Reflections on 2019 Session & What We Do Next

While 2019 has certainly been more productive than the past 8-10 sessions; we've seen some very good bills pass and some very good bills die. We clearly have more to do. This post reflects on what happened and describes the next steps for Retake and hopefully for you.

We're Just Getting Started

First, we want to thank all of you for being part of the 2019 legislative session. We heard from many of you that this was the first time you felt so engaged and connected to state lawmaking, and we heard from lawmakers that your calls and emails and our bill summaries were a valuable counterpoint to the slick publications produced by industry lobbyists. They recognized our logo and our buttons and they heard our voices. And while we are proud of what was achieved, we are by no means finished. This is a long-haul process and this update will explain our next steps.

While many of you know Retake only via online communications from me and Roxanne, there are dozens of folks here in Santa Fe who played critical roles in making the Network advocacy possible. Special thanks go out to our other Leadership Team members: Lynne Fischer, David Thompson, and Saraswati Khalsa. A huge thank-you to Susan McGrew, who was at the Roundhouse most every day, greeting coordinators, providing direction, flyers, and buttons. To name more names here will only ensure we will overlook someone. There were dozens of Researchers who reviewed bills, wrote summaries, and researched counter-arguments to the false narratives presented by industry lobbyists. There were 10-12 Coordinators who organized the dozens of Advocates who attended hearings and offered public comment, and then hundreds of you who made calls and sent emails. A true team effort. 

Many very good bills were passed, and many were weakened with amendments but will still provide relief to those New Mexicans who have been ignored for a decade. We can't lose sight of this as we reflect on some crippling defeats and how to address the political calculus that governs the current Roundhouse.

Over the next few weeks, Retake Our Democracy will be sorting through the bills, amendments, votes, and advocacy/lobbying efforts that led to what we achieved and what we failed to achieve. We will publish our thoughts on the session in our Retake Our Democracy blog. If you don't yet receive the blog, click here to subscribe. In addition to analysis of the legislative process, the blog provides more in-depth analysis of political, economic, environmental, and social justice issues. Tomorrow, for example we take on the Democratic National Committee and their now explicit efforts to prevent challenges to Democrat incumbents who vote with Republicans as often as not. At the bottom of this email you will find summaries and links to each post published last week. I encourage those of you who are not subscribed to the blog to review them, particularly the post that covers the Public Regulation Commission's new lawsuit against PNM. It explains a good deal about what was really at work behind SB 489 Energy Transition Act.  

Next Steps

Report Card. Retake leadership is already at work on a Report Card that will be published in April. It will include a grid that shows how often each legislator supported or undermined any of our MUST PASS or Priority Bills. That is over 50 bills across issue areas.  But even in our initial analysis, we know we need to do more than this, so we will also create scores for each legislator on the MUST PASS and Priority Bills that were killed in committees or on the Senate or House floor. This will allow us to look at which legislators were willing to stand up for progressive legislation and which legislators were responsible for killing very good bills. 

We will also expose which committees, mostly in the Senate, were responsible for tabling or failing to hear our bills at all. Finally, we will identify Democrats who are responsible for defeating bills like HB 51 Abortion Decriminalization, and Democrats who consistently stood with industry lobbyists. We will identify Democrats who worked to weaken bills like HB 6 the tax reform bill, which was largely gutted of much of its most important progressive elements while retaining enough good measures to be viewed as a step in the right direction. Ditto the minimum wage, which gives New Mexicans a $12 minimum wage, albeit two years later and without a COLA. And we will also focus on where we suffered the most crippling defeats: energy and the environment, where we simply have no time for defeats or even modest proposals. The Report Card will expose all this and more. 

Network Survey. We will publish a survey of Network Members -- that means you. We want to get your input about  your experience of the Roundhouse session, how Retake alerts and other supports helped, and where we could have done better or more. In the survey we will also ask how you want to be involved between now and the 2020 session. We are not happy with some legislators whose legislative behaviors will be exposed in the Report Card. We plan to mount organizing efforts in their districts: issue-focused canvassing, voter registration drives, and efforts to expand our membership in those districts. Look for the survey to be published in the next couple weeks.

Celebration. We are planning a celebration on April 18, 6-9pm, at the Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Rd., Santa Fe. We will provide pizza and salad, and ask everyone to BYOB and BYO plates, drinking cups, etc, so we can minimize waste paper and plastic products. If you want to attend, please RSVP by writing to paul@retakeourdemocracy.org.

Debrief. The survey is part of our effort to obtain insight into how to do better, but we also are holding a debrief in Santa Fe in early May, date to be announced soon. At the debrief we will break into groups: 1) those who advocated at the RH; 2) those who worked behind the scenes researching and summarizing bills; and 3) those who responded to alerts with calls and emails. We will also hold a large group session where all comments and insights are welcome. 

