Legislative Pinball; RIP Former Mayor Gonzales

A little more explanation of why we reversed our position on HB 6 Clean Future Act, which will be heard this morning at 8:30 in House Govt., Elections & Indian Affairs. (We now guardedly support HB 6, pushing for additional amendments.) Also, a brief tribute to Former Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales.

Mayor Javier Gonzales, Rest in Peace

On Wednesday during the House Floor Session, Speaker Egolf asked for a moment of silence for Javier Gonzales. The announcement stopped me in my tracks. I hadn’t seen him in a few years and had no idea he was ill. Over the years, I worked with Javier on a variety of issues in Santa Fe. We didn’t always agree, but Mayor Gonzales always made time to meet, talk, and listen.

One of my best memories of the mayor was his marching with me and a couple hundred others in Santa Fe in solidarity with Standing Rock. The march’s theme was to demand that banks divest from investing in fossil fuels. We marched from City Hall to the Wells Fargo branch in De Vargas mall. He and I walked together, and I held the microphone for him to address the crowd. RIP Mayor, you were an honorable man. The quote below from The New Mexican captures what he was about.

““With the time, certainly that I have in this world, I want to be able to make sure I’m putting every bit of effort into making sure where I can add value, where I can bring positive impact,” he said in an October 2020 interview with The New Mexican. “I want to be part of that.”

Santa Fe New Mexican

When Not in Hearings…

Every night, we wait until 7pm to send out our Alert with the most current info about Roundhouse hearings. Then we debate whether we should wait to send it until 6 am, as things change late into the evening. It’s more helpful for you to get the Alerts in the evening when you may have more time to send emails to legislators. But then we worry that we will likely have to send another Alert in the morning if things change. And so, we then worry that you will get over-Alerted. And that is the conversation each night at the Retake Central dining table. In such a rushed, confusing and ever-changing process, we are going to make mistakes, especially late in the evening and late in the session when we are running on fumes. Anyway, we thought you might want to understand better our process and thinking.

NOTE: For information on any of the bills we mention here, please go to our Bills We Support/Oppose page at this link.

So, when you decide to change your position on an important bill like HB 6 Clean Future Act at 7:45 am with the hearing scheduled at 8 am, it gets crazy. Post session, we want to rethink how we do this, as this system is not sustainable. It requires a 12-hours-a-day commitment for weeks and that is simply not doable over the long term. (And this doesn’t even take into account another dozen or so volunteers who are helping review bills, observe hearings, etc., and the many allies we depend on for advice and information.) I can’t tell you how glad we are that this is a short session. The thought of this going another 5-6 weeks is unbearable.

Much of my day is spent texting legislators and lead advocates, trying to line up support or opposition for key bills, while Roxanne researches talking points, tracks bill status, and prepares the next Alert. As an example of what our day can be like, on Wednesday, as soon as Roxanne sent out the Alert, rumors unrelated to the Alert began to circulate that:

  • HB 228 Hydrogen Hub, HB 6 Clean Future, and HJR 2 Green Amendment would be rolled from Wednesday to Friday…no confirmation (until last night), but I’m getting anxious because we can’t run two Zooms at once in our house, let alone three, because of internet challenges.
  • Next rumor: HB 6 might be tucked into HB 228 or vice versa, and other rumors countering this, saying that such a move made no sense, as there is virtually no support for hydrogen in the Senate, so if you want to pass HB 6, why saddle it with a sinking ship. But then I thought, this session has been lean on sense, and texted several good sources who nixed the rumor, while others continued to text that something was up… Of that we can be sure, but my bet is that HB 6 and HB 228 never merge. BREATHE.
  • Next rumor: HB 132, the loan cap bill limiting small loans to 36% has problems in Senate Judiciary, with two Dem. Senators rumored to want to kill the bill. Several texts later, both of those Senators nixed the rumor. BREATHE.
  • Next rumor: The HB 6 committee substitute that was used by Sierra Club and YUCCA to develop their positions on the bill was Doc. 222545.2 and the final version of the bill substitute is Doc. 222545.3, hence folk were working from an early bill sub. Given all that has transpired with the Hub, the rumor is credible. This revelation triggered a slew of emails among advocates, some of whom smelled a rat and others who dismissed this as something that no legislator would try. If committees routinely published committee subs, that would avoid this speculation and make available to the public the actual bill they may want to comment on. But, apparently, House rules prohibit the publication of committee subs until they are adopted. In the interest of transparency, this is a rule we need to change. I have frequently found myself offering comment on a bill where an amendment would be debated AFTER public comment. This makes no sense. The public deserves to have access to bill amendments or bill substitutes 24 hours before a hearing. Currently, the only folks who have access to these are insiders who can coax them from a member of the committee. This rewards insiders and excludes constituents. We still do not know with 100% certainty that our comments on the HB 6 committee sub are based on the most current substitute. But I chose to assume all was well. BREATHE .

It is unusual for me to spend so much time texting to sort out what is going on, but I do spend much of the day texting legislators in part to build relationships, in part to offer clarifying info to legislators who are unsure of their position on an important bill. And in part to build support and/or identify opposition among legislators and then communicate with advocacy allies to help develop strategy.

