We Thought We Were Done, But Special Session Looms in Two Weeks for Cannabis. Retake & ThinkNM Call to Include 36% Small Loan Rate

We review what got done, what didn’t, who to credit, who to blame, and what to do now, with a special session promised in two weeks. Plus we offer the five-act tragedy of The Gutting of SB 66.

What Got Done, What Didn’t, and Why

We will cover the five act tragedy, The Gutting of SB 66, after we recap how the 20 Transformational bills fared in this session. To be clear, this is an assessment of how our Governor and our Legislature did, not how Retake and its allies did because advocacy collective efforts this year were heroic and Democratic leadership had to have heard our voices:

Our allies were busy and effective::

  • Sierra Club and Camilla Feibelman deserve a special shout out, first for expanding the scope of their advocacy to include more social justice bills, and second for their team of advocates who peppered your in-box on a couple score of bills with updates when hearings were beginning, when a vote was being conducted, and when the results were in. Great job.
  • Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA) whose advocates offered public comment in every hearing I observed.
  • The indefatigable Kathleen Burke and Dick Mason from Fair Districts NM who never gave up on passing a redistricting bill even when it looked dead in the water.
  • New Energy Economy, always taking on the most difficult environmental challenges, pressed for amendments to the Produced Water Act and the Energy Transition and for passage of Local Choice Energy and Community Solar.
  • Mary Feldblum, Director of Healthy Security for New Mexicans Campaign, and Rep. Debbie Armstrong, for their heroic campaign to secure Junior bill funding from a dozen legislators, ensuring that the planning and design process would occur, despite Rep. Lundstrom’s attempt to kill the bill in House Appropriations.
  • NM Voices for Children for their extraordinary research, expert testimony and well-designed advocacy campaign to expand and increase the Working Families Tax Credit and Low-Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate and to close several ineffective corporate loopholes.
  • Think NM and NM Law & Poverty for their leadership in advocating for SB 66 Installment Loan Rates and the effort to limit installment loans to no more than 36%, all inclusive and with sufficient consumer protections to prevent hidden costs evading the 36% rate cap.
  • The folks at Alliance For Local Economic Prosperity for organizing such a compelling case for creating a public bank, only to find their efforts fall victim to a grossly misleading Financial Impact Report and yet another House Appropriations kill job, tabling the bill….AFLEP will be back.
  • The Green Amendment Steering Committee, which began its work in NM over a year ago and worked throughout the session conducting weekly Steering Committee meetings and lobbying behind the scenes with key legislators, only to have Sen. Cervantes thumb his nose at them and never call the bill for a hearing in Sen. Judiciary. The Green Amendment will be back.
  • Adelante Progressive Democratic Caucus, led by Athena Christodoulou, the new policy director, conducted weekly huddles and alerts often several times a day throughout the session, as well as always participating in Retake’s huddles and likely others.
  • Other grassroots organizations like Indivisible Nob Hill, Taos United, Progressive Democrats of America, Working Families Party, all engaged and activated their constituencies.

At Retake:

  • We published 45 Legislative alerts and 42 posts, most of which provided in-depth coverage of legislative actions (and inactions).
  • We conducted 8 Legislative Huddles with anywhere from 30-70 folks joining us each Friday afternoon to debrief.
  • Twenty-eight Retake volunteers observed 101 hearings, recording votes and comments made in opposition to bills we supported.
  • Retake leadership lobbied furiously with House Reps to commit Junior bill funding to ensure that the Health Security Planning and Design process is conducted despite Rep. Lundstrom refusing to hear the bill in House Appropriations and Finance.
  • Three Retake volunteers, Laura Riedel, Michael Sperberg McQueen, and Rich Weiner reviewed hundreds of bills looking for bills we might support and summarizing those with promise, a huge task.
  • The hundreds of you out there who every day wrote and/or called your legislators, attended hearings and raised your hands and voices. Thank you all so very, very much.

All of this work yielded some impressive results. But there were also some very bitter defeats, and it wasn’t that the advocacy conducted by Retake and our allies failed us, it is that some Democrats failed us. Again.

