A Look Back at a Momentous Week & Forward to Rough Waters

A look back at three of the better posts, we’ve done during the Legislative Session with one focused on concerns with SB 489, one of this session’s most important bills, reflections on Parkland and Rio Rancho shootings, and how three Dems flipped and tabled an important gas & oil royalties bill, a lesson for the remainder of the session.

As usual on Mondays, we review last week’s posts and WOW. If you missed any of last week’s three posts they are very worth your review and worth sharing. There is a reason we had more viewers reading our post last week than any time in our two plus years. I strongly recommend reading and sharing and, if you haven’t already, please let the three legislators who let us down on HB 398, a bill that would have raised oil and gas royalties to the level in neighboring Texas.  These legislators are all from ABQ and Santa Fe and they need to hear from us. This post, from Saturday, also describes the impact of just four of our bills on tens of thousands of New Mexico working families.  We also update you on SB 489, the food tax that is gaining steam, and encouragement to dig in and find the time to push in this last crucial month of the legislative session.

Roundhouse Roundup 

SB 489, Energy Transition Act, AKA Securitization, Last Tuesday, I wrote a post about problems with SB 489 that had been identified by national securitizaion experts testifying at the PRC and of PRC Commissioners. On Friday I interviewed Steve Fischmann, PRC Commissioner, about his concerns.  The show aired on Saturday, Click here to listen to the interview with PRC Commissioner Steve Fischmann

Later, on Friday,I was part of a meeting held at the Roundhouse focused on SB 489 The purpose of the meeting was to air concerns about the bill and see if there was shared agreement about the intended purpose of SB 489 and if there were a way to work together to strengthen it. Attending were representatives from NRDC, Sierra Club, Environment NM, 350,NM, Conservation Voters of NM,  New Energy Economy and seven representatives of the impacted indigenous communities invited by NEE. These indigenous groups had not been consulted by bill authors and neither had NEE except in August before drafting began. NEE had laid out its concerns about the possible pratfalls in a bill like this back in August. Also present was Rep. Nathan Small, one of the bill sponsors. Three individuals involved with drafting the bill were also present. The meeting was facilitated by Bianca Sopoci Belknap, Co-Director of NEE and Earth Care.

The meeting lasted well over two hours and was largely very measured and solution focused. Bianca asked that we first try to clarify what were the intended purpose, goals and outcomes of the bill. Once this was surfaced, she sought affirmation as to whether there was anyone who disagreed with those goals and outcomes and we realized that we all agreed about the intended goals and outcomes.  She then asked that if lawyers for NEE, representatives from the impacted communities, and/or PRC staff or Commissioners felt that the language in the bill would not support or might in fact undermine the shared goals of the bill, would those present who had been part of drafting the bill be receptive to incorporating new language to clarify or strengthen it. It was the charge of the group for NEE and others to work together to identify needed changes in the bill language to protect the authority of the PRC and to protect ratepayers and the public  In only 48 hours, NEE has completed the first draft of that work and is circulating it with allies and is participating in a meeting with the impacted communities on Sunday..

There are a good many moving parts here and not much time. I suspect that in the next 48 hours we will know the degree to which the bill needs amendment (or not) and the capacity of both sides to reach agreement on any amendments needed. This is an important bill with good allies viewing the current bill version differently in important ways. A good starting point for negotiations is our shared agreement on what SB 489 goals and outcomes should be. Stay tuned. We are far stronger rowing in sync and that is the goal of these negotiations.

Food Tax Re-emerges as a Credible Possibility. As reported about ten days agohere are good ways to reform New Mexico’s horribly regressive tax code.  And there is Sen. Carlos Cisneros’ way. His tax bill has now been filed and while there are  reports that it includes some good things, like adding a new tax bracket for high income New Mexicans and lowering the GRT statewide, it also resurrects the Food Tax. The chart at left illustrates the kinds of decisions low-income, working families must make each month when food is scarce. Additional taxes on food is obviously not going to help these people.This should be an absolute non-starter, dead in the water, no way proposal. But perhaps not.

Many GOP legislators and some Democratic Senators like J.A. Smith and Clemente Sanchez have voiced interest. Meanwhile, Senate Floor Leader Peter Wirth said he has asked senators not to draw a line in the sand before studying the various tax proposals. In response to a question about the Food Tax, Sen. Wirth stated: “It just gets hard to govern when you take things off the table,” he told the ABQ Journal. With all due respect for Senator Wirth, the Food Tax does not belong on the table. But there are rumors swirling that the Food Tax may wind up slipped into a tax reform omnibus bill in the last few days of the session. Look for a report on the food tax this week.

