We examine the still incomplete Special Session & offer a Call To Action for today. We also offer thoughts on how hard it is to endure daily life under COVID. We end with an uplifting video from Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater.
After some personal thoughts on life with COVID, we share a report on the Special Session, and a reminder about the Public Banking Zoominar TOMORROW, followed by a great 2 minute video on the North Dakota Public Bank. We then offer summaries of last week’s three posts and close with an Alvin Ailey video guaranteed to lift your spirits.
I Have to Open Up About Something.
The last week has been especially difficult for Roxanne and to a far lesser degree for me. On Tuesday night her mother, Eunice, suffered a massive stroke in front of her home in Prescott, AZ. After emergency brain surgery she then suffered a heart attack and remains unconscious on a ventilator in a Phoenix Mayo Clinic ICU.
With five adult siblings, Roxanne and one sister are the executors of the will and more importantly the Advance Directive that tells Roxanne and Gail quite clearly that Eunice does not want to be sustained with life supports. She is 89 and the doctors have made clear, recovery is not remotely possible.
Due to COVID, Roxanne had resisted going to AZ until now. She left this morning while I care for our cat, Quilo. So she will not be on the Public Banking panel tomorrow evening and the post today and tomorrow will not benefit from her daily review for both grammar and typos, but more importantly for tone, length and substance.
I share this only because it will be obvious during the Zoominar tomorrow night that Roxanne is not present and because you may notice some less than perfectly clear, wordy passages today and tomorrow.
I also share this because this family crisis has just made it ever so obvious and immediate just how perniciously COVID has impacted all our lives. Under normal circumstances, Roxanne would have been at the Mayo ICU the next day. She would have been there to support Gail and her other siblings. It brings home how many tens of thousands of people have died in ICUs alone with children, partners and parents unable to say goodbye. It is heartbreaking.
Please don’t take this disclosure as our personal pity party. There are millions of others far more impacted. But in sharing, I hope it helps add a small layer of understanding as to just how many ways this pandemic is impacting our lives. There is no way to convey how frustrating and heartbreaking it has been for Roxanne to sit an eight hour drive away from her mother, as she passes on. Realizing how little privilege insulates us from this reality only causes us to realize far more deeply what this pandemic must be like for those without resources, those historically under served, under represented, and oppressed.
It is easy to understand how people would want to break free of these constraints, but it is also so abundantly clear how our impatience is prolonging our being subject to this pandemic. Italy was devastated by COVID, as were many other countries. But most of those nations adhered to nationally directed policies that mandated a sustained and uncompromising shut down. People were not permitted the privilege of their individual “freedom” to do what they wanted because it compromised the well being of the collective others. Leaders led and countries recovered. But our leader has utterly failed us and so, sadly, we are headed toward more death, more suffering, more parents and siblings dying alone.
This summer, I hope all of you commit some amount of time each week to influencing the November election and ensuring we do not wake up the morning after to another four years of Trump. And do not be too reassured by his plummeting approval ratings and his being behind in polling in most all swing states. Recall that on election day 2016, his approval ratings were far worse than today and the polls indicated a near certain Clinton win.
We can’t let that happen again.
NM State Legislative Session:
So What the Heck Happened?
It Ain’t Over Yet. What’s Left for Today
Despite persistent technology challenges, quite a lot actually happened in the abbreviated session. While most of the business is done, the budget reconciled, solvency assured, and a number of important pieces of legislation passed, the session did not conclude Saturday, as hoped. The Senate is actually done and has gone home, but will have to return on Thursday if the House amends Senate bills it is hearing on Monday, including:
- SB 7 Reduce Institutional Racism. Sen. Linda Lopez, (D) Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D), Rep. Javier Martinez (D). Requires all state agencies and departments to examine policies and procedures that reinforce institutional racism and amend those policies and practices. Message: “Please support this important legislation as it will force all departments to re-examine their policies and procedures and identify and correct instances of institutional racism.”
- SB 8. Law Enforcement Body Cameras. Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D). As the name suggests, the bill requires law enforcement officers to wear body cameras and stipulates the need for penalties for failure to do so. Message: “Please support this important bill as it has only been because of body cameras that we are learning the extent and degree of police violence.”
We are also being told that Speaker Egolf may introduce HM 1 Oppose Dismissing State vs. Yazzie Lawsuit. The memorial opposes efforts to dismiss the Yazzie lawsuit demanding that the state fund education sufficiently to address social, racial and geographic inequities in education. The Memorial requests the Department of Education to adopt a policy to address systemic racism and to consult with NM”s Indian Nations, tribes and pueblos to develop a comprehensive education plan to ensure more equitable outcomes for indigenous students.
