Roundhouse Chicanery: Last Minute Amendments Destroy Good Bills. Your Action Still Needed

Today, more on bills on the Governor’s desk that need your voice, plus a brief discussion of how the industry lobbyists get their way in the dead of night, undermining good bills and in the end, destroying public confidence in the legislative process. We also offer short pieces from two ABQ Journal contributors and our own Mick Nickel. Not a pretty picture.

Before diving in to the viewpoints from others on the underside of the legislative process, we provide updates on four bills that are on the Governor’s desk, the status of local activist Ken Mayer and Tarak Kauff, just released on bail, but prohibited from leaving Ireland, and an update on the Next System Project online course. The thoughts on the legislative session are very troubling, but we also need to remind ourselves that much good legislation was passed and even bills that were diluted like the minimum wage bill provided some relief to low income workers. But it is important we educate ourselves on how the levers are pulled and who pulls them. There is more going on behind the closed doors than in front of the public in hearings. Please be sure to read my commentary at the end of this post as it provides insight into how the two bills we are now seeking line-item or full vetoes were transformed from good bills into something that serves the industries who crafted last minute, backroom deals. Read on.

Towards Co-operative Commonwealth: Transition In a Perilous Century, is an eight week online course. So let’s think about this:

  • We get international experts in economics, environment, social policy who have organized 8 modules (below) that address the most pressing challenges faced by our world and our state;
  • We have the opportunity to review those materials at our leisure and participate in conversations with experts and practitioners from throughout the world…or not
  • We will also have our own online space to discuss these issues among New Mexican participants to find ways to tease out what we learn and develop initiatives, policies and program models which can be cobbled into bills that will foster system change and transformational approaches to the challenges we face.
  • And it is free.
  • I think it is ideal for both newcomers and veterans to social change work. 
  • From the intro video it is clear that you can do this at your own pace. There are no class time
  • Click here for a Retake page describing the course and providing an intro video.
  • Click here to enroll.

Making It Simple to Call the Governor:  Call the Governor at (505) 476-2200

  • HB 2:As with HB546 below, the toxic language,was injected after all public discussion and amounts to a single line from the biotech industry. It would prevent our local communities from enacting regulations on the cultivation of seeds and protecting them from GMO and genetically engineered (GE) seeds. Your message:  ”language was inserted into this year’s HB2 to grant seed regulation solely to the NM Department of Agriculture, please line-item veto any language that would limit local and tribal capacity to maintain seed sovereignty.” TEWA Women’s United has developed a petition to add to our voices.  Please sign and share this petition — we would like to have at least 500 signatures on the petition to deliver to the governor’s office by THIS Friday.
  • HB546, Your message:  “Contains many good elements, most importantly an increase in royalties on fracking operations, but it also allows fracked water to be introduced into our agriculture.  No doubt that fracking consumes and pollutes huge amounts of scarce water. But the science on produced water is uncertain at best and has largely been done by the gas and oil industry.  Do we trust them?  If it is such a good idea, why was it slipped in at the last moment without any public discussion (see my comments at the end of this post)?  Ask the Governor to veto the bill as we don’t want to start injecting fracking waste in rivers, streams, and crops.
  • Ask Governor Grisham to sign SB 323 and decriminalize marijuana here. And urge her to sign HB 370 and expunge records for drug convictions here

In one call, you can advocate on four important bills. Then Sign Up for BLM Sit-In.  More info on each bill below with a 3 minute reward at the end of the post.

Update on Ken Mayer and Tarak Kauff:  They have been released on bail of $2500 Euros each but still can’t leave Ireland. They Now Have a Legal Defense Fund with a Match Donation.  These two heroes were arrested last week while protesting US planes flying into and out of Limerick Ireland on middle east military missions. Please go to stopthesewars.org or vfp.org for background. We have new information on contributing to the defense fund for Ken.  Please send checks to the Santa Fe chapter for Veterans for Peace, 7 Vista Grande #117, Santa Fe, NM  87508.  Memo:  Ken Mayer. We suggest this route for a donation because the local chapter has been given a generous challenge grant of $1000.  The chapter would like to match this challenge grant soon.  Again, and every Friday, 12-1pm, we vigil on the corner of Cerrillos and St. Francis.  22 of us showed up last Friday; let’s make it 50 this week. Since the start of the Iraq war, Ken never missed a vigil when he was in town!  Roxanne and I were there last week and will be there again Friday. Please join us in the vigil and in contributing to get Ken and Tarak back to our community.

