Preparing for the Legislative Session
For the last several legislative sessions, Retake Our Democracy has supported and advocated for 40-60 bills each year. This year we are working with allies and bill sponsors in advance to identify and advocate for bills that align with our priorities, but our list is much shorter, allowing us to more easily focus on our highest priorities.
In part due to the Trump presidency and the negative impact that remains in this country, we must continue to advocate strongly at the state level for legislation that supports and advances social, economic, and environmental justice. What we may feel powerless to accomplish at the national level, we can do our best to achieve here in New Mexico. With that in mind, we explain here how our process works.
When considering which bills to support, we asked these questions:
- Does the bill advance either social and/or economic and/or environmental justice?
- 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 prioritize 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). We have supported bills that 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. Many of these are now law. Many are not yet. We still have much work to do.
Our Evolving Advocacy Strategy
Every year, we meet 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 legislative session. No legislation has a bill number until it is filed. Pre-filing typically begins in early January. But it is never too early to reach out to our legislators to express our support for legislation we believe will be introduced.
We will continue to operate our statewide legislative alert system to guide advocacy during the session, but our current strategy is informed by our observation that it often appears that by the time a bill is introduced in a committee hearing or goes to a chamber floor for a vote, legislators have already made up their minds. As a result, our strategy involves initiating contact and scheduling Zoom conversations with legislator prior to the start of the session. We need to talk with them before they’ve been cajoled by lobbyists and others and remind them that we helped get them elected, voted for them, donated to their campaigns, and we are paying attention.
While we encourage you to contact your legislators individually, we are building District Teams in as many legislative districts as possible. These teams will be comprised of constituents within each Democratic District. If you are interested in being part of a Zoom conversation with your Senator or House Member please write to RetakeResponse@gmail.com and give us your name, your Senator’s name, and your House Rep’s name.
We are especially interested in hearing from people who are willing to serve as a 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 legislator.
Part of our strategy is for District Coordinators to call their Senator or Rep. and introduce themselves as a constituent coordinating a team of other constituents who want to talk with them about bills they support. The coordinator will ask for a time when a Zoom conversation could be scheduled.
You don’t have to commit to being a coordinator, but let us know if you’re interested in that role by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign Up to Observe Hearings or Perform Other Advocacy Roles
In addition to meetings with legislators prior to the start of the Session, we need volunteers to observe hearings (online or in person) during the Session and take notes (form provided), to write bill summaries, and other advocacy activities. If you’re interested in getting more involved, please complete the advocacy sign-up form at this link.