ACTION: Please contact your House Rep. today and let them know that you support all three of these bills and hope they can approve them without amendment so that the Senate needn’t return to the Roundhouse on Thursday.
What Got Done During the Special Session
We can’t really provide much of a report on the budget, as that is immensely complex and was done very quickly with reporting almost impossible to decipher. We will wait til we get a report from our ally, NM Voices for Children. But what we can tell you is:
First in relation to criminal justice reform:
HB 5 NM Civil Rights Commission. Brian Egolf, Karen C. Bash. Creates Civil Rights Commission of 9 members (three gub. appointees, 6 LCS) to review policies and develop policy proposals for ending or limiting qualified immunity as a defense against liability by public employees. Report by 15 Nov 2020, i.e. in time for the 2021 legislative session. This bill has passed both chambers and is on the way to the Governor.
SB 8. Law Enforcement Body Cameras. Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D). As the name suggests, the bill requires law enforcement officers to wear body cameras and stipulates the need for penalties for failure to do so. As noted above, it now must pass the House on Monday. It is highly likely to pass, but if it passes with amendments, the Senate will have to return on Thursday to vote to accept those changes. And if they do not accept those changes, a reconciliation conference would occur and the bill could wind up being killed.
SB 7 Reduce Institutional Racism. Sen. Linda Lopez, (D) Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D), Rep. Javier Martinez (D). This bill also passed the Senate, but is being debated today in the House. SB 7 requires all state agencies and departments to examine policies and procedures that reinforce institutional racism and amend those policies and practices. As with SB 8, we hope this is passed without amendments to ensure the bill goes to the governor without need for further Senate review.
In relation to election fixes:
SB 4 Temporary Election Changes. Senators Daniel A. Ivey-Soto (D), Gabriel Ramos (D), Linda M. Trujillo (D), Wonda Johnson (D). Had SB 4 not been amended, it would have allowed (but would not require) county clerks to mail either absentee ballots or ballot applications to all voters. This would have been a very good bill, but thanks to two soon-to-be former Senators, Mary Kay Papen and Clemente Sanchez, who sided with Republican Senators on the Rules Committee, the bill was gutted of much of its value, as in Senate Rules Committee these two DINOs and GOP members amended the bill to remove the right for clerks to send out absentee ballots to all registered voters. They will be able to send out applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters.
Another amendment was offered by retiring Sen. John Sapien and this amendment almost sunk the bill entirely. His amendment expanded the scope of SB 4 to include making a permanent change to the state primaries, creating semi-open primaries where Independent (DTS) voters can change their registration to either major party up to the day of the primary and then vote in the primary. This is an immensely controversial change to the how we operate primaries and given that the next primary is still two years away, complicated what should have been a very simple procedural change in the November election.
When Senator Ivey-Soto spoke on the Senate floor after passing the amended bill, he announced that the Senate would not concur with any changes that might be offered by the House, including restoring the original language in the bill.
When, in House Judiciary on Friday night (midnight actually), both parties were irked by the Sapien’s amendment, feeling that the session was supposed to be focused on urgent matters. Much debate ensued about this and then Rep. McQueen offered amendments to restore the original language, but this effort was voted down because legislators knew it would not be accepted by the Senate. House Judiciary reluctantly passed the bill with no changes.
When the bill went to the House floor, at first a dozen Democrats rebelled and the bill was voted down. But Speaker Egolf asked for a reconsideration of the vote and then adjourned to caucus where arms were twisted with a message that while the caucus preferred the earlier bill, there was merit in what remains (facilitated access to voting for indigenous communities, authorization for clerks to send out requests for absentee ballots and authorization for the Secretary of State to take further action if the situation requires it.) Rep. Maestas also reassured the caucus that given that the next primary was two years away, a bill could be introduced to revise or reverse the semi-open primary.
When the House reconvened, the bill passed easily. We are left with a bill that still offered some modest improvements, but fell short of achieving its real impact.
This DINO action illustrates with great clarity exactly why Senators Papen, Sanchez, Smith, Ramos, Martinez, and Muñoz were targeted by challengers with all but one challenger winning. While this time, it was Sen. Papen and Sanchez who weakened a bill, each of those Senators have undermined good legislation repeatedly. Recall that all six voted NO on HB 51 Abortion Decriminalization. With five of these Senators gone and Sapien retiring, there is every expectation that 2021 will be different. Very different.