NM Tour. This is still in the works, but Roxanne and I and perhaps other Retake leadership plan to visit Doña Ana County, Gallup, San Juan County, Taos, Española, Silver City, Albuquerque, and one or two other areas of NM. We want to meet with those of you who really want to be involved between sessions to do what we need to get done to achieve far greater success in future legislative sessions. In our survey we will ask whether you might help us organize visits to your community this spring, but you can also just write to us now at paul@retakeourdemocracy.org.

Research Into Bold Ideas to Advance Justice. Retake believes that while incremental gains are fine, when your state is 48th-50th in most good things, is a major contributor to climate disruption, and is all too dependent on gas and oil revenues to make a swift transition to a sustainable economy, then it is essential that we (and our legislature) move far beyond what is currently deemed reasonable.

We need to develop a set of bills ourselves, bills that are up to the challenges faced by NM, bills that force us to plan a sustainable path, free of gas and oil lobbyists and revenues. A first step in this research can be done by all of you. See below for the 8-part online course offered by the Next System Project. It begins today and it would be good for as many of you as possible to explore participating in the class. We will also send out requests for researchers to look into hemp production, public banking, bold tax reform, marijuana legalization, and other legislative strategies to free us from enslavement to gas and oil and other corporate industry interests.  

Interim Legislative Committee Meetings. While no bills are passed at Interim Hearings, these meetings are much less formal and encourage dialog between constituents and legislators. Between meetings, legislators are largely available for dialog. This is where we can begin to float some of our big ideas, bills in the making, and identify who is receptive and who has concerns. We can collect information on those concerns and consider whether they warrant modifications or strengthened advocacy. We will publish the schedule of Interim Committee meetings when they begin to be posted, usually in May. Interim meetings occur throughout the summer and early fall and are held throughout the state.

Local Advocacy. We want to explore ways that our network alert system can be used locally to help you advocate on local and regional issues. This will be a significant part of the conversation when we visit communities throughout NM.

2020 State Primary. We are beginning efforts to identify candidates who might want to run in 2020 primaries when we will have an opportunity to challenge incumbents who have been inconsistent or worse in supporting progressive legislation. We will keep you posted on these efforts, but we are working with an array of allies and will link our organizing efforts to campaigns as viable candidates emerge and as the primaries near. Bottom line: We can't expect better results if we are facing the same ideological calculations, particularly in the Senate. Stay tuned.

What you can do today, tomorrow, and this week

  • Enroll in Next System's new 8 week online course (see below).  
  • Make a contribution to underwrite our work. We will have significant costs as we move from legislative advocacy to community organizing. Click here to make a donation. Or mail a check to Retake Our Democracy, P.O. Box 32464, Santa Fe, NM 87594. We are 100% volunteers, but do have expenses and we do our best to be sparing in our use of funds.
  • Call your legislator and ask for a meeting to introduce yourself and discuss the session, to share your involvement with Retake Our Democracy, and to ask how you might be able to organize a Town Hall with your legislator(s). We can help you promote that event by sending notices to people in our Network who live in your district(s).
  • Write to paul@retakeourdemocracy.org if you would like to help us organize a visit to your community. We can't promise we can come everywhere, but we want to meet with as many communities as we can. 
  • Begin talking among yourselves, your friends, your neighbors, attend a ward meeting, find others who are concerned Democrats and tell them about your Roundhouse experience and ask them to get involved. Compile your own list of people who might help organize locally and encourage them to sign up for the Alert and the Retake Our Democracy blog.

That is enough for now. Below you will find a sampling of last week's Retake blogs after a description of the Next System online course beginning today. Stay tuned, expect a survey invite soon, and then a 2019 Roundhouse Report Card. And again, thank you for your advocacy and for the many kudos we've received throughout the session.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

Today, March 25, Next System Project 8-Week online class on system transformation.  A free online course starts March 25 that is a master class in movement building for a sustainable, democratic, and socially just political economy. The 8-week course, “Towards Co-operative Commonwealth: Transition In a Perilous Century,” is ideal for both newcomers and veterans to social change work, and participants can leverage the course material and instruction team expertise to advance their own projects and activist work locally. The course is presented by Synergia Institute, a cooperative of educators and practitioners committed to progressive system change, and the Canada-based Athabasca University.

The course is offered in two sections: Section 1 is 4 modules over 4 weeks starting March 25, followed by a 4-week intellectual pause to catch your breath from April 22 till May 20, and Section 2 starts another 4 Modules from May 20 to June 22.  If you are going to take the online course, please let me know (paul@retakeourdemocracy.org) as Next System Project is interested in collaborating with us if we have enough folks participating and if we develop plans to use what we learn to inform our advocacy going forward. I believe you can take the course at your own pace each week.

