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 and focused. 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 is 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 that can transform our state, protect our planet, reform our systems, and invest in our communities. We must make up for lost time now that our State Senate has seven new progressive Senators replacing Republicans or Democrats who were far more moderate. With key conservative Democrat committee chairs voted out, 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 began in late November. And during the session we will do what we have in past years: advocate for these bills, circulate one-page summaries to advocates and 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.
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 express 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. We encourage you to contact your House members as well, but our primary strategy this year will focus on the Senate.
We will continue to operate our statewide alert system to guide advocacy during the 2021 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 Senators throughout December. 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 Senate districts as possible. These teams will be comprised of constituents within each Democratic Senate District. If you are interested in being part of a Zoom conversation with your State Senator, please write to RetakeResponse@gmail.com and give us your name and Senate District.
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 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 link below to access the Democratic Senate Contact List.
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. To make this easier, we have 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.
Please write to us at RetakeResponse@gmail.com and give us your full name and your Senate district number. You don’t have to commit to being a coordinator, but let us know if you’re interested in that role
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 able to celebrate passage of the Health Security Act, a state public bank, bills 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!