I am quite sure there will be lots of frustration, perhaps even anger, over how the proceedings unfolded and also with the results. But the special session was really focused on the budget and that these other issues were addressed and passed in some form is something to celebrate. As my opening comments made clear: these are extraordinarily difficult times that compromise not just our ability to meet and discuss issues in public, but with everyone’s nerves are frayed, compromise is difficult to achieve.
We have a solvent state, a bit easier election process for county clerks, some progress on criminal justice reform and a 2021 session to look forward to, a session that will not include five DINOs in the Senate and but will instead welcome some fresh young faces to both chambers. We’ll report on the budget soon.
Tuesday, June 23, 6:30 – 8pm. Conversation About the Enormous Benefits of Forming a NM State Public Bank with Public Banking Advocate Leadership & Experts in public banking. 2020 has been about as bleak a year as I can remember, but it is also opening minds and doors. A public bank is one of the most powerful tools for anyone advocating for social, racial and economic justice. It could make possible previously unimaginable state investments in infrastructure, telecommunications and energy grids. It could also leverage other state and federal funds to invest in other industries with the promise of well-paying jobs for thousands of New Mexicans.
Please join us on Tuesday evening to learn more about what a public bank is and what you can do to help ensure the legislature passes a bill to create one in NM. To whet your appetite, check out this 2 minute video on the stunning impact of the only public bank in America, North Dakota Public Bank, a bank that has been an economic anchor in North Dakota for over a century. Click here to register for this zoominar as you must register to attend and Zoom seats are disappearing fast.
A Look Back at Last Week’s Posts
Wow! For once two of our three posts were upbeat and positive as we examined how meaningful change may be one of the byproducts of the COVID, a collapsing national and state economy, and a police violence crises that has erupted across America. Of the three pieces from last week, I recommend the one immediately below as it first introduces evidence of significant change brewing nationally and then shifts and examines NM’s opportunity to effect real change. The second post I’d review is Saturday’s post on nationalizing the gas and oil industry as it hints at what could be possible not just in relation to energy but in other sectors, if we simply apply our imaginations and insist upon managing our future ourselves, instead of operating within the strict confines of neoliberal capitalism. Read on.
Is Meaningful Change Coming Beginning to Unfold?
Tuesday, June 16. After weeks of unrelentingly bleak news, this is as upbeat a post as we’ve done in awhile. With communities across the nation facing ongoing protests against police violence, policy changes that were unheard of weeks ago suddenly were being introduced and passed quickly. There is reason for hope that “Times They Are a Changin.'”
In last Tuesday’s post, we reported briefly on the kinds of changes occurring across the nation and then shifted to NM to examine a game-changing opportunity to advance and fund all kinds of positive change.
We have an absolutely critical state budget crisis and with state revenues plunging and likely to continue their descent for some time, the state needs to utilize every tool in its toolkit to minimize the impact on its people and earth. Right now the state does not have a public bank in its toolkit and yet there has been a group of advocates working to create a public bank in NM for a decade. They have done their homework and are ready to advance legislation to enable NM to create a state public bank. This post outlines what a public bank is and what might be possible in NM. This is such a critical piece of legislation, so please read and share this one. Click here to read this important post.
PNM Asks PRC Approval for (Un)Natural Gas to Replace San Juan Generating Station.
Plus NMSU ExxonMobil Partnership on Produced Water
Thursday, June 18. PNM has a proposal before the PRC to construct a 476 MW gas plant as part of its plan to replace energy lost from the closing San Juan Generating Station. The post outlines how other less expensive options are available. Retake has launched a petition asking that the PRC reject this PNM’s gas proposal.
The post also describes an announced partnership between ExxonMobil and New Mexico State University to study produced water and how it might be used to minimize the industry’s use of precious NM water. When the Produced Water Act passed in the 2019 legislative session, we predicted that the gas and oil industry would insinuate its way into the research to inform regulation. Now the fox is in the chick coop. Click here to read the full post and to take action!
Nationalize the Gas & Oil Industry? We Have No Choice
Saturday, June 20. For decades the gas and oil industry has lied to the public about the contribution the extractive industry is having on the looming climate crisis. They understood that impact in 1970 and simply funded faux research to undermine the credibility of legitimate research that they knew to be true. Now they are draining every last dollar out of the industry and intend to continue to do so for decades more, leaving the public sector to clean up their mess when done. As long as there is money to be made, ExxonMobil et al will continue their shameless exploitation of the earth and us. This post examines why the industry should be nationalized and how it is actually financially feasible. Click here to read the full post.
Keep your chins up, eyes focused and heart open, New Mexico. We are being tested.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne