We’ve been planning for many months for the legislative session and it begins today .As NM Voices for Children has declared: “It is time to go bold, or go home.” We couldn’t agree more. Today we focus on NM Voices and the Governor’s plans for K-12 education, a bad sign for recreational marijuana, and other key bills for which we will be advocating..
Today is NM Voices for Children’s Youth Day at the Roundhouse
NM Voices for Children is one of Retake Our Democracy’s most important allies. They do the hard work of researching tax policy while also shining the light very clearly on the consequences of the state’s failure to act on behalf of our children. What is so important about NM Voices is that they do not just advocate for effective child and family policy, but also do excellent research on how to pay for it by reforming the tax policy. What’s more, their tax policy analysis doesn’t only focus on closing loopholes and raising personal tax rates, but also upon tax policies like the working families and child tax credits that can put money in the pockets of low income families and individuals. Two weeks ago, Retake reported on NM Voices analysis of current NM tax policy and offered some possible fixes. If you want to understand just how out of whack our state tax policy is, this post is a great place to start.
Today, NM Voices is releasing its New Mexico Kids Count report. The report sheds light on the impact of NM tax policy and its failure to support children and families, drawing upon the nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation’s national Data Book for 2018. Casey’s report ranked the state 50th overall for how its children are faring, 50th in education, 49th in economic well-being and 48th when it comes to health measures. The NM Kids Count report begins with the statement: “This is the time to go bold or go home.” We couldn’t agree more.
In today’s Santa Fe New Mexican, Voices Executive Director James Jimenez said, “for almost a decade, New Mexico has been moving in the wrong direction, particularly when it comes to economic policies — such as corporate tax cuts and carve-outs, and a heavy reliance on the boom-and-bust oil and gas industry. In addition to restructuring the tax system, Voices for Children is proposing dozens of policy changes, including family and child tax credit increases, a raise in the minimum wage to $12 an hour, expanded eligibility for child care assistance and heavy investments in education.” To read the full Kids Count report, click here. It was literally released at 5:15 AM today and so Retake will review it in detail likely while sitting in the gallery at the Roundhouse swearing in that begins at noon.
Retake Our Democracy’s MUST PASS bill list includes many bills supported by NM Voices, including raising the minimum wage and the working family tax credit. Not all of the bills NM Voices will be supporting have been introduced, as yet, but we expect that our MUST PASS and Priority bills will capture most of those bills. If you want to advocate on behalf of these and other social, climate, and economic justice bills, click here to find out more about our Statewide Rapid Response Network and to JOIN.
And after you finish learning about the Network and joining, head on down to the Roundhouse, as today is NM Voices Youth Day with activities from 9-2pm with the swearing in ceremony at noon, followed by politico speeches. The legislature is in full swing tomorrow, but we don’t expect many bills to hit committees until Friday at the soonest and most likely Monday.
Strengthening NM K-12 Education: MLG’s Number One Priority & A Quick Look at Other Bills
Throughout her campaign, now Governor Lujan Grisham repeated the mantra: her number one priority in 2019 will be to significantly strengthen our K-12 education system. And so it is no surprise that her budget is calling for a $500M increase in K-12 education and 6% raises for teachers. While MLG’s desire to increase permanent fund for early childhood by 1% will face certain opposition from moderate Senate Democrats, her budget calls for an increase of $60 million in funding for early childhood that should sail through.
And increasing permanent fund contributions to early childhood is not the only legislation facing steep challenges in the Senate. “That’s where the fight between the governor and the Legislature is going to happen — is with the Senate,” said Eric Griego, a former senator who now is executive director of the New Mexico Working Families Party, a liberal advocacy group. Griego goes further:: “Unless these guys have a change of heart in their voting behavior, they will absolutely face a primary challenge.” The New Mexican went on to note that Griego means business. “It is no idle threat. The group was integral to some of the most vicious primary battles in state House races last year.” WFP and Retake Our Democracy both worked to unseat Rep. Carl Trujillo and Rep. Debbie Rodella in successful campaigns resulting in Susan Herrera and Andrea Romero winning seats in the House.
Despite a seemingly large Democratic majority in the Senate (26-16), a core group of six to eight relatively conservative Democratic Senators have a history of stalling progressive legislation, especially if that legislation requires significant revenue. For example, Conservative Democrats have been effective in preventing an increase of 1% in the draw on the $18B permanent fund and using that increase to bolster early childhood education. The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Arthur Smith, one of the leaders of the conservative Democratic voting bloc, has held sway for many years, not just defeating efforts to increase funding for early childhood but many other important progressive bills. A very partial list includes (bill numbers are from 2017 and 2018 when these bills were last introduced)::
- HB 28-Automatic Voter Registration. Passed House 56-10, stalled in Senate Judiciary Committee;
- SB 312, Renewable Energy Requirements for Utilities, stalled in Sen. Corporations and Transportation
- SB 307 Oil & Gas Powers Act, seeking to update fines for oil and gas leads for the first time since the last century, stalled in Sen. Finance Committee;
- HB 150 Local, Community and Tribal Health Needs, stalled in Senate Finance Committee
- SB 264 Internet Sales Tax, a means of both generating revenue and leveling the playing field for local business that must pay taxes on sales, stalled in Sen. Finance Committee;
- SB 278 Recreational Marijuana, stalled in Sen. Corporations and Transportation and yesterday, Sen. Joseph Cervantes announced he would continue to vote no on recreational marijuana joining a bloc of five other Dem. Senators who voted no in 2018. With just one of those votes moving to yea, the Senate would tie with Lt. Gov. Howie Morales passing the deciding vote. But even with that one vote swing, is there the political capital to move the bill through at least two senate committees?
- HB 284 Healthcare Coverage for Contraception, stallled in Senate Judiciary after passing the House 39-29
These are all good bills and in each of the above instances, those bills died in committees without a vote. This is how good bills die and that is why Retake Our Democracy’s Statewide Rapid Response Network is so important. Most all of the bills above are among our MUST PASS bills for this year. Those that are not, are Priority bills. If you join the Response Network you can join Retake and our allies in advocating for these and other important bills. The battle is in the Senate and Retake is focusing its efforts on building strong advocacy bases in those Senate Districts where Democratic Senators too frequently flip. We want to provide constituent pressure that tells those Senators: This is what we want and we have your back if you vote courageously to support our priorities. If you want to be involved in the outreach effort to these Senate districts, contact Paul Gibson at email@example.com. if you want to join the Response Network to be part of our statewide advocacy network, click here. You will get alerts whenever one of our bills go to a committee where you have an elected representatives. We also provide a range of training and tools to support your advocacy..
Off to the Roundhouse. If you see me, ask for a Retake Our Democracy button…they are free if you promise to where at the Roundhouse and in the community. We need to make sure people know who we are and that we are paying attention.
Paul & Roxanne