We reflect on what has transpired, what we’ve learned, and what is to come in this Session. No more days off; it’s 24-7 until noon on the 20th. But we’re also looking beyond the session, so we include info on a Food System series from Slow Food Santa Fe, plus another call for action!
Today, we offer summaries of last week’s posts, along with a Legislative update focused on Public Banking, proposed changes to our tax system, and an urgent alert to ensure that Health Security Planning & Design proceeds despite obstacles. Read on!
No rest for the weary, and so the Legislative Alert Roxanne sent out Sunday is packed with hearings, bills, and actions for you to take. The first two bullets are particularly important as they include urgent actions.
- Click here for Sunday’s alert. It includes info on how you can support Health Security in NM, and the deadline for getting this done is Wednesday. I want to add a shout-out to Roxanne. As of today, she has published 27 Legislative Alerts with probably 20+ more before we get to the finish line. Preparing these alerts requires extraordinary attention detail (the reason I don’t do them ;-). Great Job, Roxanne!
- HB 291 Tax Changes is being heard in House Tax & Revenue today at 8:30 am on Monday. This bill has been significantly improved by a committee substitute which will be introduced this morning. We STRONGLY support this new version. The biggest problem with the first version was that it contained Section 5,which would allow for some flexibility in how businesses file and could have had a high future fiscal impact giving away millions in tax revenue. It will not be in the committee sub of the bill, which we’re very pleased about. The Committee Sub will also add a third new high-income tax bracket, and the top tax bracket will start at a lower income level than in the introduced version of the bill. These changes are all good ones that will raise more revenue that can be used to fund crucial programs. The bill continues to be a very important one that will improve progressivity and equity in the tax code, put money into the hands of people who need it most right now, reduce poverty, and diversify, stabilize, and raise revenue. HTRC will allow for comments of no more than 90 seconds using the Zoom link to attend. Please raise your hand in support, even if you choose not to comment. This is a Transformational bill that is the most important our package of tax reform bills. Click here to get to our summary of tax bills which includes more information on HB 291.
Talking point for HB 291: HB 291 raises revenue from high earners, diversifies revenue, and improves equity and fairness in the tax code. It will also lift thousands of New Mexicans out of poverty and provide relief for those who need it most right now.
- Retake’s Take on Redistricting. While we fully understand the principle behind an independent redistricting commission and we think Speaker Egolf may have overstated how endangered our bills are to new boundaries drawn by a commission, we also recognize that across the nation, in every damned state in which the GOP has control of the legislature, every single strategy to manipulate the process is being utilized. GOP Rep. Rebecca Dow stated that an independent redistricting commission is “a no-brainer.” I’d ask that she share that information with her colleagues in red states. And since Speaker Egolf is so proud of stating that we have about the most progressive legislature in the US, maybe he and Senator Wirth should work to align the Legislative Finance Committee and Legislative Services with those progressive values.
- NM Environment Dept and NM Energy Minerals & Natural Resources Are Virtually Without Staff and Impoverished. Retake had held a placeholder in our Transformational Bill list for a bill that would fully fund these two Departments that were both gutted by Susana Martinez and left gutted in the last two sessions. With a huge surplus, we assumed a bill would be introduced. No luck. And HB 2, the General Appropriations Act sent to the Senate Finance Committee did nothing to address our concerns, leaving SFC as our last recourse. Sierra Club put the tab at $4.5 million a year in recurring costs. With a projected 24% surplus leaving the state well over $1 billion in reserves, one would think that we could find $4.5 million to shore up protection of our environment. We are not without allies on SFC, but the lift will be heavy. Here are four members who might be responsive and who respect what Retake does:
- Sen. Jeff Steinborn, (505) 397-8852 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, (505) 397-8821 email@example.com
- Sen. Bobby Gonzales, (505) 397-8825, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sen. Nancy Rodriquez (Vice Chair) (505) 983-8913 email@example.com
The “ask” is very simple:” Amend HB 2 to restore full funding to NM Environment Dept and NM Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources at a cost of $4.5 million in recurring costs. We have the highest surplus in history and these departments were gutted under the prior administration.”… In your own words.
