Things have heated up considerably. On Friday we had four MUST PASS bills being heard in four different 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. hearings followed by two afternoon hearings with two more of our MUST PASS bills being heard. And then on Saturday, we had another two hearings for MP bills. While all that was going on, interminable GOP-generated debate and childish filibuster tactics extended floor votes on gun violence prevention, abortion, minimum wage and other important bills. Things are getting testy between GOP and Dem leadership. But the big news of the week is the introduction of four energy bills: SB 489 Energy Transition Act (AKA securitization), SB 492 a competing (and far better) securitization bill; SB 374 Local Choice Energy; and SB 459 Hydraulic Fracturing Permits and Reporting, a four year pause on the issuance of fracking permits statewide. Battle lines are being drawn.
There are no new alerts for tomorrow. The Senate and House have announced the schedule for the next few days, but that is updated and revised daily. We will send out an alert tomorrow to update you on Wed-Friday hearings.
MUST PASS Bills Update. SB 374 Local Choice Energy has been added to our MUST PASS list and the four-year statewide fracking 'pause' has also been added, although we still have not completed that summary. We are working as fast as we can, but a good deal is converging at once. We also have developed a list of Priority bills and we will have bill summaries for eleven of those bills up on the website tomorrow.
All of our 27 MUST PASS bills continue to move, as do a good many other excellent bills on related topics. For example, all the bills related to voter registration and campaign finance disclosure continue to move, as do all the gun violence prevention bills. While floor votes in the House show some small cracks in Democratic Party solidarity, with a 46-24 majority in the House, those cracks have not caused any bills to stall. In the Senate the battle will be much tougher, as the Dem majority is only 26-16 with 6-8 of those Dems being far more moderate and more inclined to flip. This is especially important in committees such as Senate Rules where Senators Papen and Clemente Sanchez both voted against the Public Bank memorial, leading to a 5-5 vote in Senate Rules and a bill that is now dead in the Senate.. This could be the fate of other of our MUST PASS bills unless we provide strong constituent pressure at Senate hearings and via phone and email.
GOP Stall Tactics. While HB 51 Decriminalize Abortion and HB 87 Domestic Violence and Firearms Possession both managed to get through the House vote, the votes only were held after legislators and those in the gallery had to endure listening to interminable questions from GOP legislators. The same tactic will be used with HB 31 when it is finally called to a vote and discussion on the House floor. We have been told that due to a death in the family of HB 31 sponsor's Miguel Garcia, HB 31 will not be heard until Friday at the soonest, so you can continue to contact your House Rep on that bill.
It is so tiresome to sit through one repeat question after another, but in truth, it is the only tool the GOP has. By endlessly repeating the same questions or making lengthy statements of opinion that have no bearing, the GOP is able to delay the entire legislative process. The GOP has also been using another tactic of staying in GOP caucus well after committee hearings were to begin. This delays the start of a committee hearing. One promising Democratic response to the caucus delay tactic was used by Rep. Gail Chasey. She simply began her Judicial Committee hearing without the GOP. Magically, the caucus ended shortly after the Committee began the hearing and the GOP entered en masse.
The Network and Action Alerts. We are having to draw the line and set a 5:30pm hard deadline for our waiting for the House and Senate to update hearing times for the following days. Last week, some updates occurred after 7pm and one occurred at 11:30pm. It is just not reasonable to be waiting that long to send alerts. If something HUGE is announced after 5:30pm we will send out an alert the next morning.
With the action beginning to shift to the Senate, it is vital that we have constituents of Senators raising their voices and telling their Senators that they have their back if they vote to advance our MUST PASS bills. If you know people in other parts of the state who may be interested in advocating from home, please share this post and encourage them to JOIN the Network. Our system is in place, we just need more members at the RH and calling and emailing from homeespecially in those Senate districts where flips occur.
In the next day or so, in our alerts we are going to begin posting the city or county covered by each district. For those who live in large population centers like Las Cruces, ABQ, and Santa Fe, we will encourage you to write to any legislator who lives near you with the message being something like: "I live in ABQ, am a very active Democrat who donates, canvasses and calls for good Democrats. I strongly support SB XX because [insert reasons ] and am hoping you are supporting the bill, as well. If not, I'd like to hear your reasons. Thank you for your service." We have large numbers in Santa Fe, ABQ, Las Cruces and Taos and with this strategy we can really deliver a strong message to key legislators.
Retake Our Democracy on KSFR 101.1. FM. This past week, I became a Roundhouse Roving Reporter for KSFR and using a portable mic and recorder was able to interview two legislators on key bills that had just been introduced. I interviewed Sen Sedillo Lopez about her introduction of SB 459, a bill that would prohibit the issuance of new leases to frack throughout NM. With Sen Steinborn, first we spoke about his ground breaking energy bill, SB 374. This bill would allow jurisdictions and tribes to develop or purchase their own energy and essentially break NM utilities monopoly. We also spoke about SM 4, the Public Banking Memorial that was defeated in Senate Rules Committee as described above. I have been told by those who heard the show (it airs on Saturday at 8:30am) that the interviews were very compelling and relevant, so I provide a link to the podcast here.
Securitization. SB 489 Energy Transition Act has been introduced and Retake and others have serious concerns about the bill. Our Research Team is hard at work developing a summary describing those concerns and we will share them with the bills sponsors and the environmental groups who support this bill. We agree completely with the expressed goals of securitization: facilitate a just transition, ensure remediation of damage from coal mine and coal plant operations, and replace the lost power by increasing significantly our commitment to renewable energy.
We don't want to do a public vetting of issues before having conversations with sponsors and allies who were at the table developing this bill. But our close reading of SB 489 is that there is a good deal of room for improvement. Our biggest objection is that the bill offers PNM 100% of their claims for cost recovery and that the cost of that recovery is entirely borne by ratepayers instead of splitting the costs between ratepayers and shareholders. But we have other issues, as well. This is such a complicated bill and we respect that there are many moving parts to manage in trying to achieve a good securitization bill. But we don't feel the bill as it is written, sufficiently addresses a wide variety of issues that we feel could still be addressed with amendments. We are trying to be even handed here, as we realize that a long list of environmental organizations support this version of the bill. They are honorable people and we want to withhold judgment until we have had more time to study this bill and its alternatives. Stay tuned.
Green New Deal. Retake Our Democracy has written a good deal about the Green New Deal in our blog. I am sure you've read a good deal about it as well. Click here for a Retake post from December that outlines the goals of the Green New Deal and has a link to the full plan. It is a worthwhile read. At this point, the GND is a concept with a reasonably well-spelled out set of goals and strategies, but now needs to implement a process to obtain input from advocacy groups, stakeholders and impacted communities and turn a ten year concept into a ten year plan. US Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey have introduced a Congressional Resolution to do just that. While dismissed by many centrist Democrats, most prominently Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the resolution is sponsored by nine Senators, thirty House Representatives (including Deb Haaland) and several announced Presidential candidates. But neither of our NM Senators, nor our other two US Reps, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small have agreed to be sponsors. We need to tell them that they should. We are providing the contact information below so you can raise your voice.
Contact information for our US Congressional representatives is below. I’d encourage you to call and to email them. I participated in a Sunrise Movement online meeting where Naomi Klein and the young leaders from Sunrise laid out a plan to pressure our legislators beginning now, asking them to sponsor the GND Resolution and then on Feb 28, to show up at their offices and insist that they do so. We will keep you posted on that plan.
Contact Info for Our US House and Senate Representatives. We will post local office addresses next week.
The NM Blue Tsunami was an expression of a majority of New Mexicans seeking substantive change. The GND represents a framework for just that kind of change. Yet, only one of our five elected officials in DC has endorsed the plan. Time to let them know how we feel.
Tom Udall, US Senate
- (202) 224-6621
- Link to email form: https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/?p=contact
Martin Heinrich, US Senate
- p: (202) 224-5521
- Link to email form: https://www.heinrich.senate.gov/contact/write-martin
Deb Haaland, Congressional District 1 [Send her a note of thanks and encourage her to speak with her NM colleagues]
- P:(202) 225-6316
- Link to website and email contact form.
Xochitl Torres Small, Congressional District 2
- Phone: (202) 225-2365
- Link to website and email contact form.
Ben Ray Lujan, Congressional District 3