After a review of how things are going in the legislative session, we offer an array of learning opportunities from the Democracy Collaborative, one of the single best sources for bold transformative change. Read on.
On Tuesday we had no bills being heard, and since we are at the mid-point of the session it seems a good time to do a mid-course assessment of where we are, what is moving, what is not, and who is pulling the levers.
The State Budget Is Looking Very Good. NMSU Economist Recommends Spending Down Our Huge Reserves! Retake has always taken the position that a reserve account must be used to stimulate the state economy and support those out of work. Put simply, it is hard to imagine a state government better situated to spend, stimulate, and support. From Joe Monahan:
“The riches are piling up in Santa Fe and the stockpile could soon get a whole lot bigger. With rebounding oil prices helping, the state is now sporting a record-setting budget surplus of $2.5 billion, or 35 percent of the current $7 billion General Fund budget.
And coming out of a White House meeting Friday with President Biden and other government leaders, MLG reported that New Mexico stands to gain $2 billion from Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The package contains $350 billion in aid for local and state governments. The $2 billion would be specific to the coronavirus impact but the Governor did not exaggerate when she called the huge sum “a game changer for us.”
Noted NMSU economist Chris Erickson, who has advocated for aggressive stimulus, offered this comment when asked by Joe Monahan: My testimony before the Economic and Rural Development Interim Committee included the following statement: The legislature should not be afraid to run down reserves to near zero [paraphrased]. However, circumstances have evolved. At the time of my testimony the forecast was for an additional large revenue shortfall. Now the forecast is for “new money.” A 25% reserve is too large, but “near zero” is too low in the current circumstances. One can argue what the correct level should be but 10% seems reasonable.
At last report the reserves were at a record-setting $2.5 billion or 35 percent of the $7 billion General Fund budget. Rising oil prices and federal economic relief have helped.
When communicating with legislators we need to emphasize that there are dams in danger of bursting, infrastructure in need of development, water systems in need of repair, renewable energy generation in need of stimulus, and people suffering. We must be bold and stimulate our state economy and invest in our infrastructure.
Some Unprecedented Wins & Two Ominous Defeats. When I look over our list of Transformation Bills, I have to note that very important bills that failed in the past look likely to pass this year:
- SB 10 / HB 7 Abortion Ban Repeal;
- HJR 1 Permanent Funding for Early Childhood;
- HB 16 Rural Opportunities Act passed its first hearing unanimously;
- HB 47 / SB 308 End of Life Options is also moving along and encountering only opposition from pro-life advocates;
- HB 12 to legalize cannabis appears to be moving along and should be signed into law;
- SJR 4, a resolution to put on the state ballot, allowing the Ethics Commission to set salary levels for legislators and staff;
- HB 211 /SB 199, a bill to create an independent Redistricting Commission, secured a unanimous Do Pass vote in its first hearing;
- Every one of the tax reform bills Retake (and Voices for Children) support, has advanced;
- HB 4 Civil Rights Act passed through three committees and the House Floor, now moving on to the Senate; and
- A raft of other bills for paid sick leave, predatory lending, minimum wage, and several rural / indigenous infrastructure bills are all advancing
Plus, from our Silver City friend Glenn Griffin we hear that two NRA-backed bills HJR 5 and HJR 8 were defeated. Griffin noted: “Of course Republican males Scott, Townsend, Baldonado, and Strickler went for the bills to elevate hunting and fishing and trapping above our other rights. Thankfully Democrats, and mostly women, McQueen, Stansbury, Chandler, Dixon, Ferrary, and Ortez voted to stop the NRA-drafted bills from banning us from banning trapping with SB 32, Roxy’s Bill. These bills would have further allowed the closing of stream waters to fishing on private lands’ waters.”
