In hearings on HB 31 Increase Minimum Wage, HB 51 Abortion Decriminalization; SB 210 Community Solar Act and others, opposing testimony has relied upon fear tactics and misrepresentations of the truth. Today, we examine restaurant owners’ tactics on the minimum wage and other tactics used on other bills to mislead legislators or provide cover for legislators’ bad votes.
The Roundhouse: Where Finding the Truth Requires a Bit of Digging
I’ve attended more than ten hearings thus far and in most every one, ‘experts’ from the public, lobbyists, or Republicans mouthing the words of industry lobbyists have relied on misrepresentations of what a bill would or would not do to mount a case for opposition.
- In hearings on SB 210, Community Solar Act, we heard one GOP Representative after another repeat claims from the utility industries: passage of this bill will foist a disproportionate share of the cost of transmission of energy on existing non-solar act customers, that the subscribers of a solar array would get a free ride, benefiting from the solar power without paying their share of the cost of using PNMs or other utility companies’ transmission of energy. No matter how many times, Republicans made this claim and asked and re-asked the question, the answer remained the same: developers of solar arrays would have to factor into the cost of solar power, a fair share cost of use of transmission lines, a share determined by the PRC. Utility claims otherwise were simply false.
- In HB 51 Abortion Decriminalization, one pro-life person after another worked from the same script:
- New Mexico would experience a flood of doctors leaving the state because the law would force doctors to perform abortions against their faith–federal and state law explicitly protect faith-based decisions and HB 51 would not change that–no doctors would flee;
- HB 51 would subject New Mexican women to a whole new array of abortion procedures, expanding existing NM practice when in reality HB 51 does nothing to change or expand how abortions are performed in NM, it would just protect existing practice.
- HB 51 is unnecessary since Roe v. Wade protects a woman’s right to choose, when in reality Roe v Wade is dangling from a thread with a Supreme Court poised to reverse or limit Roe v Wade almost at any time. HB 51 would protect NM women against that Supreme Court decision;
- Abortion is a very risky medical procedure with testimony making it sound like the record’s clerk could conduct abortions. When in truth, abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women in the United States. Fewer than 0.05% of women obtaining abortions experience a complication.
In each of the above instances, it didn’t matter how many times, the sponsors of the bill or the expert testifiers supporting those sponsors responded to false claims with quotes from the bill itself or from federal and state law, Republicans latched on to the false claims and repeated them endlessly when it was their turn to discuss the bill.
The hearing on HB 31 Phased Increase in Minimum Wage the scenario was somewhat different, with restaurant owners bringing their employees wearing “Save Our Tips” t-shirts to testify that tips were a critical part of their income and an increased minimum wage would come at the cost of their tips. Today’s New Mexican described how restaurant owners would hold staff meetings, tell employees that their tips would be jeopardized if HB 31 were passed and that they could lose their jobs. While there is zero truth to these claims, the packed rooms at the HB 31 hearings showed that the fear tactics worked.
So, what is the truth? Currently, tipped workers are exempt even from the current $7.50/hour minimum wage, earning $2.13 an hour on the assumption that tips would make up the difference. I wonder what t-shirts those employees would have worn and what testimony they would have offered had they been told that their tips were protected by Federal and State law, but if HB 31 were passed their base wages would rise over 400% from $2.13/hour to $10/hour on Jan 1, 2020? We’ll never know.
From the New Mexican, comes specific reference to the federal protections tipped employees enjoy: “Congress approved a bill containing protections for workers who rely on tips. President Donald Trump signed that measure into law last March”…. “The key sections of the federal law say: ‘An employer may not keep tips received by its employees for any purposes, including allowing managers or supervisors to keep any portion of employees’ tips, regardless of whether or not the employer takes a tip credit.’ The law goes on to spell out penalties: ‘’Any employer who violates section 3(m)(2)(B) shall be liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of the sum of any tip credit taken by the employer, and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.”’
Mario, one local restaurant worker told the New Mexican that owners were telling employees they’d lose their tips or their jobs and asking them to sign petitions opposing HB 31, with an implicit threat that if they refused, their employment could be jeopardized. From the New Mexican: “Basically, we’re being coerced, intimidated and bullied by the restaurant owners to stand up against the bill that would benefit us,” he said.
As Retake Our Democracy volunteers sit in hearings, they have been trained to record opposition arguments on forms we’ve developed. That information is passed on to our Research Team who is now researching the truth of the matter and providing counter arguments in our flyers we distribute to legislators. In this way, legislators will at least know the truth before being bombarded with industry-generated, fear-injected arguments that are predicated on misinformation.
Thankfully, all of our MUST PASS bills have survived these misinformation campaigns with all of our MP bills passing in every hearing thus far. Onward.
Speaking of onward, a Four Year Statewide Fracking Moratorium was just introduced into the House by Sen. Sedillo Lopez. So, if you thought the above was disingenuous, wait til you hear from gas and oil lobbyists about how passing this bill will end life on earth.
A Look Back at Last Week’s Posts
Local Strategies to Implement the Green New Deal, Plus a Roundhouse Update: All MUST PASS Bills Advancing
Tuesday, January 29. Tuesday’s post focused exclusively on SB 374, what it is, and why it is so important. Introduced Monday by Sen. Steinborn, it will allow jurisdictions and tribes to produce, use and sell their own renewable energy. It will also allow those jurisdictions and tribes to purchase renewable energy directly from the grid, bypassing PNM and freeing them from dependence upon PNM and other public utility monopolies.This post describes what the bill would do and how it would create local choice in sources of energy. Game Changing. Read on. Click here to read the full post.
Public Regulation Commission Votes 5-0 to Open San Juan Generating Station Hearing. Is This The End of the Securitization Bill
Thursday January 31. The NM Constitution appears to prohibit the Roundhouse from passing legislation on issues under PRC consideration & the PRC voted 5-0 yesterday to assign the San Juan closure to hearing officers in preparation for a hearing. Securitization bill sponsor Sen. Jacob Candelaria, told me that the legislature can proceed regardless. Interesting. We are still waiting for this bill to be introduced. In separate climate news, Gov Lujan Grisham snubbed gas & oil lobbyists only minutes after meeting with them in Santa Fe and the lobbyists are not amused. Click here to read the full post.
Local Strategies for Implementing the Green New Deal at a City Level: Thank You Portland
Saturday, Feb 2. The focus of this post is on the Roundhouse because we have 60 days to change the social, economic and climate justice landscape in NM. But in Portland, we find a local model for advancing progressive economic and climate justice goals. We are also report on evidence that Retake and our Response Network is building credibility and influence in the Roundhouse and provide details on the House Floor Vote on the Popular Vote. On to the Senate.. Click here to read the full post.