I am coming to the conclusion that devoting time to this texting is the most impactful work I do on many days. I think this experience will inform advocacy in future sessions, as both Roxanne and I have long felt that very often legislators enter a hearing already knowing how they will vote, unless some last-minute, earth-shattering development unfolds. To increase our effectiveness, more Retake folks need to cultivate relationships with their legislators year-round, and then as bills or concepts emerge, you can engage that legislator in dialogue well before the session begins.

The efficacy of this strategy was made clear in a committee hearing on Public Banking where, Rep. Javier Martínez noted that he supported a Public Bank in large part due to several meetings he had had with constituents who supported Public Banking. Clearly, the personal relationship facilitated a dialogue about a complex issue and resulted in an important legislator supporting Public Banking. It’s a combination of relationship building and education — giving legislators solid information on the issues. So we will work with Retake peeps who want to become Legislative Ambassadors, cultivating relations and meeting with their legislators well before the whirlwind of a legislative session.

We have noted many times how, during each session, we learn more about how to improve the effectiveness of our advocacy. Another example surfaced in our weekly Zoom Huddle Wednesday night. When asked how we could influence legislation and the budget more proactively, our guest, former State Senator Dede Feldman, pointed to the opportunity to build relationships with legislative analysts who are responsible for writing briefs on bills. By talking with them early, we can build relationships and share information on bills that we will be supporting.

That’s it for today. This may be the last post of the session, because I will be a texting fool for the next week. Please stay engaged.

In Solidarity & Hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Local-State Government & Legislation

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3 replies

  1. Many thanks for your good work! I REALLY appreciate all you do to keep us current so we can weigh in with our legislators. A tip from my sister who is a member of the CO state legislature: when I asked her what she felt was the most effective way to influence representatives, she said that individual (not group) emails, particularly if a related personal story is included, are THE MOST effective way to get your points across. She said that the problem with calls is that they are usually answered by staff & so legislators often do not get the detailed information or communication that they would otherwise get in a personalized letter.

  2. The Governor and O/G want 228 badly. On Friday I was thinking they would hold HJR2 (Green Amendment) hostage until they get their right to continue polluting NM with more methane. It is imperative all dems and progressives watch the presentation on Hydrogen Energy presented by Tom Solomon of 350NM. Please watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LI0tedF_1pk for at least the first 45 minutes. This entire Hydrogen project is a SCAM. ps watch for the professional ad to appear soon on your telly promoting this boondoggle. And then call the Governor at 505-476-2200 and tell her NO HYDROGEN in NM

  3. Paul you may be aware of this take on hydrogen hubs
    Good morning. This is The Weekly Planet, a newsletter about climate change from The Atlantic.

    First: Biden’s plan to save the planet—by bringing back manufacturing en masse. Then: An ominous warning of sea-level rise.

    You can read this edition online. Did someone forward you this newsletter? Sign up here.

    The White House Is Going After One of Climate Change’s Thorniest Problems
    It is one of the strangest feelings that modern transportation can afford: You’ve just gotten on a train and are gazing out the window. And then, slowly, the scene outside begins to move, and for a split second your mind cannot tell whether the train is moving or the world is.

    I wonder if President Joe Biden, who as a senator used to commute from Delaware to Washington, D.C., on Amtrak, is feeling like that right now. For the past year, his administration has pursued an ambitious plan to prepare the United States for the risks of the 21st century: Biden wants to fight climate change, reinvigorate American industry, and get ready to compete—economically, culturally, perhaps even militarily—with China. But he has been frustrated by a different kind of economic upheaval. The outside world—coronavirus variants, supply-chain snarls, scorching inflation—has stymied many of his goals, even while Biden has overseen the strongest economic growth since 1982. It doesn’t help that Congress’s ongoing failure to pass the Build Back Better Act has kept Biden from bringing much of his decarbonization plan to fruition.

    But a set of recent announcements shows that Biden’s biggest ambitions for the climate and the economy are not quite dead yet. Yesterday, the White House unveiled a slew of policies aimed at overhauling the U.S. industrial sector in order to reduce its planet-warming carbon pollution. Many of the policies have bipartisan backing—they were authorized in last year’s infrastructure bill. These policies are a big deal because they could help solve one of decarbonization’s thorniest problems: how to make steel, concrete, chemicals, and other major industrial products in a zero-carbon way. These products typically rely on fossil fuels to generate intense heat or provide a raw-material input, which is part of why the industrial sector is responsible for more than 20 percent of global emissions.

    However crucial these policies are for the planet, they are arguably even more important as a matter of political economy. They signal a profound and bipartisan change in how the federal government presides over the economy: In order to bring new technologies to market, Washington is willing to act as an investor, matchmaker, and consumer for fledgling innovations. It will design markets to serve public needs, cut loans that banks won’t write, and ensure competition among linchpin firms. The government, in short, is ready to care about stuff again, the real-world economy of flesh and steel. That it is furthering its climate and China goals at the same time is exactly the point.