The Wins

Once again, we point to the importance of primary elections, as the majority of the Transformational bills that passed in 2021 would not have passed in 2020. We will do a much more detailed analysis in our 2021 Report Card. Ten wins, nine losses and one bill still on life support. Here is the Cliff Note version:

  • HJR-1 Permanent Fund for Early Childhood Amendment. PASSED
  • HB 7 / SB 10 Repeal Abortion Ban. PASSED
  • HB 12 Cannabis Regulation Act. Stalled on the Senate floor. Headed for Special Session, where it will certainly pass or the Governor would not be calling a special session. We’ll call it a win. TO BE PASSED
  • HB 16 Rural Opportunities Act. Morphed into a memorial and PASSED.
  • HB 20 Healthy Workplace Act AKA, Paid Sick Leave.  PASSED, although with considerable acrimony on the Senate floor and Sen. Ivey-Soto pretty much losing it.
  • HB 40 Private Detention Facility Moratorium Act. Killed in House Appropriations.  
  • HB 47 Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options. PASSED
  • HB 86 Native American Internet Library and Education. Killed in House Appropriations.
  • HB 149 / SB 66 Installment Loan Lending Rates. It may not be over yet. See our commentary below.
  • HB 203 Health Security Planning and Design. PASSED, despite efforts by Rep. Lundstrom to kill it by refusing to call it for a hearing in House Appropriations.
  • HB 207 Food Hunger and Farm Act. Killed in House Appropriations and Finance
  • HB 236 Public Banking Act. Killed in House Appropriations via tabling motion.
  • HB 291 Tax Changes. PASSED, albeit with a couple of bad amendments from Senate Finance.
  • SJR 3 Environmental Review Act (AKA Green Amendment). Killed in Senate Judiciary, never called for a hearing.
  • SJR 4 Review of Salaries Every Two Years, AKA Paid Legislature.  Killed in Senate Judiciary, never called for a hearing.
  • SB 83 Local Choice Energy.  Tabled in Senate Tax, Business, and Transportation with two Democrat Senators, Senator Hickey and Senator Padilla, voting with Republicans to table the bill.
  • SB 86 Use of Water in Gas and Oil Operations.  Killed in Senate Judiciary, never called for a hearing.
  • SB 112 Sustainable Economy Task Force. PASSED
  • SB 155 Energy Transition Act Changes.  Tabled in Senate Judiciary.
  • SB 15 Voting District Geographic Boundaries, morphed into SB 304. PASSED.

When you take on advocacy for transformational bills, you are not going to bat 100%. By all rights, we should be quite pleased with ten and maybe eleven bills passing, but that is difficult when nine very good bills were killed. Four of the nine were killed in Senate Judiciary and four in House Appropriations. In our Report Card, we will dive more deeply into the “hows” and “whos” involved in both the wins and the losses, as there is much to learn. But now, SB 66 Installment Loan Lending Rates or The Gutting of SB 66 in five acts.

The Gutting of SB 66 in Five Acts

Act I: Rep. Alcon Guts It. After sailing through the Senate and its first House Committee, SB 66 landed in House Judiciary, a committee with an 8-4 Democrat advantage. But Rep. Alcon spent an hour asking about 100 times: “What about the guy who has bad credit and needs $500 to fix his car?” Rep. Ely, bill Sponsor Katie Duhigg, and a representative of the credit unions answered these concerns by laying out that in other states with 36% cap rates only the unscrupulous predatory lenders would close up shop, and most installment lenders would continue to offer loans to the people about whom Rep. Alcon was concerned. Additional testimony from the credit unions added that they give thousands of loans of this type every day.

No matter, Rep. Louis and Rep. Cadena were clearly moved by Rep. Alcon’s angst. Then Rep. Alcon introduced an amendment in the most surreal manner of any amendment ever introduced: I don’t know anything about money. You should look at my checkbook and you’d understand. And I don’t know where I came up with setting the rate at 99%, but here is my expert witness who can explain for me. This is pretty much literally a quote. Note that tragedy includes comic relief.

