What a Difference a Day Makes: Roundhouse Rocks

Permanent fund for early childhood (with Sen. Clemente Sanchez support), & pregnant worker accommodation advance, Senate Finance & John Arthur Smith say yes to electric vehicle tax credit. With three days left 1/2 our bills could pass.

No Retake Meeting Tonight. Long ago, Retake decided not to hold our monthly meeting tonight, as we figured that the last days of the session would be chaotic and tough to actually plan around. We were right. Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, March 17 from 6pm-8pm at the Center for Progress & Justice, 1420 Cerrillos, Santa Fe. We will be debriefing the Roundhouse session, sharing a preview of the Report Card, and most importantly outlining plans for the 2020 June Primary and November General Elections. We will have Eric Griego, State Director of Working Families Party, NM, on hand to talk about the efforts for the primary and other speakers are being added. To RSVP, write to RetakeResponse@gmail.com.

Sure Didn’t See This Coming!

In our Saturday and Monday posts, Retake blasted the Roundhouse for its inefficiency, lack of transparency, and for so many bills being stuck in committees. Twenty-four hours later the picture looks a good deal rosier with the most surprising development being that HJR 1 Permanent Funds for Early Childhood emerged from Senate Rules with a “Do Pass.”

This was a stunning development for a number of reasons:

  • Senate Rules has been the annual graveyard for HJR 1 and there were precious few indicators that things were going to be different in 2020;
  • On Sunday, when Senate Rules had scheduled HJR 1 for the third time in a week, the Republican members and three Democrats exited the hearing room just as it was being called up for a hearing, leaving the committee without a quorum;
  • Then, only minutes before Monday’s hearing began, Sen. Linda Lopez, Chair of Rules, told me that the bill very likely would not have a vote, as she expected another exodus from the hearing room.

When it was introduced on Monday, quickly all but one Republican left the room, but with a quorum in place. It seemed a vote would occur. Since a full discussion of the bill had happened on Sunday, no discussion was held on Monday. Quickly, Sen. Bill Tallman asked to amend the bill to reduce the annual Permanent Fund draw for Early Childhood from 1% to 1/2% which would generate $76 M per year to early childhood.

Tallman offered another amendment to raise the “trigger” in the HJR1. The current value of the fund is $19.6B. If the funds value falls below the trigger, the 1/2 % allocation would be reconsidered. In the original bill there was “trigger” of $10B, the amendment raised it to $17B. After ten years of watching the bill die, the bill sponsor Rep. Moe Maestas quickly agreed both changes would be viewed as friendly amendments. The amendment passed quickly, and a “Do Pass” motion and second was followed by a roll call vote that was so quick some in the audience wondered if it had occurred.

HJR 1 passed with one Republican and one Democrat, Senator Papen, voting “no.” What’s more, it was strongly supported by Sen. Clemente Sanchez, who has not been a friend of the bill historically. Sanchez has considerable sway in the Roundhouse and his brief comments explaining his vote were unequivocal: we need to get this done and put our money to work for our children.

I almost fell out of my chair. I asked an advocate sitting behind me: Did that really just happen? With eyes bulging she said, “I think it did.” In the halls you would have thought that we had just won the Super Bowl, with high fives and even a few wet eyes and words catching in people’s throats. There was a cautious sense of optimism that, with Sanchez’s support, the bill just might make it to the Governor’s desk. Yes, the bill must pass through Senate Finance, but this is a session where the unexpected has happened — Sen. George Munoz voted for gun violence prevention and Sen. Clemente Sanchez spoke strongly in favor of HJR 1. This could be a most interesting three days as we near the close of the session at noon on Thursday.

And we have more to feel good about. The bills listed below, from our priority list, have moved on to the Governor’s desk with only her signature needed to make them law:

  • SB 4 Complete Count in 2020 Census, signed.
  • SB 5 / HB 7 Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order, on her desk.
  • SB 1 Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Act, on her desk.
  • HM 9 Renewable Energy Investment Strategic Plan, on her desk.

Four bills might be a paltry showing from a list of 30 Priority Bills, except that those are some very important, heavy lift bills, and there are many more good bills that are one vote away from the Governor’s desk with clear evidence that those votes will occur.