The Darker Side of the Roundhouse

From two contributors to the ABQ Journal: Rachael Lorenza and Isaac de Luna, talk about speaking truth to power. Bingo.

Hopes and aspirations for transformative change were the themes of the 2019 Legislative Session, grounded in what communities across New Mexico have been waiting for – a real opportunity to build a thriving state.

Sadly, the New Mexico state Legislature remains an intimidating institution to those who do not participate regularly or do not keep up. Inside the Roundhouse, it is teeming with lobbyists and legislators in suits; sometimes, it’s hard to know who is who because they all seem the same.

One thing is for sure: this year’s bad players came from the New Mexico Senate, and it wasn’t Republicans. It was Democrats.

Case in point: This session, we saw Las Cruces Sen. Joseph Cervantes belittle the sponsors and community supporters of the Outdoor Equity Fund (SB 462) from his chairman’s throne in the Senate Conservation Committee, stating his committee is there to “write laws,” and the audience and sponsors should know the difference between a bill and a memorial, alluding that memorials are not substantive.

New Mexicans who met with Grants Sen. Clemente Sanchez recounted that he verbally abused Diné elders and his own constituents over abortion – he dehumanized their efforts and beliefs. On top of this, he helped dismantle his party’s widely supported minimum wage bill from the House, pandering to business’ interests over workers’ well-being.

Gallup Sen. George Muñoz’s ego clearly clouds his judgment, as he remains under the impression that he understands every aspect of indigenous peoples’ lives and cultural beliefs around reproductive health, refusing to hear anything different from his own constituents by denying them access to an essential part of reproductive health care.

Las Cruces Sen. Mary Kay Papen voted against protecting coyotes, sided with business’ interests by voting against a long overdue increase in the state’s minimum wage, and put her cherry on the cake by trying to deny women across New Mexico access to safe and legal abortion care.

Worst of them all, Deming Sen. John Arthur Smith consistently proved he’ll continue to use his “fiscally conservative” stance to prevent our state from finding new ways of generating revenue, and maintaining our over-dependence on the oil and gas industry – robbing our families and children of an opportunity to diversify New Mexico’s economy for a more sustainable future.

All of these examples make us question: Who are these legislators truly representing? From what we have observed and experienced ourselves, their decisions are in no way in the best interests of the people they are supposed to serve.

Yet, through it all, hope prevails in the communities seeking change for New Mexico. A new wave of courageous young people continue to take a stand for what they believe in, regardless of the fact that the institution that is the Legislature is trying to shut them and us down. We’re on a level of unprecedented engagement, and it only reassures us times and politics are changing.

Our main example of change comes from the new faces of the state House being much different – these are people who are truly from the district they serve and who seek out input from their own communities. We have a vast array of ethniciities and faiths collaborating for a better New Mexico. We have women who defeated well-funded, prominent male opponents. Republican seats were flipped, and communities are now having a seat at the table.

Obstructionist Democrats should be on notice that elections are right around the corner and, after next session, the Senate will change.”

A note from one Mick Nickel one of our supporters. In spite of the organization’s [Retake] best and fervent intentions, and thousands of hours of dedicated work across many months, what has bubbled to the surface and now floats atop the state is the toxic slime released by the cabal of oil/gas/electricity monarchs. These conspirators laid this elaborate scheme [SB 489, but there are others, as well] in the dry weeds many months before the elections of 2018.

Its many potential contingencies were refined in advance, with most if not all alternatives already envisioned. The PRC staff, not withstanding several of its former commissioners nefarious treachery, anticipated this blow-back, knowing full well the public relations cover stories that would be secreted into the public subconscious. I watched this play out across many months, trying to guess which final track the con job would take.

What I did not anticipate was the linkages utilized by the oil/gas/electricity lobbying assault to spread out and weaken the effects of the new political landscape. I am skeptical of the committee assignments managed by the Democratic majority. Democrats have to be either the most compromised group of nice people in the world, or the most dense. I have watched a consistent barrage of Republican chicanery since the early days of Bruce King. The style and ferocity never change. Unethical, amoral, self-serving, cunning, never-say-die.