Part 1 – Four Weeks starting March 25

  1. Framing the Journey: Capitalism, Planetary Limits & The Struggle to Restore & Share our Common Wealth  [This looks particularly germane….a good start]
  2. Stewarding Land & Resources for the Common Good
  3. Ecological Resilience & a Just Food System
  4. Precarious Livelihoods: Pathways to Solidarity

Part 2 – Four Weeks starting May 20

  1. Democratizing Social Care: From Welfare State to Caring Society
  2. Democratic Ownership: Pathways to a Resilient Energy Future
  3. Democratic Financing Solutions for the Great Transition
  4. Synthesis: Building the Politics for Systems Change

Click here to enroll and for more info. Scroll to bottom of the page to enroll. It looks like the course requires 4-6 hours a week of reading and video review, but it isn’t clear if there is also some kind of podcast format or online discussion. I will keep you posted as the course begins. The content looks very good and germane to 21st century economic, political, and environmental challenges, but I must say those organizing and presenting the information appear to be lacking diversity. Still, Next System and its partner organization the Democracy Collaborative are tremendous at researching innovation in justice worldwide.

Retake's Roundhouse Advocacy Celebration:

Thursday, April 18, 6-9pm at the Center for Progress & Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Rd., Santa Fe. We will provide the food, you will bring something to drink and your own reusable plates, utensils, and drinking glass (we want a close to zero waste celebration). RSVP by writing to Paul@RetakeOurDemocracy.org. The only “cost” for admission is your RSVP, which is required to attend. We know Santa Feans are reluctant to RSVP for much of anything, but we are reluctant to buy food without knowing how many will be attending. YOU MUST RSVP FOR THIS EVENT as we are buying food and setting up tables. 

A Look Back at Last Week's Retake Blog: Threats to Food Sovereignty, Roundhouse Commentary, and a PRC Lawsuit Filed Against PNM 

Urgent Action Alert: HB2 Amendments Jeopardize Seed Sovereignty, Details on the Threat and Contact Info & Speaking Points: Wednesday, March 20. This is what happens in the last week or so of each legislative session: corporate lobbyists, well-versed in the nuances of the legislative process, wait until late in the game and insert sometimes as little as a phrase or sentence to undermine the intent of a bill and serve corporate interests. It happens repeatedly and never serves the public interest, as this post illustrates. Click here to read the full post.

Local Activist Ken Mayer Jailed, Held Without Bail in Ireland for Yet Another Courageous Act, Plus Comments on the Roundhouse Session & Other Actions: Friday, March 22. For decades, Ken Mayer has spent every Friday in a vigil against war on the corner of Cerrillos Rd. and St. Francis Dr. in Santa Fe. He has been arrested over 20 times in other anti-war protests. Yet at 82 years old, he managed to get onto an Irish airport runway with a banner protesting the airport being used as a fueling stop for arms headed to the Middle East. He was arrested and is being held without bail in Ireland and could face two years in jail before ever reaching trial. The post includes links for raising your voice in support of Ken. It also provides information on the Roundhouse session, a continuing theme—you may have noticed. Click here to read the full post.

Public Regulation Commission Files Suit Against PNM Offering Clues as to the Real Problems with SB 489 – Must Read: Sunday, March 24. Throughout the Roundhouse session, Retake called for amendments to SB 489 to prevent the artful evisceration of PRC authority to regulate energy generation in NM and to ensure PRC authority over the selection of replacement power when San Juan closes. The PRC’s suit filed last week makes clear that we were right in our concerns and provides other important lessons. This post took a good deal of time, combing through the full lawsuit filed. While legalese is not always reader-friendly, I tried to comb over the details, excerpt the most trenchant passages, and offer comment to help readers less familiar with the bill, the context of the PRC-PNM drama, etc. Click here to review the full post, something all subscribers should do. The post now includes a link to the full PRC lawsuit. It is only 16 double-spaced pages, and it exposes PNM’s motivation for supporting SB 489 and how it is intended to circumvent PRC authority.

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  • Linda Pafford
    commented 2019-04-01 00:25:02 -0600
    Thank you so much for your information services. It has made both taking action and sharing the process with others possible from our long distance from Santa Fe. I am excited that this will be extended to the Interim Committees and to be able to share your report card on our newest conservative Democrat Senator to his constituency. I hope you tour to Silver City happens when I can attend.
  • Sharon Eastvold
    commented 2019-03-26 08:37:54 -0600
    I appreciate all this information. I have made calls on as many bills as I felt confident on this session. I’m afraid my legislators are among the worst so I did not waste time contacting them. I did make calls to the Governor and felt that my call was registered. I’ll post the report card, when it comes out, on my Facebook page and help get that information around. I hope others do the same. Keep up the good work. I’ll help where I can.