By any standard that is a good start. But once again there are dark clouds hovering over the session — the New Mexico Oil & Gas Lobby and the Utility Industry — which have already stifled two important bills and are poised to kill other bills. SB 86 Use of Water for Oil and Gas Operations, an effort to amend a badly flawed 2019 Produced Water Act, was tabled in Senate Judiciary. And SB 155 Energy Transition Act Changes was tabled in Senate Conservation with Sen. Cervantes and Sen. Hamblen joining the GOP in killing the bill. You will notice that there are precious few environmental, energy, or utility bills listed among those advancing rapidly through the Roundhouse. While there is still half a session remaining, this is a cause for concern.
The Democracy Collaborative:
A Vision for a More Just Future
The Democracy Collaborative offers some of the boldest, most well-researched strategies for democratizing our economic systems and addressing the gaping wealth and income gaps in America and the world. Below are brief summaries of a range of articles and panels that offer bold, concrete policy and program initiatives that we need to understand fully so that we can advocate for them in the future. Read on!
MLK’s vision for a just economic future
To celebrate Black History Month we reflect back on Gar Alperovitz’s article considering the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the wealth gap in the United States and the need for economic and systems change. King spoke out not only on civil rights concerns, but on general economic justice and the flawed democracy of our current system. Alperovitz discusses how King’s words relate to the need for profound change towards a democratic, participatory system, as is still needed and fought for today.
The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. as highlighted in the article:
“King said, ‘One day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there 40 million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy and to ask questions about the whole society.” Elsewhere he added, “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”” Read the article
Systemic local, regional, and national change
Leaders from the Democracy Collaborative discuss the potential for transformation towards the next political-economic system in a panel featuring Gar Alperovitz, co-founder of The Democracy Collaborative; Isaiah J. Poole, vice president of communications; Johanna Bozuwa, co-manager of the climate and energy program; and Thomas Hanna, director of research and specialist in public ownership. The panel was presented by Bioneers as part of its virtual conference, “Beyond the Great Unraveling – Weaving the World Anew” held in December. Watch the panel.
Environmentalism demands systemic change
Gus Speth, distinguished fellow and co-chair of the Next System Project, discusses the need for a new environmentalism that demands systemic change. In order to move towards this systemic vision, Speth declares that we need to broaden what we consider to be environmental issues to include such topics as “the fetish of GDP growth… runaway consumerism; and vast social insecurity” to address at a systems level to curb climate change and begin to value sustainability first and foremost. To emphasize the possibilities of this work, Speth participated in a recent webinar to explore these types of systemic level changes and more as featured in The New System Reader. Read the article. Watch the webinar
Expanding democratic ownership
Thomas Hanna discusses with Trebor Schultz, founding director of the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy at The New School’s Platform Cooperativism Consortium, public ownership and the importance of employee ownership and cooperative models. Hanna says that “it is important to distinguish public ownership not just from private businesses, but also from cooperatives and other forms of democratically owned enterprises that are owned and managed by some subset of the population.” Hanna explores with Schultz how nontraditional public ownership models such as employee ownership can separate themselves from growth and profit imperatives that are often discordant from local needs and priorities. Hanna also expands on these ideas in a December publication of his Ownership Futures series as he discusses public ownership models for big tech. Read the interview. Read the report
The democratic economy in the news…
|North Ayrshire Council in Scotland lays out an ambitious agenda for municipal socialism and community wealth building. Read in Tribune. |
Community land trusts were centered in a moving lecture by George Monbiot at the Schumacher Center for New Economics. Watch the lecture.
Community banking will be discussed in the upcoming roundtable by the Schumacher Center for New Economics following the Monboit lecture. Register for the roundtable.
A new vaccine distribution model is proposed based on the highly successful Pepfar model for HIV drug distribution to low income individuals. Read the article in The New York Times.
Preston is hosting an event on February 25 on their Community Wealth Building 2.0 Strategy Launch. Register for the event.
Energy democracy and the future of the Green New Deal is explored as an alternative to Green Capitalism. Read in Tribune.
Seattle invests $30 million into a new participatory budgeting fund. Read in Nonprofit Quarterly
Faultlines are appearing in the asset based economy and are exasperated by COVID-19, according to The Democracy Collaborative Fellow Christine Berry. Read in Autonomy
In solidarity & hope,
Paul & Roxanne