Less than Four Weeks to Go.  We are in the home stretch. While most all our MUST PASS and Priority bills have advanced, some of yet to be introduced and a few appear for rough waters. I have noted a slight decline in the numbers at the Roundhouse in the past week or so and so I want to rally the troops. We have four weeks of hearings and votes to go. There aren’t scores of folks jamming the hallways trying to get into hearings. You can raise your voice and your face, your voice, your buttons, are all needed badly. In the post from Saturday (link at the bottom of this post), I described the impact that four of our economic justice bills WOULD (not could) have on tens of thousands of New Mexico families, those bills are the difference between living in a very vulnerable state of poverty, one illness, car repair, or job loss from predatory lenders, homelessness or hunger and having to watch your money but also being able to afford winter clothes, school supplies and auto repairs. That is a very important difference and you can help make that difference.

What’s more, we have climate bills, healthcare bills, education bills, early childhood bills, water and land bills all working their way through the Roundhouse and over the next month, they will need calls, emails and your presence in hearings. It is time to summon up the reserves. A whole lot of important things hang in the balance. Will you be part of protecting our planet and lifting tens of thousands out of poverty, or will you just watch from the sidelines, shaking your head and wondering why the legislators didn’t do their jobs.  Let’s help them do their jobs for all New Mexicans. Sign up for the Statewide Alert and every day you will get a single email with information about out 29 MUST PASS bills and how to advocate for them. To look at our 28 MUST PASS and a growing list of Priority bills, click here. But before you do, JOIN the NETWORK HERE.

A Look at Last Week

Wow. Three posts and if you missed any of them they are both very, very worth your review and worth sharing. There is a reason we had more viewers reading our post last week than any time in our two plus years. I strongly recommend reading and sharing and, if you haven’t already, please let the three legislators who let us down on HB 398, a bill that would have raised oil and gas royalties to the level in neighboring Texas.  These legislators are all from ABQ and Santa Fe and they need to hear from us.

National Experts Testify at PRC: SB 498 in Need of Serious Amendments to Protect PRC Authority and Ratepayers

Tuesday, Feb. 12. Retake has been slow to offer comment on SB 489 Energy Transition Act, a bill we feel could be the single most important in the Roundhouse this session. It is immensely complex, took months to develop, and has enjoyed the support of an Alliance of environmental organizations, but there are things about the bill that aren’t right. We held our fire, until now. Let’s take a look. Click here to read the full post.

On the Anniversary of Parkland, a Shooting at a NM High School

Thursday, Feb 14.  I was going to update you on a few bills and prattle on about the inanity of a President who when he doesn’t get his way, declares a national emergency. But all of that seemed trivial next a thirty minute incident in the news room at the Roundhouse. Word of the shooting in Rio Rancho became very personal when one of the reporters in the Roundhouse media room where I was working shared that the shooting had occurred at his daughter’s high school. This led me to write about that, the fragility of life and the challenges in doing what is right.  Click here to read a most powerful post.

Three Democrats Flip to Table a Bill that Would Have Provided NM Schools $50-84M Annually by Raising Gas & Oil Royalties, Plus a Look at How Four Retake Bills Would Impact One NM Working Family

Saturday, Feb 16. The post provides information HB 398, Oil, Gas and Vented Gas, a bill that would have raised royalties on gas and oil production on just six percent of all new oil drilling. This would have been the first increase in royalties in almost 50 years and would have only brought our rate up to that of Texas and only on rigs producing 20,000 barrels a month. Gas and oil lobbyists threatened that oil companies would pull out of New Mexico if we raised these royalties, an absurd claim, as that would just mean abandoning their most productive wells so that someone willing to pay the paltry increase could take over the lease. Yet, it was enough to get Reps. Ruiloba, Jim Trujillo and Moe Maestas to cave and join the GOP to table the bill. The post includes their contact information, including home phone numbers (that were posted on the nmlegis.gov website). We strongly encourage continued contact with these Reps as it is embarrassing that they represent Santa Fe and ABQ.  Click here to read the full post.  The description of the impact of four of our MUST PASS bills on New Mexico’s working families is also well worth your review.

YAY, snow is back and Santa Fe is white again with more coming tonight and tomorrow.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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