  • HB 233 Energy Grid Modernization Roadmap–Senate Floor
  • HB 25 Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act–Senate Floor
  • SB 57 Pet Food Fee for Neutering & Sheltering–House Floor
  • SB 75 Wildlife Trafficking–House Floor
  • SB 29 Solar Development Tax Credit–House Floor
  • SB 182 Behavioral Health Community Integration Act–House Floor
  • HB 100 Health Insurance Exchange Change Act–Senate Floor

In addition, HB 217 Electric Vehicle Income Tax Credit, and HB 148 Increase Working Families Tax Credit are one committee away from a floor vote, and there are indications that these could move forward as well. Both are sitting in Senate Finance and if passed there would go to the Senate for a floor vote. We have seven other bills that have been stuck in Senate Finance and will likely not emerge. An issue to discuss on March 17.

Nonetheless, considering all of the above, plus the prospect of HJR 1 possibly making it into law and three other bills with credible paths to the governor’s desk and you have over half of our priority bills with a shot at becoming law. Lot’s can still happen, but last year, with 60 days to push bills, less than 1/3 of our bills were passed into law. When you consider this is a short session, where the focus is on the budget, time is short, and historically few non-budget-related bills make it through, having half or almost half of our Priority Bills become law would be a smashing success.

There is still much more to do. This is no time to relax, but the Roundhouse is a whole lot more fun when good bills are moving and the surprises bring a grin instead of a grimace.

Thanks to the many of you who have come to hearings, who have made your calls and sent your emails. In the halls outside the HJR 1 hearing, many advocates were saying that with this being an election year, the pressure from advocates and volunteers is making a big difference. So, if you haven’t signed up for the alerts, it isn’t too late and today and tomorrow, we really need your voice. Sign up now by clicking the Get Legislative Alerts button on the right of the home page.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

P.S. We are speaking with legislators about what happened to HB 9 Community Solar, a bill that Speaker Egolf promised would get through the House, but that died an ignominious and embarrassing death on the House floor. Stay tuned.

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2 replies

  1. Paul and Roxanne, Andrea Romero gave me a succinct analysis of the situation on Sun. morning following her presentation at Journey Santa Fe. SM63 Community Solar Working Group was passed unanimously by the Senate on Mon. morning. At this moment HM62 same title is in committee with Andrea and Liz Stephanics. Fingers crossed – Sorry I can’t be there.

  2. It sounds great, that came around and did the right thing for the kids. I don’t think anyone should get too comfortable though. Due to years of cost cutting, targeted de-funding, and general dysfunction, even if they allocate money to things like education or behavioral health, this state lacks the personnel to carry it out. There needs to be a serious evaluation of the people already involved. Due to the misinformation, and targeted disinformation, floating around, a significant percentage of employees at school districts and in behavioral health, believe alternate facts. Since there is already a significant shortage of qualified employees, and providers, the state is not being very diligent in weeding out the bad apples.

    We should all agree that children should be protected from the beliefs of some of the more gullible members of our society. Teachers should not be allowed to pick on children with autism or other disorders, and adverse life circumstances, for example. Enough of this negative behavior gets reported in the news, that someone should be watching out for it. The same goes with behavioral health, people in that system are vulnerable to exploitation, and misinformation. Not enough qualified providers, not enough physicians or psychiatrists, and virtually no tracking of outcomes, leaves this population vulnerable.

    There is an awful lot of denial and creative “history” around here. In Santa Fe back in the good old days, they would single out children with darker skin for preemptive punishment in public schools. The real story of racism is a lot uglier than they present, in the advertising. https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/santa-fe-school-board-to-consider-study-of-inequity/article_3c80aba4-519c-11ea-817e-1370442535fe.html Suddenly they are going to “study” inequity, of course the people who worked in this area for decades were oblivious, or explained it away. Some of them were in the classrooms where the racially motivated “punishments” occurred, or they heard about it. At the same time local news has been pushing for charter schools, advertising with advertorials presented as news. They ran carefully crafted public relations pieces as “news” putting charter schools in a positive light. The public schools were always “struggling” or places where crime occurred.

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