- Public Bank Update. HB 236 was withdrawn from being heard in House Judiciary so that bill sponsors could respond to a myriad of problems with the Financial Impact Report (FIR) filed in relation to HB 236. It will be reintroduced and heard, hopefully midweek, in House Appropriations & Finance. Last Wednesday’s post (below), “Who Runs the Roundhouse: Not Who You Think” profiled how Legislative Finance Committee and Legislative Services have a crucial role in determining how legislators view every single bill. In hearing after hearing we observe legislators referring to the FIR, most often citing problems with bills for which we are advocating. The Wednesday post identified two bills where the FIRs seriously either misunderstood the bills or misled legislators. We are appalled at the FIR published on HB 236 / SB 313, the State Public Bank. Alliance For Local Economic Prosperity published an excellent rebuttal (provided below), refuting the myriad of misinformation that was woven throughout the FIR. But the damage has been done and continues to be done, not just with the bills we support, but with most any bill with fiscal impact. I was told by a NM economist that if he were a professor and a grad student submitted this report, he would give it a “D.” Put this on the list of “things that need fixing” after the session.
News In Brief
From The Washington Post: “New Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has advice for Texas — and for the oil industry.” This is the only article today, as there is much in the post to read already. But this is an important and reasonably unequivocal message from the Biden administration: in the near future we are transitioning to renewable energy. The gas and oil industry need to accelerate their own transition to becoming sustainable energy companies or they will expire. A short, refreshing perspective, so different from “drill as if there is no tomorrow” Trump.
Getting to know our food system: from grower to eater and everything in between
Slow Food Santa Fe is moderating a remarkable series of free Zoom webinars on our food system. With Retake’s increasing interest in and concern about our state and local food systems, this series seems like an important opportunity to become better informed. Learn about all of them here.
Are you interested in the human, animal, economic and environmental impacts of our current food system – especially now that the COVID pandemic has made us all more aware of food system issues? Slow Food Santa Fe has put together a year-long program made up of 1-hr webinars with a focus on New Mexico and an awareness that this is a global concern (2021 UN Food Systems Summit). They promise this (free) program will be informative, interesting, and thought-provoking. And based on the summaries below, that seems highly likely. I am hoping many of you join Roxanne and I as we dive in and learn together.
HEALTHY SOIL AND FARMING (MARCH 19, 12-1 PM MST)
We’ve put together a great panel to explore issues in New Mexico around soil health and clean water for our farmers, and how SFSF might support local and regional organizations doing work in this space. The chair of the panel will be Christina Allday-Bondy (New Mexico Healthy Soils) who will be joined by Juliana Ciano from Reunity Resources to talk about the necessity of soil health for growing healthy food and what’s happening in New Mexico with healthy soils and regenerative agriculture. REGISTER HERE.
RAISING AND PROCESSING MEAT (MAY 21, 12-1 PM MST)
From the hazardous conditions in meat packing plants revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, to the lack of small and medium sized slaughterhouses, to misleading country of origin labeling, and the animal welfare and environmental issues with many large meat production operations, there is a lot to talk about. Panelist include Tommy Casados from C4 Farms and Judith McGeary, founder and executive director of the sister organizations Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance and Council for Healthy Food Systems.
SUPPLY CHAINS: HOW OUR FOOD MOVES FROM SOURCE TO MARKET (JULY)
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how fragile our food system is when supply chains broke, but there were concerns before March 2020. Has the system become too fragile? What should be done to improve resilience?
FOOD SECURITY, FOOD JUSTICE AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY (SEPTEMBER)
New Mexico is one of the most food-insecure states in the country, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made this situation worse. We’ll take a look at this problem and talk about what can and should be done for people who have trouble obtaining enough nourishing food to eat. We’ll also talk about the growing food sovereignty movement, driven in large part by indigenous communities.
WHAT CAN WE (NON-FARMERS, NON-RANCHERS) DO? (NOVEMBER)
It’s easy to say that a few companies and their food lobbyists have too much power, but companies respond to consumer demand signals, and voters can change policy. It’s not always straightforward though. For example, certification systems are often driven by consumer demands for more information but sometimes these certifications are expensive to implement and end up hurting small-scale farmers. What are the current issues in NM?
