Sen. Eric Griego of Albuquerque said this year’s decisive election results represent a mandate for Democrats to push progressive policies that many of their candidates campaigned on, including a minimum wage increase, expanded health care options, automatic voter registration, increased early childhood education funding and changes to the state’s tax code. He also suggested that attempts by conservative Senate Democrats to derail such legislation could lead to their facing primary election challenges in two years. If they try to hold up some of these policies, they could find themselves squarely in the crosshairs in 2020,” said Griego, who is the state director of the New Mexico Working Families Party, a progressive advocacy group.”

Retake Our Democracy has been in close communication with Griego, who now leads New Mexico’s Working Families Party and the Adelante Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party to build strength in these districts and build a far stronger presence at the Roundhouse in 2019. Last night, I was on a Zoom call with the Adelante Caucus and a detailed plan was outlined for working with other advocacy groups at the Roundhouse, a plan that exactly mirrors the plans of the Working Families Party and Retake Our Democracy. All three groups will be working throughout December to lay out plans to focus advocacy at the Roundhouse. Interested?  Our preference would be to not need to go the primary route, but rather to empower constituent input to cause these legislators to bend a bit. Want to be part of the effort, read on. To read the full Journal article, click here.

Let’s Get Meaningful Climate Legislation, Repeal the Abortion Ban, Reform the Tax Code, Fund Early Childhood and K-12, Create Election Reform and More. It Is Our Time. Join Us. Tonight.

Let’s be frank: most of the readers of this blog are passionate about progressive values. They have been active in different forms and different ways. In a political environment in NM that has been demoralizing at best, it is easy to see why folks would not want to engage in defensive strategies to keep our state government from doing even more harm to our planet and our people. How many signs can you carry? How many petitions can you sign begging for common sense and justice?  But right now is different. We have an opportunity to accomplish something truly meaningful but we have to be very strategic and deliberate and we need many more folks to help. During the mid-terms I made the point that only a few votes could be the difference and indeed in some of these races. In the race where Retake put in the greatest effort organizing canvassers and callers, Abbas Akhil won by just over 60 votes and a climate scientist is joining the Roundhouse. We made the difference.

The same is true now. A personal decision by you to commit a few hours a week to the Roundhouse Advocacy Team can result in your moving the needle on key legislation. You could be the one who convinced someone in McKinley or Valencia counties to circulate information about the Roundhouse Response Network, resulting in scores of new advocates in counties where we have moderate Senators and House representatives. A few hours a week and you can be part of something important.  Please join us.

Roundhouse Advocacy Team (AKA RAT Pack) Orientation, Training & Strategy Development. TONIGHT, Thursday Nov. 29 from 6-8pm at 1420 Cerrillos, the Center for Progress and Justice.  If you want to explore becoming involved, come at 6pm to listen to a 30 minute orientation to what Retake is up to. If you like what you hear, stick around and from 6:30-8pm we’ll have training and make plans.

We’ve been working for two years for this moment. We have a list of MUST PASS legislation, a team of advocates working to build bases of support throughout the state and we’ve almost completed development of a Nation Builder communication platform that will allow us to send action alerts to people living in specific NM House and Senate Districts. so they can press their elected representatives just before key committee or floor votes. In other words, we have the infrastructure in place and only need more of you to help with the work.  .

There are roles for people who want to work from home researching bills and preparing summaries, entering data, making calls to help expand our base statewide and making calls and sending emails to your legislators in the House and Senate. There are also roles for people who want to go to the Roundhouse one or two days a week or even less frequently.  Retake Our Democracy is developing a training plan and a series of guidelines for effective advocacy for people who want to learn how the Roundhouse works and how they can effectively plug in. Tonight, Clifford Rees will offer training on how bills are created and how they move through the Roundhouse. You will learn the subtle tricks used to kill or dilute good bills and how well organized advocacy can expose and even overcome those tricks. We will also meet in small groups to create plans and commit to tasks in December to get ready for 2019. Finally, we will have handouts on how to research and write a Bill Summary and How the Roundhouse Works and How You Can Effectively Advocate. If you want to attend, please write to me at paul@retakeourdemocracy.org. Getting RSVPs really helps. Two weeks ago for our last meeting 37 people RSVP’d and 39 people attended. Nice.  Let’s get 60 or more this week.  This team meets twice monthly, but once you have been oriented, have accepted and been trained in a specific role, much of your continuing work can be done from home or at the Roundhouse. But the meeting this week and on Dec.6 are particularly important.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

PS.  Many of you may not know that for about six months Retake Our Democracy was Retake the Roundhouse. Under the banner above, we organized volunteer support for campaigns for 8 NM House races in 2016, winning 6 of those races. After that election, we expanded the scope of our work to include legislative and election strategies at a state and local level and so the name change to Retake Our Democracy. But given the nature of today’s report on the challenges ahead in the Roundhouse, it felt right to reprise the old banner. Join us tonight and help us Retake the Roundhouse for the people and the planet.










Categories: Local-State Government & Legislation

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5 replies

  1. Jeff Sessions is not a folk hero. Let’s stop this already! He is a danger to himself and others! And has done so very much to harm this country.

  2. I’m with Indivisible San Juan and I’m wondering what attention you’re giving to the National Popular Vote legislation…?


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