The Report Card has taken four months to complete, a dozen experts in the legislative process have reviewed and improved the report and it will be ready for release on Monday. It details what got done, what didn’t and why. “This Report Card does an excellent job of going beyond the political theater and on-the-record votes.” Eric Griego, Executive Director, Working Families Party. Read on.
The Report Card: What Got Done, What Didn’t & Why
This has been a labor of love. For the past four months, Retake Our Democracy leadership has devoted themselves to getting this done and getting it right. We couldn’t have done this without the efforts of countless volunteers who attended hearings and took detailed notes. And we were inspired to push on by the hundreds, even thousands of you who used our Action Alerts during the legislative session to advocate tirelessly at the Roundhouse. From our visits to Truth or Consequences, Las Cruces, Silver City, Farmington, and Taos, we have heard how many of you who had taken our alerts and shared them with dozens or even hundreds of others. We thank all of you. Today we are sharing a preview of the Report Card that will be published on Monday. This is just to whet your appetite.
Our goal was to produce a report that would shine a spotlight on how the NM state legislature works. We wanted to go beyond votes; we wanted to help us and you understand how it all works, so that we could advocate more effectively in the future. We were humbled by the task. The deeper we dug, the more complex we realized the process is, the more fearful we were that we’d get something wrong, perhaps horribly wrong. And so we shared a draft of the Report Card with a dozen folks who have way more experience with the Roundhouse process than any of our leadership, to get their suggestions as to how to improve the report, to identify what to add, what to leave out, what to stress. And while we may still have gotten something wrong here or there, it appears we got a whole lot right.
Retake Our Democracy has put out a comprehensive report card that goes beyond typical report cards and delves into the legislative process and inner-workings in New Mexico. Their advocates showed up day after day to support these priority bills and work in collaboration with other supporters. Whether you care about healthcare or the environment or voting rights bills, Retake Our Democracy has you covered––and many more issues are highlighted, discussed and broken down for the reader by committee action, votes, and advocacy efforts.” Viki Harrison, Director of State Operations, Common Cause and the Common Cause Education Fund.
As a former State Senator and long-time advocate I know how difficult it is for most New Mexicans to understand how things really work at the Roundhouse. Demystifying that process is important for creating real change in our state. This Report Card does an excellent job of going beyond the political theater and on-the-record votes to begin to unearth how lobbyists, political insiders and powerful elected officials orchestrate our legislative process. It is a blueprint for how we can restore accountability and people-centered power in our state legislature.” Eric Griego, Executive Director, New Mexico Working Families Party
Congratulations to Retake our Democracy for this well-researched report, which will help advocates understand the process and become effective in committee hearings, with legislators, and in electoral work.” Dede Feldman, Former State Senator, Author of Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots, Suits and Citizens.
I want to commend Retake Our Democracy for their work at the 2019 Legislative Session. We got many great bills from our DPNM Platform passed in 2019, but we also were very disappointed on many other bills, especially in relation to energy, the decriminalization of abortion, and early childhood education. I am grateful to have this report as a resource for those seeking to study both the process of the legislature and also how to identify what and who is involved in the passage or failing of a bill.” Sharla Parsons, Chair, Platform & Resolutions Committee Democratic Party of New Mexico
The Report Card describes the remarkable successes and the myriad of very good bills that were passed in this past session, bills that couldn’t have possibly passed in the last 8-12 years. It also examines how many good bills died. It describes how a relatively small number of Democratic Senators have an outsized amount of power to influence legislation. If your name is Papen, Smith or Sanchez, you may want to sit down before you read this, because we name names and describe exactly how those named were able to do their work. We also identify the Roundhouse heroes who worked so hard to advance justice in NM. What’s more, we want to acknowledge that even those Republicans and some Democrats whose votes and other actions undermined bills we felt would advance justice, did so because of their belief that our bills could be misguided. Anyone who spent any time at the Roundhouse couldn’t help but recognize that while we may disagree on how to get there, most everyone at the Roundhouse cares deeply about the future of our state. The pay is non-existent and the hours are long. We respect the commitment of every legislator and the efforts of the far too few legislative staff.
The Report Card doesn’t follow the format of most ‘scorecards.’ We had intended to publish just such a traditional scorecard, but when we examined the votes, we realized that the real story is behind the votes. The legislative process is complex, mysterious, obtuse, and lacking transparency, but for volunteer advocates to be effective, we need to understand how the levers are pulled and by whom. We hope we have achieved that goal. But if we missed a beat here or there, please tell us. This is not the Ten Commandments, it is a report that is just one more step in advancing our understanding of how to get to justice. We want to continue to improve and so your comments will help in that regard.
Not much more to say, but to ask you to look for the Monday blog which will include a link to the Report Card. We ask that you read the report, share it with friends, and if you feel motivated (and we hope that you do) that you write letters to the editor describing your reaction. To help you with that, we have developed a Media Kit with information on the guidelines for submitting letters to the editor for the ten major daily newspapers in NM along with over a half dozen sample letters to inspire your imagination. Links to the Media Kit will be published in the Monday blog. If you are part of an organization or grassroots group, we hope you will share the Report Card with your members and possibly organize a meeting to discuss the report. If you would like to have Retake leadership be part of that meeting, to answer your questions and to explore the implications of what we’ve found, just write to me at email@example.com.
But whatever you do, read this and think deeply about its implications. There is a culture in the Roundhouse, described in the report, that it can take 3-4 sessions for a good idea to advance into a bill that gets to the Governor’s desk. Very sadly, we don’t have 3-4 sessions to get it right. Patience has a place, but not now. We are in crisis and when we are 50th in most anything good, when we have working families desperately trying to make ends meet, to feed their families, when we have immigrants in immanent peril, and when Mother Earth is begging us to take her needs seriously, patience has no place in our culture, urgency does.
So please read the report and then think deeply about whether you don’t have a bit more time to devote to the work at hand. We need you. We have teams forming to do this work and if you want to find out more about what you can do, you can review this document. If you want to get involved in one of our Action Teams, let me know by writing to me at paul@RetakeOurDemocracy.org. You can also come to our next Organizing Meeting on Aug. 6, from 6:30-8:30pm at 1420 Cerrillos in Santa Fe. If you live far from Santa Fe, there are ways you can work on any of these teams from your community and from your home. Indeed, more than ever we need people involved who live in other communities. A statewide network can’t be overwhelmingly comprised of Santa Fe activists.. But the one thing I hope you won’t do, is read the Report Card, get mad and then shrug your shoulders and resign yourself to whatever may be. Because “whatever may be” is your children’s and grandchildren’s future. We have an obligation to make that future as good as we can and that will not be easy.
Paul & Roxanne