A Look Back At a Crazy Roundhouse Week
It is March and so we are entering the back stretch of the 2021 Roundhouse session. Over the past two weeks, Retake has published six important pieces that pull back the curtain on how the legislature really functions. Those pieces are included in the first post below, with links to posts published Feb 15-21. Below that are four more posts from this past week, each offering a different perspective on the Roundhouse session.
I would highly recommend reading the first post below for an analysis of the Roundhouse propensity for studying and planning and not really doing, as this is such an infuriating tendency. Two other posts that warrant your review are from Wednesday and Friday. Wednesday’s post is an interesting exploration of how, despite substantial changes to the legislature resulting from four years of election wins, fiscal conservatism still dominates the Roundhouse and constrains action. It is an apt follow up to the discussion of how the legislature studies, plans, and convenes task forces rather than spend money to solve the problems. Lastly, Friday’s post outlines Retake’s new direction that will be initiated after the session. We want to hear from you about Rethink Our Democracy. Read on!
Times Are Desperate, So Democrats Study, Plan, & Delay:
the Same Approach that Brought Us to the Verge of Civil War
Monday, February 22. Today, we use a News In Brief to critique the tepid actions taken by national and state Democrats during 2021. Rural America, small farmers, the working poor, and the unemployed are facing evictions, homelessness, and hunger, yet in DC they adjourn for a week and in NM we study and plan. We don’t usually cover a substantive piece on Monday because we review posts from the week prior and it’s a long read already. But the analysis in last Monday’s post focused on the legislature’s predilection to plan, study, and delay, but not to actually use our vast resources to solve the problems. It is well worth your time. The post also includes a compelling interview with Stacey Abrams moderated by Ben Jealous.
Who Runs the Roundhouse? Not Who You Think.
Budget Released, With Hundreds of Millions Left On the Table. What Recession? What Transition?
Wednesday, February 24. A Capital & Main piece and another Joe Monahan piece offer insights into why our budget leaves $1 billion of surplus funds unspent despite desperate needs in rural & tribal NM. Monahan describes how a fiscally conservative approach permeates the process for orienting new legislators and is even more pronounced in the production of Financial Impact Reports. The post offers compelling evidence as to why approach to legislation in NM remains so fiscally conservative despite a record-breaking state surplus.
What is Rethink Our Democracy? And What Will It Do?
Plus an Important Legislative Update With a Call to Action!
Friday, February 26. First a legislative update is offered, including an important Call To Action to advance HB 203 the Health Security Planning & Design bill and an explanation of the undemocratic and veiled process for allocation of “Junior Bill Funds.” In this context we discuss how, despite a huge state surplus, legislators must essentially conduct “bake sales” to fund important bills. We also provide a preview of Rethink Our Democracy, our emerging 501c3. We are excited about the plans for Rethink, and we invite you to weigh in and perhaps become involved in the early stages.
URGENT CALL TO ACTION, Plus a Legislative Update.
Please Share This Post!
THIS ACTION IS CONTINUING: DEADLINE WEDNESDAY
Saturday, February 27. For nearly 30 years, Mary Feldblum has led the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign and each year she has encountered insurance lobby obstacles that have stalled progress. This year we can get this done. There are obstacles, but we have a plan. Read on! And be sure to get to the bottom of the post, where we publish a 40-minute conversation with two inspiring Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA) leaders. They will give you more hope for our future.
Redistricting: We’ve Heard From Speaker Egolf,
Now Let’s Hear Sen. Dede Feldman’s Very Different View
Sunday, February 28. Speaker Egolf’s comments on redistricting on our Zoom Conversation have made the front page of the New Mexican and the ABQ Journal. We offer his interview again today, but first Sen. Dede Feldman offers her historic perspective on redistricting. Feldman has been a source of advice and guidance over the years, offering very helpful comment on our 2019 Report Card. Her book, Inside the NM State Senate, is a must read and her guest post here on her experience with redistricting in 2001 is illuminating to say the least.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne
P.S. Please do review the piece on Rethink Our Democracy. We want to hear from you, as we are digging in and starting to chart that path now and appreciate any thoughts you may have.
Categories: Local-State Government & Legislation