Most Hopeful Conversation with Democratic Legislative Leadership, But Also Indication of Where More Work Is Needed

We provide a link to the recording of last night’s zoom with Senators Wirth and Stewart and Speaker Egolf. Also, a petition to Biden to appoint Rep. Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior & a Monahan report on the gross wealth inequality in NM.

Important Call To Action. We need to do all we can to ensure that Rep. Deb Haaland is appointed Secretary of Interior. Details on why and what you can do to support this effort can be found at the bottom of this post. Let’s Do It!

News In Brief: Just one today as we want to focus on last night’s zoom and next steps.

Zoominar with Senator and Pro-Tem Elect Mimi Stewart, Senate Leader Peter Wirth and Speaker Brian Egolf

Last night we packed the zoom room with 275 attendees, many of them legislators. We discussed how the primaries and the general election have altered the House and Senate. We heard from Sen. Stewart and Sen Wirth how the change in the Senate and Senate Pro-Tem may influence committee structure and prospects of bills passing the Senate. We also discussed the impact that a Covid-limited session might have upon our chances for getting transformational legislation passed in 2021 and whether, given the revenue crisis, the legislature may be receptive to increasing revenues by closing corporate loopholes.

We asked all the panelists to offer their views on the prospects for bills like the Health Security Act, Public Banking, the Green Amendment and more. Their responses were very encouraging for a range of bills we support (tax reform, abortion decriminalization, marijuana legalization, gas and oil regulation, bonding increases on fracking operations, to name a few), But the discussion also pointed to bills where education needs to be conducted, especially in relation to the Green Amendment, Healthy Security Act, Public Bank, Local Choice Energy, and amendments to the Energy Transition Act. But finding out where the work needs to be done to better educate our legislators should focus the advocacy for Retake and our allies and that is a very important outcome. Legislators can’t possibly stay abreast on all 1500+ bills typically introduced in a session. So educating them about the bills we care most about is our job.

One of the most promising comments came from Senators Wirth and Stewart in describing the Democratic Senate Caucus as a “happy caucus.” It really does feel like the work of our allies and us, has made a positive contribution to the Senate.

A few of the takeaways:

  • Sen Wirth was emphatic about how the time is now, the voters have sent a clear message and the Senate is a different place. He was almost euphoric about what could and should be possible and this was a sentiment shared by all the panelists;
  • Sen Stewart, Senate President Pro-Tem-elect, quite reasonably deferred on offering hints on who she might appoint to which chair and which committee, but did say that she was consulting with Senators from both parties on her selections. It seemed unlikely that a GOP-DINO coalition could be in the offing….there are just precious few DINOs left and Stewart seems to have solidified her support.
  • Speaker Egolf offered info briefly about a Civil Rights Act he will be introducing. The New Mexican reported on this today, click here.
  • In fairness to all three panelists, it was difficult for them to commit to support for bills that at this point are concepts. The wording of a bill can make all the difference in the world. In 2019, the ETA looked like the greatest thing since sliced bread and it had been strongly endorsed by over two dozen organizations and had solid legislator support before it had been introduced. Once introduced, bill language revealed laudable intent, some very good elements, but some loopholes that were worth fixing then and hopefully will be fixed this session.
  • It was clear that all three panelists were skeptical of ETA revisions, not surprising since they were all bill sponsors and had not read the revisions proposed. Senator Stewart did comment that Senators Tallman and Stefanics who are working on the bill to amend the ETA are “really solid legislators.”
  • All panelists felt that abortion decriminalization would pass and pass quickly, that some levels of revenue generation via closing of loopholes was essential, that recreational marijuana legislation would be a very high priority and it also looked as if some substantive improvements in gas and oil regulation would pass and that reducing the predatory lending rate would also have support from leadership….although there will need to be some pushing to ensure safe committee assignments from Speaker Egolf and Senator Wirth.
  • There was also support for paid legislators but Senator Wirth correctly pointed out that this has been introduced in the past and was soundly defeated. The initial Land Grant funding for Early Childhood also passed very narrowly when it was put on the ballot. Panelists indicated it would be the work of advocates (that’s us) if and when Amendments for paid legislators, increases in Land Grant funding for Early Childhood and the Green Amendment pass through the legislature.
  • Senator Wirth emphasized that the best way to have an impact on legislation is for constituents to meet with their Senator or Representative prior to bills being introduced and then during the session, that it was constituent to legislator communication that was most impactful. That is precisely what Retake is organizing. If you want to get involved, write to RetakeResponse@gmail.com and tell us your state Senate District. We’ll get back to you. We have teams organizing in 21 of the 27 Senate Districts already. We are holding a Zoom conversation Friday at 3:30 to expand that work. See below.

After the zoom ended, I reflected on how when Retake was founded in Oct 2016, the House was GOP controlled, the Senate was DINO-GOP controlled, we had a GOP governor and then a month later, the nation had elected Trump president. Thanks to the work of so many advocacy groups in NM, the state political environment has changed substantially and the nation chose a different path, making national reforms far more possible. Finally, for years, Retake has worked to develop a statewide advocacy group, understanding that Santa Fe advocates had limited impact, especially on legislators representing distant districts. With the forced need for distant online meetings, that changed and last night we had almost 300 folks from across the state meeting with the the three leading Democrats in the legislature. That is important. Now we need to work to make sure that the work we’ve all done translates into some very good bills becoming law.

