Concerns About Concentration of Governor’s Power; Update on Competing Private Prison Moratorium Bills; & an URGENT Call to Action

A short post today focused on the legislature and a noticeable trend with consumers and advocates being sorely under-represented in key studies, commissions, and task forces. Plus an interesting interview with Sen. Dede Feldman on the 2021 session.

Be sure not to overlook the interview with Sen. Dede Feldman at the end of the post. Feldman is a former NM State Senator who wrote the illuminating book, “Inside the NM Senate: Suits, Boots, and Citizens.” We discussed redistricting in detail, as she was a member of the Senate in 2001 and 2011. We also discussed the myriad of ways that bills pass or fail and possible ways to better influence the legislative process.

Call To Action: Five Minutes of Effort With HUGE Impact
The deadline in Santa Fe is today at 7pm,
so this is urgent.

Retake is asking you to consider taking five minutes today to place yourself on the ballot to become a Democratic Party State Central Committee (SCC) representative from Santa Fe, County. If you don’t live in Santa Fe County, you need to check with your county’s party leadership to find out numbers of seats and how to run.

Before you react with an “are you kidding me?” — not only is placing yourself on the ballot easy, being an SCC member is also very easy. There are only two meetings a year and you can vote by proxy and never attend a meeting. But as a member, you can vote for progressive candidates for chair of the Party and other officers, for important committee chairs and members such as for the Platform Committee and Rules Committee, and you can vote for the NM’s Democratic National Convention delegates and Democratic National Committee members.

As of this writing there are about 50 candidates with 55 seats available in Santa Fe County. Only members of the County Central Committee can vote for SCC members, so you won’t be able to vote unless you’re on the CCC, but you can still run for SCC. If your statement resonates as progressive, then folks who don’t know you but like your statement will vote for you to prevent moderates winning seats. So there is a good chance you can win. And we will reach out to the CCC members we know and encourage them to vote for any of you who decide to do this. 

  • For YUCCA youth who are registered to vote, this is a great learning opportunity to get a better understanding of how the state Democratic Party works;
  • For people who have never even considered participating in Party activism, you can support others who are trying to reform the party, stop taking money from PACS and Corporations, and spend resources on getting people excited about voting by educating them on issues well before an election;
  • For people who have been on the SCC, we are writing to those who do not appear to have signed up as a candidate….perhaps it slipped through the cracks;
  • For people who have never even considered running for the SCC, we need more progressives on the SCC — in the last election we narrowly lost (by a handful of votes) electing Pia Gallegos and Jay Levine as DNC members, which would have sent some really strong advocates to the DNC;
  • For all of you, consider asking a friend or partner to do this, as well….remember, you can do everything by proxy….no attendance required.

Click this link to register as a candidate and then write back to us if you did, so we can create a list of candidates that CCC members should support. This link also gives you the names and statements of current candidates. Please, consider doing this. We need more of you to join party leadership!

Today via Zoom: Civil Rights Atty. Jeff Haas Discusses His Book,
The Assassination of Fred Hampton

Today at 3 p.m., 4 Corners Coalition for Justice hosts civil rights attorney Jeffrey Haas in a discussion of his book The Assassination of Fred Hampton. Jeff wrote about and will discuss his time representing the families of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, who were killed by the Chicago Police in 1969. Haas has also worked in criminal defense, organized activist action against the Iraq War, and defended the water protectors at Standing Rock. Join the Zoom at

Legislative Update

Observation: Concentration of Power In Governor’s Office

Every day, another wrinkle to the legislative process becomes a bit more clear. One of the things I’ve come to be concerned about is how two legislative actions are resulting in a concentration of power in the Governor’s office and/or with Legislative Council Services:

  • Shift to Appointments Rather Than Elections. We’ve written a good deal about the extremely shady constitutional amendment to allow the Governor to appoint PRC members. Now HB 162 would mandate that the Public Employees Retirement Administration (PERA) Trustees would no longer be elected by PERA members, but would be appointed by the Governor. Another shift in power from the voters to the Governor.
  • Appointments to Committees, Task Forces, and Commissions are predominantly made by the Governor or Legislative Council Services, or often a combination of both. There is often language indicating that appointment include experts or stakeholders, but the language used to identify eligible members invariably will identify the kind of expertise needed and often the industry. Rarely do you see language asking for people like “representatives from environmental advocacy groups” or “representatives of the impacted community,” or “representatives from grassroots indigenous groups,” or “representatives of consumer groups, customers, or end-users,” or some other language to stipulate that commissions and task forces are not comprised of industry, big business, or other organizations that do not always fairly reflect the perspective of most New Mexicans or have direct experience being impacted by the issue.

    The membership of these commissions is very important, as it will report back the legislature during interim hearings about what might be possible to address the issues the Task Force or Commission is addressing. So, for example, a commission to develop a plan for sustainable water or farming practices might identify that members include representatives from the cattle, farm, and dairy industry with no further language to ensure that there are representatives from small farmers and ranchers or advocates in agriculture who seek to advance regenerative, sustainable food practices. The cumulative impact from the bias toward industry obviously can tilt the scales toward industry, not smaller enterprises, advocates, and others who share a more progressive perspective.

