We are in the home stretch of the Legislative Session. One week to go. Today at 3:30 we Huddle on Zoom. Please join us for this critical conversation. Report from Wyoming’s shift to wind power, while our Roundhouse stalls all energy bills and placates industry. Plus a cool video from U.S. Rep. Katie Porter.
Sorry this is so late, but we are running on fumes.
Retake Conversation, Saturday 8:30 am on KSFR 101.1 FM or Streaming Live from KSFR.org. We spoke with Castille Aguilar and Arte Romero y Carver, two YUCCA youth advocates. We discussed how they became YUCCA advocates, the impressive scope of work they cover, their reaction to the 2021 session, and their future plans. YUCCA is a remarkable development in the NM advocacy scene, a legitimate, informed, and powerful youth voice. I strongly encouraging you to listen. We will post the full interview on our website by going to Actions and Events, and clicking on Retake Conversations. The interview will be posted by noon on Saturday.
Legislative Strategy Huddle, Friday (today) 3:30-4:30. We have much to discuss in terms of how we message from here on out. We are running out of time, so our messages need to focus on Committee chairs and leadership to move our bills along. This is a very nuanced phase, as we must show some compassion. The huge number of bills is a big problem and we need to acknowledge the long hours and huge effort, while still asking that our bills advance. Roxanne and I will do our best to update our bills this weekend to identify which still have a chance and where we need to discuss letting go of some bills that just won’t make it. We need to talk, share what we are hearing and seeing, but also what we are sensing.
If you want to participate in our meeting today from 3:30-4:30, just click here to register. You must pre-register.
A Very Long Climb for Environmental Bills. We will report in more detail on this this weekend, but Retake has 15 Transformational or Priority bills that focus on energy and the gas and oil industry and another four or five that focus on land, water, and farm issues. While we may get a few bills on land, water, and farm, it is possible we will get zero energy and environment bills into law.
Log-jams Everywhere. Outside of bills focused on energy and the environment, many of our bills have either made their way to the governor’s desk or are one or two steps from doing so. But even some of those may be in jeopardy because some committees have huge backlogs of bills. Tomorrow, we will examine where our bills stand and send a summary outlining where we need to put our energy. The one very obvious logjam is in Senate Judiciary (SJC), which has a huge number in line, reportedly over 100, with the following Retake bills among them:
- HB 12 Cannabis Regulation Act
- HB 47 End-of-Life Options (stuck in SJC for two weeks)
- SJR 3 Environmental Rights Act (stuck for over three weeks)
- SJR 4 Set Salaries Every Two Years – Paid Legislature (stuck for two weeks)
- SB 86 Use of Water in Gas & Oil (amends Produced Water Act… killed in SJC)
- HB 51 Environmental Database. Stuck in SJC for two weeks.
That is six Retake bills stuck or killed in a single committee, three of them energy or environment bills. Today, SJC is slated to meet at 6pm. They published an ambitious agenda with the nine bills listed below, none related to energy, land, air or the environment. Indeed, at first glance many do not appear to be of the greatest import. What’s more, all but one of the bills on tonight’s SJC were referred there well after four of the five Retake bills identified above:
- SB 119 PSYCHOLOGY INTERJURISDICTIONAL COMPACT (ORTIZ Y PINO). Referred SJC 2/10
- SB 316 GENDER & ORIENTATION DATA COLLECTION (HAMBLEN). Referred to SJC March 8
- *HB 5/a ELECTRIC FACILITY AUTHORITY BOARD MEMBERS (LUNDSTROM/GARCIA) Referred to SJC March 5
- CS/CS/HB 36/a EXEMPTIONS FOR LEGAL ACTION AGAINST PROPERTY (ELY/DUHIGG). Referred to March 2
- HB 41 ESTABLISH CERTAIN LAND GRANTS-MERCEDES (GARCIA). Referred to SJC on March 4.
- HB 96/a CRIMINAL RECORDS & PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT (ROMERO/MOORES), Referred to SJC March 5
- CS/HB 114/a HABITUAL OFFENDER JUDICIAL FLEXIBILITY (CADENA), Referred to SJC on March 8
- HB 185 EXEMPT OVER 75 FROM JURY DUTY- NO AFFIDAVIT (MCQUEEN/STEFANICS) Referred to SJC on March 4
- HB 201 PROBATION RELEASE FOR SOME DEFENDANTS, Referred to SJC on March 5
I wouldn’t want the job of a committee chair. There are simply too many bills needing hearings and too little time. But SJC failed to schedule two hearings when the chair had an appearance before the NM State Supreme Court (as an attorney, not related to the legislature), even though there is a Vice Chair who could have managed meetings on those days. It will be interesting to see if SJC schedules hearings for Saturday and Sunday this weekend and what bills make it to the agenda.