If the zoom last night inspired you, please reach out to friends and encourage them to subscribe to Retake Our Democracy. We are coordinating a statewide effort to push for some very important bills in 2021 and as part of that role, we try to publish timely, germane posts that educate our supporters and our legislators. The more folks getting that information, the more impactful our work. Please help with that. Click here to subscribe.

If you are interested in being part of our statewide advocacy targeting Democratic Senators throughout December and our advocacy throughout the session, please use the following links to become involved.

Check out the video of last night’s zoom, below if you missed it last night. We had 270 folks on the Zoom including many legislators and the chatroom enjoyed a robust discussion. We have downloaded the full chat, which is full of valuable information and discussion, but also has a goodly amount of chatter to skim past. Click here to review it.

Lastly, Retake asked 10 questions, consuming the first hour of the discussion. We then tried to review 75 questions from attendees, an impossible task. We did our best, but were only able to ask about 10 of those questions. If we have another zoom with this many in attendance, we may start a half hour earlier and go a full two hours, giving us an hour for attendee questions. Do you think that would be a good idea?

Stay tuned!

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

You are invited to sign on to a joint letter calling on President-Elect Joe Biden expressing our whole-hearted support for the nomination of NM Rep. Debra Haaland to serve as the 54th Secretary of the Interior.

Perhaps you have seen the All Pueblo Council of Governor’s endorsement as well as more than 120 individual tribal leaders and other US House Reps coming out to support her.

New Energy Economy reached out to Representative Haaland to see if she thought it would be helpful to have a letter from New Mexico orgs specifically, and she put us in touch with her lead campaign manager who encouraged that we do this and that we try to get it in by Thursday (latest).

That leaves very little time. We’ve drafted a sign-on letter with input from WildEarth Guardians and Tewa Women United which focuses on the National Environmental Protection Act and the law the Secretary of the Interior is charged to enforce. We’ve yet to see a real leader in this position — the possibility of having Deb actually uphold and enforce this legal doctrine is very powerful, especially as the first Indigenous person to ever be appointed.

Please sign as soon as possible; the uncertainty of the transition process may require that we release the letter soon, but we will strive to keep it open until 3:00PM on Thursday, December 3rd.

Original signers include: New Energy Economy, Tewa Women United, WildEarth Guardians. We hope you’ll join us! Of course, Retake has joined this effort and encourages all of you to sign on.

We need a leader like Representative Haaland to reinstate and strengthen the regulatory laws that exist to protect our communities, to put an end to the contamination, despoilation and desecration of the commons, and to honor the sovereign rights and guardianship role of our Indigenous communities.

Please sign on as soon as possible to show the Biden administration that New Mexicans support the appointment of Rep. Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior and the importance of honoring the sanctity of our public lands. Please send this to all your friends. THANKS!

Click here to sign on to this important effort.



Categories: Local-State Government & Legislation

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8 replies

  1. Last night’s session was informative and inspiring. I am ‘in it to win it’ with Retake’s legislative strategy and look forward to meeting others in Senator Benny Shendo’s district who would like to work as a team to advocate for the Retake list of Bills. A note of concern (has to be on the backburner for now, I recognize.): the one-bill-at-a-time approach faces huge challenges given the state Constitutional limit on the number of days that a legislative session is in operation. How on earth can the legislators give the consideration due to a possible 1500 bills in 60 days? Let’s watch carefully to see how the legislative process, including our advocacy work, unfolds in this session. It is possible that an omnibus legislative strategy will be needed in which progressive legislation is ‘bundled’ together. My impression last night is that Senator Stewart is quite comfortable with a go-slow approach to consideration of each piece of legislation introduced. This will surely limit the scope of what can be accomplished and does not represent the kind of outside-the-box thinking needed in this time of threat to the planet’s sustainability, need for dramatic strengthening of health care and education, the imperative of weaning the state from its dependence on oil and gas corporate interests, and the clearly weakened state of civic literacy (for example, susceptibility to dangerous lie and conspiracy-theory narratives such as Trumpism, which has proven to be a total embarrassment to this country). More must be done; bold action is needed if transformative results are to be achieved. Many thanks to Paul and Roxanne for their excellent work and strong leadership! Lonnie Rowell, Rio Rancho.

  2. Was there any discussion of what happens if MLG is tagged for Secretary of Health and Human Services by the Biden administration? What’s the timeline for a nominated cabinet member such as Michelle to step down from their current elected office? Is Howie Morales on board with progressive legislative priorities?

  3. That was a good webinar all right.

    In legalizing recreational marijuana, what thought are we giving to cannabis production? I’m concerned that wealth flowing to cannabis producers may be followed by water flowing the same way. Let’s keep water, and the rights to use it, with food producers first, particularly with small-scale producers. I’m thinking, of course, of acequias.

  4. In answer to whether a full two hours is a good idea, I think so. Also, as most of us are now familiar with Zoom, skipping the Zoom tutorial would shorten things. You could always suggest a refresher in your email. Thanks for the most helpful Zoominars. They have really helped with inclusion and outreach.

  5. My husband and I, and I know many others, who don’t want Deb Haaland for Interior Secretary. We would rather keep Deb in Congress, where she has been extremely productive. All of us would prefer Tom Udall as Secretary of Interior.

  6. Who fills Deb’s seat if she is selected for Interior?
    – Dave Wheelock, Oneida Nation

  7. I also want to make sure we all can respond to the reservations Mimi seemed to voice about the public bank bill, to wit:
    1. “the public bank would not be insurable” (?)
    2. what would the public bank’s working relationship be with community banks (which often enjoy a positive reputation)?

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