We report on the progress of our MUST PASS bills and also shed light on some of the most important bills among our bills. We also weigh in on SB 489, Energy Transfer Act. This bill will be heard on Saturday in Senate Conservation. Between now and then, I am hopeful that those supporting the bill can meet with those who have concerns, including the PRC and its Commissioners.
House & Senate Floor Votes. We are finding that once bills pass through their hearings in either the Senate or House, they go onto what is called the Third Reading Calendar. While the bills are listed from top to bottom, that doesn't necessarily reflect the order in which bills will be heard. So, our daily alerts will list all our MUST PASS bills with links to speaking points, etc. for all bills on the Third Reading Calendar. They will be removed as they pass or fail.
Report on Status of All Our MUST PASS Bills. Many have written asking that we provide a central place where you can find out where the bills you care about are in the process. This seems important to us and while we are not quite ready to do this, we are setting those wheels in motion and plan to use the MP Bills page (where we list all the bills) to house this information. We will simply list the committees through which a bill passes and where it is headed next. That way you will be able to see where any bill is by just scanning this page. While we have dozens of volunteers, we simply do not have many folks who can manipulate the website and that has created a log jam on doing some thing we'd like to do.
Juggling Information Flow for Network Members Who Subscribe to the Retake Blog. I have been trying to avoid repeating information reported in our blog that goes out 3-4 times a week with what is placed in this weekly Roundup. I try not to repeat, but there is often information reported in the Retake blog that I feel it is important that Network members review. So, of course, I recommend subscribing to that blog. This past week is exactly why I recommend that Network members tracking MUST PASS bills subscribe to the Retake blog. This past week, we provided blogs with critical background information on SB 489 the Energy Transition Act, a heartfelt blog focused upon the recent school shooting in incident in Rio Rancho, and a blog on the vote on HB 398 Gas, Oil and Vented Gas Royalties where three Democrats flipped and tabled a critical bill. In this blog, we included the names and contact information for the three Democrats who voted to table and they have been buried with calls at their homes. This information was not included in Network Action Alerts. Each Monday, we provide links to all the bills published the prior week and so I am providing that here. If you subscribe, you've read them, but if you do not, I will repeat summaries like this with a link to our Monday blog so you can check out the posts without subscribing. Click here to view the Monday blog published this morning.
SB 489, Energy Transition Act, AKA Securitization, I have written about how important this bill could be for New Mexico and last week I wrote a post about problems with SB 489 that had been identified by national securitizaion experts testifying at the PRC and of PRC Commissioners. On Friday I interviewed Steve Fischmann, PRC Commissioner, about his concerns. The show aired on Saturday, Click here to listen to the interview with PRC Commissioner Steve Fischmann. Today I wrote a blog from Retake Our Democracy that included an entire email from PRC Commissioner Steve Fischmann. He laid out exactly his questions and concerns. Click here. This post also includes contact information for the Governor and bill sponsors asking them to hit the pause button and meet with representatives from the PRC to review amendment language. There is too much at stake to simply allow rhetoric carry the day. I've seen bills taabled for further discussion on the smallest of disagreements. Here we have a very fundamental difference: does the bill undermine PRC authority and allow unquestioned cost recovery or does it do the opposite. The devil is in the details.
On Friday,I was part of a meeting held at the Roundhouse focused on SB 489 The purpose of the meeting was to air concerns about the bill and see if there was shared agreement about the intended purpose of SB 489 and if there were a way to work together to strengthen it. Attending were representatives from NRDC, Sierra Club, Environment NM, 350,NM, Conservation Voters of NM, New Energy Economy and seven representatives of the impacted indigenous communities invited by NEE. These indigenous groups had not been consulted by bill authors and neither had NEE except in August before drafting began. NEE had laid out its concerns about the possible pratfalls in a bill like this back in August. Also present was Rep. Nathan Small, one of the bill sponsors. Three individuals involved with drafting the bill were also present. The meeting was facilitated by Bianca Sopoci Belknap, Co-Director of NEE and Earth Care.