Enter a predatory lending lobbyist to explain how this amendment would be a viable recourse to desperate New Mexicans with bad credit. Enter Sen. Duhigg who shreds the amendment through and through, ending by noting that not only would it allow rates of up to 99%, its removal of the anti-evasion clause would allow lenders to offer loans with unlimited rates.

In a stunning vote, Reps Cadena and Louis bought the lobbyists spiel and the bill was amended and then passed to the House floor. Bring on Act II.

Act II: Rep. Lundstrom Orchestrates a Coup, Et Tu Egolf? The screenplay for this act had no opportunity for ad libs. It was tightly scripted. Enter stage left: Rep. Patricia Lundstrom with a bright idea. Strip the amendment and offer the substitute of a 99% cap on loans under $1,000 because the poorest of the poor prefer a 99% interest rate than the 36% rate called for in SB 66. Like lightning, first Rep. Louis, then Cadena and then inexplicably, Rep. Hochman-Vigil all spoke out in favor of this plan. Rep. Herrera, strangely silent, also voted in favor of the resulting amended bill. But we weren’t done. The bill was further amended by Rep. Ely who asked that more NM get the opportunity to secure a 99% rate on a small, further amending the bill to allow 99% rates for loans up to $1100, instead of $1000.

Act III: A Chance for Redemption. The amended, or more accurately the maimed, bill was sent to the Senate for concurrence. No surprise here, it was roundly rejected and sent back to the House who had a chance to undo their travesty of justice and rescind their amendments. Nope. On to Act IV.

Act IV: Redemption Rejected. The bill was then sent to a Conference Committee where six legislators, three appointed by the Speaker and three by Senator Wirth, were to meet to try to reach a compromise. When Sen. Soules reached out to Rep. Lundstrom to schedule the meeting, she refused to meet. The legislative rules indicate that a Conference Committee is not something that only happens if Patty Lundstrom deems it worthwhile, it is something that must happen. Except it didn’t. And so the bill died and here we are at Act V.

Act V: The Final Denouement, To Pass or Not To Pass, That Is the Question. Thank God for marijuana. The Governor badly wants it to be legalized, but the session ran out time. Enter Act V, the special session and the last hope for SB 66. MLG is calling for a special session in two weeks to give the legislature the opportunity to address unfinished business: passing HB 12, the Cannabis Regulation Act. But she has signaled that she is open to putting other bills on the call and we feel there is other unfinished business.

But the Governor is clearly not going to put a bill on the call for the special session if she is not reasonably confident that it will pass. This is why she didn’t call a special session to decriminalize abortion two years ago. The DINO votes were still in the Senate. But now we have an opportunity to transform The Gutting of SB 66 from a Shakespearean tragedy into a comedy where all’s well that ends well.

Speaker Egolf has told us that he didn’t have the votes to pass a 36% cap rate, indicating there were 10-12 Dems who would not support 36%. But he also texted Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Milan Simonich: “My involvement in this at this point is zero.”  That is simply not a credible statement. Speaker Egolf is not a laissez-faire Speaker, he is a wheeler-dealer extraordinaire who claimed that there were 10-12 Dem. Reps who would not support a 36% rate cap. Of course, to know this he must have been working the phones and strolling the aisles to get a vote count. Frankly, Mr. Speaker, I do not believe you were not involved. Hell, you were texting me at 12:30 am asking me to rally progressive Dems in support of the Alcon-amended bill. I believe you orchestrated Act II, III and IV.

So, in Act V we reach one of those dramatic moments where all the various actors in this melodrama are exposed. If there are 12 Democrat Reps who oppose a 36% rate, then the bill is dead and this play ends tragically. But if there are thirty-six Democrat Reps who will support the 36% rate cap, then Act V can end well after all.