The only long view employed by this cabal is the one that sees the money and power flow to the coffers of the reactionaries. Mark my words, without a successful court decision on the PRC suit, and an immediate future group of amendments to 489, this group of political decisions will go down with the same infamy as the sadistic indifference and hostility that the human power elite show toward this state, this planet and this billion-year plus collection of precious biota.

There is not enough lipstick on the planet to smear on this pig.”.

Thoughts on the Dark Side of the Roundhouse.

Lorenza and de Luna capture how the Senate has squashed many good bills despite the clear intent of the voters to being taking far bolder actions to address climate change, women and children, land and water, and income inequality and Mick Nickel describes how in all likelihood leadership and lobbyists have met long before the session to plot strategy and alternative scenarios so that however the winds blow, in the last days and hours, the priorities of those industries (gas and oil, banking, chamber of commerce, big pharma and big agra and insurance, to name but five) get their way. And the way this works can be seen in two of the bills we have been urging you to call about HB 2 and HB 546. Both bills had worked through committees and had public hearings to discuss the merits and limitations of the bill. Amendments were debated and voted on publicly. And then in the last days with a flurry of activity making it impossible to track details, a few sentences were added to these bills to utterly transform these bills adding toxic pills.

With HB 2, the Governor can easily line-item veto the sentence ensuring funding to the Agriculture Dept to usurp local seed sovereignty. With our voices, we may well be able to get her to do this. But with HB 546, the choice is more difficult. Enviro organizations fought hard to get an increase in gas and oil royalties. Initially killed in committee by three Democrats, the bill was resurrected and quickly moved toward the Governor’s desk. But not before the injection of language about allowing produced water operations under the oversight of the horribly underfunded Oil Conservation Division, an organization that hasn’t been able to adequately regulate or monitor the thousands of fracking rigs in the state is now foisted with the responsibility to regulate a new produced water industry. And guess who is likely to produce not just the water but the research supporting its safety: the gas and oil industry?

And here is the really underhanded aspect of this. Language about produced water was introduced in conference committees on Friday night March 15, the last full day of the session. There was no public announcement about this conference meeting, no opportunity for public scrutiny or comment. And so now the Governor can veto a bill with the much sought royalties and hold her nose about the produced water or veto the bill that enviros had pushed so hard to get to protect us from toxic produced water.

Retake is committed to exposing this kind of practice in our Report Card and in other reporting. This is not what the Blue Wave was supposed to produce.  More later.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

8 thoughts on “Roundhouse Chicanery: Last Minute Amendments Destroy Good Bills. Your Action Still Needed

  1. In looking carefully at the final votes on our “Must Pass” and “Priority” bills, I saw several environmental bills hit the Senate Conservation Committee and go silently to sleep – no vote at all. Is this Senator Cervantes doing? I’m really disappointed since I thought he was one of the good guys.

  2. Does anyone know the correct timeframe for today’s Anti-Fracking Sit-In at BLM? I’ve seen 3 different descriptions.

  3. Calling them out is a start. Most of this stuff starts at the national level, their lobbyists, association meetings and think tanks, all now how to manipulate these back country, dupes. There is a subtext in our local media too, they only appear to be supporting local issues. Our universities are funded by oil and gas and other corporate interests, so our politicians believe the nonsense they churn out.

    Poor Ken, at least he is in a better place, Ireland. It would sicken me that there would only be one or two guys (veterans) out there every Friday protesting the ongoing war. 17 years and our local media never mentions it, except for sappy content marketing pieces about the few veterans that some charity is “helping.”
    It shows how backwards and un progressive this town really is.
    Santa Fe and the rest of New Mexico is a backwater, not much different from Appalachia. Things have not changed. Our governor got were she is with corporate support, she covered for the insurance industry, and big out of state corporations. She did not clean house when she got into office.

    A lot of Anglos don’t understand the racial dynamic here. I found it interesting that the census removed the term, “White Hispanic.” That was done by design. Most of our “Hispanic” politicians are “White Hispanics” meaning they identify as white. it is just one more way that Racism is covered up around here, along with Facts.