    To understand why, look at the first of these policies: By the middle of this decade, the government will spend $9.5 billion to boost hydrogen production in the United States. Hydrogen can play many roles in the quest to decarbonize industrial products, because, like fossil fuels, it can generate intense heat and store chemical energy. The Department of Energyaims to cut the cost of making hydrogen with renewable electricity at least 80 percent by the end of the decade. That’s about when it would become price-competitive with oil, gas, and coal, according to the consulting group Wood Mackenzie.

    In the past few decades, the government might have tried to reduce hydrogen’s cost by funding academic research and development efforts on new technologies. (Even the most conservative presidents have supported pure R&D, because companies have no incentive to conduct pure science.) Yet most of the newly announced money—some $8 billion—will go not to R&D or research grants, but to actually building factories. The Department of Energy will construct four “Hydrogen Regional Innovation Hubs” across the country. This reflects a view that technological progress emerges not from basic research alone, but from scientists, engineers, and workers solving problems together. As the economic analyst Dan Wang has written, that kind of collaborative process used to be what made Detroit and Silicon Valley special; in recent years, China has tried to emulate that magic by building its own technological clusters. Now the U.S. is reviving its old approach.

    You can see another new approach in the Department of Energy’s $1 billion project, also announced yesterday, aimed at bringing down the cost of hydrogen electrolysis, the process of using electricity to split water into its constituent oxygen and hydrogen. Instead of funding only early-stage research, the project allows the DOE to intervene at any point in the technology’s path to market in order to bring down the cost of electrolysis.

    Those policies focus on increasing the supply of hydrogen in the economy. Another set of policies in the package will try to create demand for zero-carbon industrial goods. The federal government is, after all, one of the world’s biggest consumers, buying $650 billion of goods and services a year. The Biden administration is creating a “Buy Clean” task force that will use the government’s power to help bring low-carbon steel, concrete, and asphalt to the market.

    If these enticements help a low-carbon concrete maker come to market, the ramifications would be huge: The world’s appetite for concrete is voracious—we produce 30 billion tons of the stuff every year—and concrete making alone is responsible for 5 to 10 percent of annual global CO2 emissions. An American firm would have a major advantage if it was the first to market with a zero-carbon concrete.

    Finally, one of the most important efforts—and the one most likely to fly under the radar—is that the new Buy Clean task force will begin to calculate the carbon emissions “embodied” in various industrial products from American companies. It will ask, in essence, how much carbon pollution was emitted to make a ton of steel from a certain refinery in Ohio, or a ton of cement from a plant in Alabama. Although this may sound like an accounting exercise, it is a necessary precondition for the Biden administration’s ambitious trade policy. The American industrial sector is less carbon-intensive than that of virtually any other country (except the European Union’s). Last year, that relative climate friendliness allowed the White House to broker a “green steel deal” that gave American steelmakers access to the European market despite the U.S.’s lack of any carbon price. But in order to cut more of those deals, the government must know the emissions embodied in various goods.

    Not all of these industrial policies are new. The ones that stoke demand are some of the oldest innovation-boosting plays in the government’s book. Decades ago, they were used to establish American industries in semiconductors and solar panels. But they fell out of discussion until Operation Warp Speed, the Trump-era program that successfully developed COVID-19 vaccines within a year, demonstrated their efficacy. The Biden administration is trying to build on that success.

    More broadly, this package is trying to solve the problem of how American climate policy should relate to the world. The thing is, when Republicans point out that the U.S. emits only 11 percent of global green-house-gas pollution each year, they’re right (although their follow-up point, that therefore the U.S. should give up on fighting climate change, is dead wrong). The U.S. cannot solve climate change by itself—no country can.

    Still, Washington can make decarbonization far easier and cheaper for the world. America remains the global hegemon—culturally, financially, technologically. When poorer countries are “developing,” they are, the assumption goes, developing to become more like the United States. Our superpower status has, with some exceptions, generally been a disaster for the climate: We have exported our car-centric transportation system abroad, extracted resources at terrible expense, and encouraged the global economy’s oil dependence. In the 2010s, SUVs—another quintessentially American cultural export—were the second-biggest cause of rising climate pollution.

    But if the U.S. is able to establish what a new zero-carbon lifestyle looks like, if it is able to develop competitive zero-carbon industries, if it is able to spin up green vortices, then that too will shape the rest of the world’s development. And if the U.S. can sell some of its zero-carbon industrial goods to other countries to help them build net-zero energy systems, buildings, and transportation networks? Then the Biden administration—or any future climate-concerned presidency—would really have some options.

    Biden’s plan, of course, could still fail. If Senate Democrats fail to broker a deal over the essential climate provisions in the Build Back Better Act, broader defeat for Biden’s agenda will be very likely. And even if some legislation gets through, Biden’s hand is still not ideal. If it turns out that Americans are too wedded to the status quo—if nobody actually wants to live by zero-carbon industrial infrastructure, such as power plants, solar farms, and transmission lines—then the plan will fail. Biden may yet move the world. Or the world could move him.

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