News In Brief
Today, we offer three News In Briefs that are connected in a strange way to the Roundhouse Session. The first describes how Wyoming, a state that currently receives HALF its state revenue from gas and oil, is nonetheless rapidly pivoting to wind energy, something we wish we would see more aggressively pursued in NM. We could come up empty in efforts to pass any of our 15 Transformational or Priority Bills focused on renewables or gas and oil regulation. At best we will get two or three of those bills into law. Yet Wyoming, one of the reddest states in the nation, is making the move to wind. We wish NM were half as interested in standing up to G&O.
In the second NIB we find Facebook seeking $6.1 BILLION at the same time that our allies Voices for Children are doing all in their power to get the legislature to cease investing its resources in huge out of state industries. FB earned $18 billion in profit in 2019 while paying Mark Zuckerberg $123M in compensation. Zuckerberg’s net worth is estimated at $105 billion. Yet FB needs Los Lunas to pony up billions so it can further expand its mega corporation.
In the third NIB, we focus on U.S. Rep. Katie Porter from California who last week stood up to a gas and oil lobbyist in a Congressional Hearing, something I am aching to hear just one NM state legislator do. Read on.
NIB # 1, From The NY Times: “Wyoming Coal Country Pivots, Reluctantly, to Wind Farms”. Wyoming currently receives HALF its state revenue from gas and oil and is nonetheless rapidly pivoting to wind energy. One Wyoming economist noted what we all know is coming to NM, end of gas & oil. And then a resident added a comment that the NM state legislature and Governor should consider: We are standing on the track and the train is coming.
“The old joke in Wyoming is all you need to use to go coal mining is a three-iron. People were told that coal will always be here, that these are lifetime jobs,” said Rob Godby, an economist at the University of Wyoming. “We’re at a crossing the Rubicon moment — it went from ‘It’s never going to happen’ to ‘Now it’s happening.’
And from one Wyoming resident:From NY Times: “Wyoming Coal Country Pivots, Reluctantly, to Wind Farms”
”You can stand at the tracks when the train is coming at you, or you can stand at the switch,” said Mr. Weickum, explaining his decisions to usher in wind during his tenure on the Carbon County Commission. “I chose to stand at the switch.”
The article goes on to show how Wyoming is now investing heavily in wind generation. How is it possible that bright red Wyoming can make a radical shift to renewables while in NM opportunities to advance renewable energy investment and opportunities stall year after year.
NIB # 2, From ABQ Journal: “Facebook seeks bonds to expand Los Lunas data center.” This is nothing less than astonishing. FB wants to expand its Las Lunas data center. They are seeking a $6.1 BILLION in bonds in six separate bond measures. While the project, if passed, would provide 200 short-term construction jobs, it would only create 30 new long-term positions. PLUS, FB computer systems require an enormous amount of water to cool their processing equipment.
“The industrial revenue bonds would provide real property, personal property, gross receipts, and compensating tax exemptions to defray part or all of the costs of the project which may serve to encourage economic development in the area. … In return for tax exemptions, the applicant would agree to an annual payment in lieu of taxes for each data center.”
Incentives approved in 2016 for the project called for the waiving of Facebook’s property taxes for 30 years in exchange for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan that begins with $50,000 a year after the completion of the first building, up to $100,000 per year after the sixth building is completed.”
FB is one of the most profitable corporations in the US. New Mexico is the poorest state in the nation. And we are supposed to subsidize their expansion with $6 Billion in bonds? Roxanne joked that we should just take the $6 billion and divide it between the 30 long-term potential employees. They’d each get $200,000,000 without working, or about what Zuckerberg probably makes every day.
Despite hundreds of letters to the Los Lunas Town Council, last night they voted to fund the FB project.
NIB # 3, From AlterNet: “‘Don’t patronize me’: Katie Porter tears into oil exec for claiming industry doesn’t get special tax breaks.” U.S. Rep. Katie Porter would have none of the badgering and belittling treatment afforded by Mark Murphy of Strata Production—a New Mexico-based oil and gas exploration company. Below, you will find an excerpt and a short video that shows the exchange.
“There seems to be a misconception out there that you’re operating from, that somehow the oil and gas industry benefits from some special sort of tax structure,” said Murphy, the president of Strata Production. “We don’t.”
Porter, a second-term congresswoman who has developed a reputation for her incisive grilling of corporate executives and government officials, swiftly undercut Murphy’s narrative, explaining: “You do benefit from special rules. There’s a special tax rule for intangible drilling costs that does not apply to other kinds of expenses that businesses have.”
“You get to deduct 70% of your costs immediately, and other businesses have to amortize their expenses over their entire profit stream,” Porter added. “So please don’t patronize me by telling me that the oil and gas industry doesn’t have any special tax provisions. Because if you would like that to be the rule, I would be happy to have Congress deliver.”AlterNet: “‘Don’t patronize me’: Katie Porter tears into oil exec for claiming industry doesn’t get special tax breaks.”
Man could we use a handful of Katie Porters in the Roundhouse.
Kind of a frustrating post to write and likely to read, so check out Katie Porter as she rocks the Congress.
Rep. Katie Porter Strikes Back
In Solidarity and Hope,
Paul and Roxanne