The meeting lasted well over two hours and was largely very measured and solution focused. Bianca asked that we first try to clarify what were the intended purpose, goals and outcomes of the bill. Once this was surfaced, she sought affirmation as to whether there was anyone who disagreed with those goals and outcomes and we realized that we all agreed about the intended goals and outcomes. She then asked that if lawyers for NEE, representatives from the impacted communities, and/or PRC staff or Commissioners felt that the language in the bill would not support or might in fact undermine the shared goals of the bill, would those present who had been part of drafting the bill be receptive to incorporating new language to clarify or strengthen it. It was the charge of the group for NEE and others to work together to identify needed changes in the bill language to protect the authority of the PRC and to protect ratepayers and the public In only 48 hours, NEE completed amendments and forwarded it to the Governor, Party leadership and the bill sponsors.
There are a good many moving parts here and not much time. I suspect that in the next 48 hours we will know the degree to which the bill needs amendment (or not) and the capacity of both sides to reach agreement on any amendments needed. This is an important bill with good allies viewing the current bill version differently in important ways. A good starting point for negotiations is our shared agreement on what SB 489 goals and outcomes should be. Stay tuned. We are far stronger rowing in sync and that is the goal of these negotiations. Click here to read the post laying out the issues involved in this bill.
Food Tax Re-emerges as a Credible Possibility. As reported about ten days ago, there are good ways to reform New Mexico’s horribly regressive tax code. And there is Sen. Carlos Cisneros’ way. His tax bill has now been filed and while there are reports that it includes some good things, like adding a new tax bracket for high income New Mexicans and lowering the GRT statewide, it also resurrects the Food Tax. The chart at left illustrates the kinds of decisions low-income, working families must make each month when food is scarce. Additional taxes on food is obviously not going to help these people.This should be an absolute non-starter, dead in the water, no way proposal. But perhaps not.
Many GOP legislators and some Democratic Senators like J.A. Smith and Clemente Sanchez have voiced interest. Meanwhile, Senate Floor Leader Peter Wirth said he has asked senators not to draw a line in the sand before studying the various tax proposals. In response to a question about the Food Tax, Sen. Wirth stated: “It just gets hard to govern when you take things off the table,” he told the ABQ Journal. With all due respect for Senator Wirth, the Food Tax does not belong on the table. But there are rumors swirling that the Food Tax may wind up slipped into a tax reform omnibus bill in the last few days of the session. Look for a report on the food tax this week in our Retake blog and we will alert the Network about possible actions to oppose the Food Tax.
Less than Four Weeks to Go. We are in the home stretch. While most all our MUST PASS and Priority bills have advanced, some of yet to be introduced and a few appear for rough waters. I have noted a slight decline in the numbers at the Roundhouse in the past week or so and so I want to rally the troops. We have four weeks of hearings and votes to go. There aren’t scores of folks jamming the hallways trying to get into hearings. You can raise your voice and your face, your voice, your buttons, are all needed badly. In the post from Saturday (link at the bottom of this post), I described the impact that four of our economic justice bills WOULD (not could) have on tens of thousands of New Mexico families, those bills are the difference between living in a very vulnerable state of poverty, one illness, car repair, or job loss from predatory lenders, homelessness or hunger and having to watch your money but also being able to afford winter clothes, school supplies and auto repairs. That is a very important difference and you can help make that difference. The blog describing the impact of four of our MUST PASS bills is very illuminating. And you get a bonus as that blog also includes contact information for the three House legislators responsible for tabling the oil and gas royalties hike. Click here.
What’s more, we have climate bills, healthcare bills, education bills, early childhood bills, water and land bills all working their way through the Roundhouse and over the next month, they will need calls, emails and your presence in hearings. It is time to summon up the reserves. A whole lot of important things hang in the balance. Will you be part of protecting our planet and lifting tens of thousands out of poverty, or will you just watch from the sidelines, shaking your head and wondering why the legislators didn’t do their jobs. Let’s help them do their jobs for all New Mexicans. Sign up for the Statewide Alert and every day you will get a single email with information about out 29 MUST PASS bills and how to advocate for them. To look at our 28 MUST PASS and a growing list of Priority bills, click here. But before you do, JOIN the NETWORK HERE.
Today's blog also includes information on how you can raise your voice on with the BLM as today is the deadline for offering comment on preventing fracking in the area around Chaco Canyon. A link to this post was provided above under the discussion on SB 489.