    Now, let’s consider some of the bills we support this session that call for task forces, commissions or boards:
    • HB 203 Health Security Planning and Design creates a board to design a universal healthcare system. But they could derail it with the wrong membership.
    • SB 112 Sustainable Economy Task Force. Here, too, the membership is key. With the right balance of members, a plan for a swift, just, and sustainable transition could be the result. With the wrong membership, the plan could slow that transition in order to protect the interests of industry.
    • HB 236 State Public Banking. This bill may not get through, but if it does it will set up a Board to oversee operations and to interpret the will of the legislature as to priorities for investment and lending. Of course, that Board would need to have representatives with banking and economic development expertise, but those same individuals could prioritize a range of developments that extract resources from local communities, e.g. Walmarts and other industry development, instead of investing to expand small, local business where profits recirculate in the community.
    • HB 207 Food Hunger and Farm Act. Here the intent of the bill is very clear in terms of advancing sustainable agriculture, traditional agricultural practices, developing local food systems, etc. But with the wrong folks in the room, that intent could be watered down or slowed, and the interests of big agriculture, dairy, and ranching could prevail over smaller local food and farm interests.

Those are four bills that would develop frameworks or plans of huge import. The results of each could be dramatic and entirely positive, or they could be a disaster, with industry members planting seeds that benefit them and/or undermine the intent of the initiative. I really thought about the possible solution to this and it is not easy. A banking Commission needs banking expertise, a sustainable economy task force needs economists and even some industry representation. The solution to this challenge needs more discussion after the session, but my initial thought is that we should press for the inclusion of 2-3 grassroots advocacy representatives on every commission, task force, or board. They may not be able to swing the direction of the work, but they can report on it to their constituents and raise alarms before a report is generated. Because of this, their voices would have to be respected. More thinking needed on this, but as you can see, this is a very big deal.

Competing Private Prison Bills:
HB 40 and HB 352 Create Confusion

There are now two bills calling for a moratorium on contracts with private prison operators. In this post, we break down the differences in the bills.

HB 40

HB 40 was briefly heard on Monday, March 2, in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee (HAFC), and temporarily tabled because the fiscal impact report (FIR) did not match the amended bill. A new FIR is in the works, and it is still possible that HB 40 will be heard in HAFC but we are unsure if and when that will be. This may be as soon as Monday, and Retake Alerts will confirm a date and time, if the bills should be resurrected. The latest version of HB 40: 

  • Creates a clear timeline requiring private prisons to be phased out by June 30, 2026. 
  • Prohibits the operation and management of a detention facility in New Mexico by a private contractor after June 30, 2026. 
  • Immediately prohibits state or local governments from entering into new contracts or expanding existing agreements between private contractors and New Mexico government bodies.
  • Creates a task force to study and make recommendations to the state about how to manage the phase-out of private prisons. 

HB 352

Meanwhile, as HB 40 sponsors await the fate of HB 40 before HAFC, Rep. Linda Serrato and Rep. Angelica Rubio introduced HB 352 — also called the Private Detention Facility Moratorium Act — to get a bill through the House that has a narrower focus. Bill sponsors expect HB 352 to be heard on Monday, March 8, 2021 at 11:30am, however it is not on the agenda as of now. Again, our Alert will keep you posted. HB 352: 

  • Immediately prohibits state or local governments from entering into new contracts or expanding existing agreements between private contractors and New Mexico government bodies.
  • Creates a task force to study and make recommendations to the state about how to manage the phase-out of private prisons.  

That bill was heard in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Thursday and was given a do pass on a 3-2 vote. 

Why are there two bills? 

Phasing out private prisons in New Mexico is an important issue and one that has garnered greater attention through the collective efforts of bill sponsors, activists, and People Over Private Prisons (POPP-NM). Both bills have gone through several changes and each represents a parallel strategy to get through the House (and then Senate and, thereafter, to the Governor’s desk). Stay tuned for more info this week.

A Remarkable Turn Of Events On Private & Public
Prisons with SB 291

In another unexpected wrinkle, a bill that had not been on our radar, SB 291 Inspection of Private Prisons, has also emerged as an interesting criminal justice reform measure.

SB 291 was introduced by Senator Campos to address immediate conditions in private prisons in anticipation that HB 40/352 would encounter Department of Corrections resistence to a quick phaseout of private prisons.

Senator Katy Duhigg (who said she used to inspect prisons) helped tighten up the original draft with a blanket amendment that included (disclosure alert: the last bullet blew my mind):

  • Making the inspector independent and appointed by a bipartisan legislative group ( she gave examples of other positions done this way); 
  • The inspector qualifications were tightened up to include financial conflicts of interest;
  • Beefed up medical evaluation to include quality of care;
  • Evaluation of restraint practices;
  • Adding fines as a penalty; 
  • Inspections every two years, while retaining unannounced inspections, and specifying that inspections include all areas where those incarcerated are held;
  • Reasonable Fees are paid to the inspector to pay for the position and expenses paid by the facility;
  • Removing “private” to include all prisons.

Yes, they expanded the inspections to apply to all prisons, not just private ones.
Seems like something worth tracking, especially since the bill passed on an 8-1 bipartisan vote.

Retake Conversation with Senator Dede Feldman

Categories: Local-State Government & Legislation

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1 reply

  1. I am deeply suspicious of Katy Duhigg’s interest in private prisons, given what she did to community solar.
    Has someone read all the language carefully to seek out poison pills?

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