    It is even worse than we think! The dystopia is upon us. Of course the more comfortable are still oblivious.

    I guess you all did not track how the oil and gas industry peddled their “produced water” idea. They told local farmers they could make a lot of money selling “water.” In New Mexico a lot of that water is Brine, huge aquifers only contain a portion of fresh water, and once that is pumped out, the rest is brackish or brine. It is useless for farming, but now they are seeing dollar signs, thinking they can sell it. A few of our legislators are seeing a possible jackpot.

  4. Great post with great contributing pieces. Spot on. Hopefully this clear-eyed view of what some members of our legislature are truly about will ignite a movement to make lots of changes in 2020.

  5. In the previous blog post comments, Pat Bartel cast doubt on the power of the governor to line-item veto (except with funding bills). However, her staff member who answered the telephone assured me she most certainly CAN line-item veto language, for example, that limits seed sovereignty. So please do call the governor about that!

  6. Max Weber was the father of social studies as we know them now. In the nineteenth century. Back then he concluded (I paraphrase) that the crucial flaw in representative government is that the legislators are careerists; they want make their livingsgabejhanson as office holders.
    For example, a budding pol might gain office with a reform agenda, but to keep that office and rise from councilperson to mayor, or state legislator to congressman to state governor to the US Senate, he or she will have to accommodate their party bosses, the vested interests, and the uber-wealthy. That means he/she will transfer assets from the working poor to the rich, or to put it in the terms our Founders used, plunder the commonwealth on behalf of the special interests.
    This the Founders called corruption. They feared and despised corruption more than anything except a king/chief executive with a large standing/professional military at his command. Their fear of corruption caused them to devise a government of three separate but equal branches
    At this organization’s first meeting (in the Railyard last year) sheets were plastered on the walls so the attenders could prioritize their issues and so set Retake’s agenda. The issue that got the fewest votes — mine and one other person’s –was corruption. Not on the radar! So our agenda, good as it was, got torpedoed worse than the Japanese Navy got in WWII.
    Only changing the political system itself could put the common welfare back on the nation’s to do list, along with the remaking of democracy. “Liberty and justice for all!”

  7. One of the primary differences between the House and Senate in New Mexico is that committee assignments in the House are controlled by the speaker of the House while the Senate committee assignments are controlled by the ‘Committee’s Committee’ – an eleven-member committee chaired by the Senate president pro tempore and containing two members from the leadership of both parties as well as five other members from majority party and one other member from the minority party. The non-leadership members of the Committee’s Committee are appointed by the president pro tempore (by and with consent of the Senate). See https://ballotpedia.org/Committees%27_Committee,_New_Mexico_State_Senate

    The president pro tempore is elected by the full Senate, and because of their position and power in the Committee’s Committee has a tremendous amount of power in the Senate. Currently the president pro tempore is Mary Kay Papen and two of the (non-leadership) democratic members of the Committee’s Committee that she selected are – you guessed it – Clemente Sanchez and John Arthur Smith. These three conservative democrats together with the three republicans on the Committee’s Committee actually represent a majority faction on that committee.

    If one doesn’t like the policies that these conservative democrats support, one can always try to ‘primary’ them out of office, but be careful what you ask for, since Smith’s senate district went heavily for Trump in 2016 and although Papen’s district is in the democratic leaning Dona Ana county, this is primarily due to the liberal city of Las Cruces while her primarily rural/republican district only contains a sliver of the city of Las Cruces. Sanchez’s district is more difficult to evaluate since it doesn’t match county boundaries very well but is also primarily rural. A truly progressive democratic candidate in any of these senate districts might have a tough time against a republican challenger.

    See 2016 presidential election results by county in NM:
    https://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president/new-mexico/

    Compare this to the NM Senate district map (Sanchez-30, Smith-35, Papen-38):
    http://www.sos.state.nm.us/uploads/FileLinks/3e99d533065e4daab52ffe3b1734bce0/Legislature_Senate2019_LF.pdf

  8. Pingback: A Heartfelt Thank You, Plus a Reprise of a Week of Political Maneuvering, Exposés, and Action Alerts | Retake Our Democracy

Leave a Reply