Preparing for the 2021 Legislative Session
For the last several legislative sessions, Retake Our Democracy has supported and advocated for 40-60 bills each year. In 2021 we are being more proactive, focused and intentional. We are working with allies and bill sponsors in advance to identify and advocate for bills that align with our priorities, but this year our list will be much shorter, allowing us to more easily focus on our highest priorities.
In part due to Donald Trump, we have lost valuable time over the last four years. But Trump aside, at the state level we have failed to pass many critical bills, bills that can transform our state, protect our planet, reform our systems, and invest in our communities. We feel that we must make up for lost time in 2021 now that our State Senate has been fixed with seven new more progressive Senators replacing Republicans or Democrats who were far more moderate. With key conservative Democrat committee chairs voted out in the primary, good bills should no longer die in Senate committees; we have far more Senate allies who see things as urgently as do we.
To reflect this urgency, we have created two categories of bills to support:
- A set of 12-15 Transformational Bills that we feel have the potential to transform systems and policies to a substantial degree in our state. We are developing a statewide advocacy strategy that will begin in late November. During the session we will advocate for these bills, provide one-page summaries online, circulate them with legislators, and notify our base of coming hearings. Given the state of the New Mexico economy, it is worth noting that only two of our Transformational Bills require funding. They represent policy shifts and initiatives that either cost nothing, will save the state money, or will result in increased revenues for the state.
- A second tier of Priority Bills that we support, but for which we will not organize statewide advocacy. We will simply provide short summaries and guidance on our website as to how our supporters can advocate for these bills.
When considering which bills to support, we asked these questions:
- Does the bill have a potentially game-changing impact and meet a broad and pressing need?
- Does it address the needs of significantly under-served populations or communities?
- Could the addition of statewide advocacy efforts push the bill through?
- Is the bill a high priority for one or more of our allies?
Beyond these criteria, we prioritized bills that address the needs of New Mexico’s low-income working families, the needs of tribal and rural New Mexico, and bills that address climate change, a looming catastrophe that will dwarf Covid in its impact in the coming decades (or sooner). You will find bills to protect a woman’s right to choose, significantly expand healthcare coverage, create a public bank, better protect our environment, expand early childhood education, legalize recreational marijuana, eliminate private prisons, and significantly increase state revenues by eliminating tax giveaways for the rich and large corporations, and much more. There is a link to the bills we are supporting at the bottom of this post, but first we want to get you excited about our advocacy strategy and how you can become involved.
Our Evolving Advocacy Strategy
We are ahead of the curve this year, meeting with allies, activists, and NGOs via Zoom to develop an advocacy strategy responsive to the urgency of the moment and adapted to the still unknown format that will be used to safely conduct the 2021 legislative session. Most of the bills we are considering are still in draft form and none will have bill numbers until January 4, the earliest date bills can be filed (three weeks later than usual).
But it is NOT too early to begin reaching out to our legislators to make clear our support for these bills. Since we have had little difficulty getting bills through the House, we focus this strategy on the NM State Senate where bills have repeatedly died in committee or on the Senate floor.
While we will continue to operate our statewide alert system to guide advocacy during the session, our strategy is informed by our observation that it often appears that by the time a bill is introduced for discussion in a committee hearing or going to a chamber floor for a vote, legislators have made up their mind. As a result, our strategy involves initiating contact and scheduling Zoom conversations with Senators as early as the next two to three weeks and throughout December. We want to talk with them before they’ve been cajoled by lobbyists and others and remind them that we have worked to get them elected, voted for them, donated to their campaigns, and that we are paying attention.
While we encourage you all to contact your legislator individually, before initiating contact we want to take the next two weeks to begin to build District Teams in as many Senate districts as possible. These teams will be comprised of constituents within each Senate District that has a Democratic Senator. Retake is asking everyone interested in being part of a Zoom conversation with their State Senator to write to RetakeResponse@gmail.com and provide us your name and Senate District. If you don’t know your Senate district, you can get it by clicking here. All you need to do is provide your address and in a second you will see a picture of your State Senator smiling at you with his/her name and District Number.
To assemble teams, we are especially interested in hearing from people who would be willing to serve as the District Team Coordinator, a role that while absolutely critical, is not a heavy lift. The only tasks involved are to compile and maintain a list of district constituents interested in being part of the advocacy and to be the point person initiating contact with the Senator.
We have used public candidate filing records to compile email addresses, cell, business, or home phone numbers and home addresses for all Democrat Senators. Click the download button below to obtain this Democratic Senate Contact List.11.17.2020-NM-Democratic-State-Senator-Contact-InfoDownload
Part of our strategy is for District coordinators to call their Senator, introduce themselves as a constituent coordinating a team of other constituents who want to talk with the Senator about bills they support. The coordinator will ask for a time when a Zoom conversation could be scheduled at a time convenient for the Senator and constituents of the district. To make this easy for coordinators, we have also created a page with suggestions for creating a District Team with links to step by step instructions on creating a Doodle poll to find a time your legislator(s) can Zoom, and another page on how to organize a Zoom meeting and invite others to join.
Over the next two weeks:
- We want to identify as many district coordinators and constituents interested in being part of the effort.
- Retake will organize this list and compile the district teams for the Coordinators, but we are also hoping that those coordinators will know others who live in the district from their activism in wards, precincts, Indivisible, Adelante Caucus, Working Families Party, Nasty Women, Taos United, the Democratic Party and other contexts;
- Retake will conduct Zoom conversations with constituents and coordinators to hone this strategy and we will develop scripts and tools to help you penetrate legislators’ “I’ll have to study the bill when it is released” diversion tactic and to press your legislator for commitments on these bills.
- Retake will work with other groups to develop an effective statewide strategy for advocating with Senate leadership. With so many new Senators joining the Senate, the Democratic Caucus will be very influential in swaying these new Senators.
But for now, we just want to begin assembling the names and district numbers of those who want to be involved. Please write to us at RetakeResponse@gmail.com and give us your full name and your district number. You don’t have to commit to being a coordinator, but if you would consider it, please let us know that.
If we are able to launch this strategy successfully between now and January 21, most all the Democratic State Senators will have had one or more conversations with our teams. Then when you write and call your legislator individually during the session, you can remind him/her of those conversations.
Imagine if on March 20, we are all able to celebrate passage of the Health Security Act, the creation of a public bank, and an array of bills being signed into law to protect our environment, to protect a woman’s right to choose, and a host of other bills advancing justice in NM. Let’s Do This!