Our Strategy:

Act V. Scene I: Retake and ThinkNM are asking supporters to write to the Governor and ask her to put SB 66 on the call for the Special Session. As supporters, you form the chorus for this scene by calling and writing the Governor. You’ve been doing this for 60 days and now you have but one bill, one message, to one audience: The Governor.

Simple refrain: SB 66 Installment Loan Lending Rates would protect thousands of New Mexicans from predatory lenders. A Conference Committee was created to negotiate a bill that could pass both chambers, but it never met. If recreational marijuana is a priority for a special session, then certainly so is this. Please put this on the call for the Special Session.

Act V Scene II: Retake has created a poll we are circulating to all 45 House Democrats asking if they would support the 36% rate cap in the original SB 66. We need to make sure the Governor has some indication that the bill will pass. We will ask you to send a link to the survey to your Representative and ask firmly, but politely, for them to complete the survey by indicating that they support a 36% rate cap. It is a simple survey: one question. When you write to your Rep. indicate that we will view a non-response as opposition to a 36% rate cap.

Act V Scene III: A massive email / call campaign ensues, with allies asking all supporters to send emails and make calls to all Democrat Reps who have not responded to the survey.

Act V Scene IV: Special Session 2021. If the Governor puts SB 66 on the call, she apparently feels she has the votes. We watch together as this piece of theatre is transformed from tragedy to comedy and all’s well that ends well.

A Look Back at the Last Week of the Session

Fittingly, the Tuesday post listed below lays out exactly how SB 66 was gutted and who did Act I of its gutting. We’ve outlined Acts II and III of this theatre of the absurd. The remainder of the posts trace the events of the week, the legislative process and suggestions as to new directions, new advocacy strategies, and reforms to the legislative process.

SB 66 Predatory Lending Bill Gutted in Committee by Supposed Dem Progressives; Call To Action NOW To Save the Bill

Tuesday, March 16. We devote the entire post today to the mangling of SB 66, AKA Predatory Lending bill. For four years social justice advocates and legislators have worked to create a 36% cap on loan rates. Yesterday that effort was undermined by supposedly progressive Democrats. Read on!

Click here to read this full post.

Big Wins in the Roundhouse, But Some Bills Remain Stalled; Guest Piece on NM’s Lack of Regulation of Gas & Oil; Update on SB 66 AKA Predatory Lending Act

Wednesday, March 17. Today’s blog outlines in more detail why we need you to raise your voice in relation to cannabis, predatory lending, early childhood, and more.

Click here to read the full post.

Cannabis Moves to Sen. Floor; Predatory Lending Passes But Badly Compromised; Sen Judiciary Still Clogged; Many Good Bills on House or Sen. Floor

Thursday, March 18. Act II of The Gutting of SB 66 is presented here followed by examination of the fates of a few bills. When then took a deep dive into a press conference staged by Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero and environmental groups who were protesting how Senate Judiciary Committee and its chair Sen. Joseph Cervantes were holding up important environmental legislation. Our report also relied on work by NM Ethics Watch and an excellent piece from the Carlsbad Current Argus. NM Ethics Watch takes a deep dive into how campaign contributions and industry lobbyists influence the legislative process, and the Argus cites the NM State Legislative Handbook, which outlines how committee chairs are supposed to schedule bill hearings and secures comments from Senator Cervantes in reaction to the assertions made in the press conference. It is pretty easy to connect the dots.

Click here to review the full post.

Four Retake-Supported Bills Passed Thursday, 7 On Last Hurdle, SB 66 Predatory Lending Bill In Conference, Battle Lines Drawn

Friday, March 19. It was a fiery, late night again last night as Sen. Ivey-Soto and Sen. Stewart squared off on HB 20, the paid sick leave bill, ultimately passing the bill after 2 am.. The post laid out where all our bills stood and what you could do today to get them passed. We also explain how “concurrence” and “conference” processes work.

Click here to read the full post.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Local-State Government & Legislation

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2 replies

  1. I don’t see a link for the SB66 survey. I emailed and phoed the governor about this. Thanks for all your efforts.

  2. You missed your calling, Paul – you’re meant to be a dramatist!

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