The Legislators weigh in on the 2021 Session
Cheryl Frank explains that if PVA were meeting in person, we would have invited our local legislators to tell us about their experience (what really happened!) during the 60 day legislative session. And of course, we would’ve had a chance for a lively Q & A (next year for sure, right?). Instead, the PVA executive committee invited all the local legislators to tell us about their experiences in this recap! We heard back from several, and you can read their accounts below.
Rep. Angelica Rubio gives us the lowdown on the legislative session
Rep. Angelica Rubio gave us a total rundown of what she’s been up to. She tells us of her work to diversify our economy here in New Mexico, especially when it comes to moving away from our dependence on oil and gas and other exploitative industries. She also worked on Paid Sick Leave, the Climate Solutions Act, Housing Modernization, salaries for state legislators, broadband and connectivity, Healthy Food Financing, and ending the private prison industry. Angelica was appointed to chair the Transportation, Public Works and Capital Improvements, which is a critical committee.
For more information, follow Angelica on Facebook.
Rep. Doreen Gallegos reflects on the legislative session
House Majority Whip, and District 52 Representative, Doreen Gallegos wanted to share her reflections of the 2021 Legislative Session, which she says was like no other. “The Session began on January 19th at noon. When we arrived the Capital was surrounded by a fence and there were checkpoints monitoring who was allowed into the building. The House members participated in-person the first day. We were sworn in, assigned our committees and changed the rules so that we could do most of our work virtually. As part of Leadership, I worked in-person for the floor sessions. We had several new members and as the Whip I had to help them prepare to present their bills and walk them through the process. All of our House members did an amazing job!! There were technical glitches; problems getting up to date information but we kept working through the process and I couldn’t be more proud of our Caucus.
Even though the Capital was closed to the public due to the pandemic we had over 19,090 New Mexicans participate virtually in the House from communities statewide.
Despite all the challenges we had many accomplishments! The New Mexico Legislature passed several important and monumental bills. We made great strides in addressing Pandemic Relief and Recovery, created economic opportunities for hardworking New Mexicans and made quality health care more accessible. We also put our money where our mouth is and our budget reflects New Mexican values.
Through Capital Outlay I was able to allocate over one million dollars for local projects throughout my District and Doña Ana County. I am always so proud to represent District 52 and appreciate PVA for all your support. I look forward to meeting with you all in person when it is safe to do so. I wish you all good health and happiness.”
For more information, contact Rep. Gallegos.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes reports on the legislative session
Senator Cervantes says, “As we witness the George Floyd verdict, and hear calls for changes in the law, this session I sponsored and passed the New Mexico Civil Rights Act in the Senate, and worked alongside the House sponsor Speaker Brian Egolf. New Mexico is now the first state to eliminate the doctrine of qualified immunity. For decades this federal doctrine required courts to dismiss lawsuits against abusive force committed by law enforcement and in our prisons, and based on this immunity from suit. Despite the strong opposition from all city and county governments concerned with their liability, our new Civil Rights Act now guarantees the protection of civil rights in our state courts, and by our local juries.
My primary work this legislative session was as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The SJC is the final committee assigned to debate legislation with realistic chances of being enacted, and is comprised of most of the lawyers serving in the Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee was assigned over 200 bills, heard over 100 of those bills, and then together with my staff lawyers, SJC substantially rewrote those bills which ultimately passed and became law. SJC was responsible for writing the major policy legislation including liquor reforms, legalization of marijuana, medical malpractice, control of healthcare costs, guaranteed sick leave, and the new Civil Rights Act.
The complex work done by the entire SJC on landmark policy, and the time required by that work, meant some bills were not heard. The work required was more than the committee could commit. But with our SJC work the Governor was ultimately required to veto few bills.
It was a challenging session, and as SJC Chairman gave me the opportunity to work on and shape most of the consequential legislation introduced.”
For more information, email Sen. Cervantes.
Rep. Joanne Ferrary & the guardianship bill (a hot topic!)
In last month’s recap Rep. Joanne Ferrary reported on her work on HB 234: Strengthen Guardianship Provider Oversight, which creates new oversight over professional guardians and conservators, provides increased resources to the office of guardianship and expands oversight, and introduces a pilot guardianship monitoring program.
Highlights of what HB234 will include:
- Establishes Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS)
- Court visitor pilot project
- Least-restrictive options required during every step of the guardianship process
- Requires State Auditor’s office to review every conservator’s report
- Creates a division within the Administrative Office of the Courts to review every guardian’s report
Some of the challenges:
- Ensuring WINGS is a productive vehicle for effective guardianship reform
- Ensuring the court visitor project is successful and can be expanded so that every guardianship case is reviewed annually across the state
- Ensuring the courts honor the least restrictive considerations required by law.
How we can ensure this legislation is actually enforced:
- Refer individuals who are experiencing injustice in the guardianship system to Disability Rights New Mexico
- File guardianship grievances (anyone can do this)
- File judicial complaints
- Get involved with WINGS
- Get involved with the Office of Guardianship’s education and training efforts
For more information, contact Rep. Ferrary.
Sen. Carrie Hamblen provides up to date news from her time in Santa Fe
Senator Hamblen says, “This session was unusual, to say the least, and was an experience I will never forget. From virtual committee meetings to specific days on the floor to read bills, to long nights in debate, it is an understatement to say it was very unique. For this freshman senator, it was a fascinating experience to have and be part of.
When I campaigned for the District 38 Senate seat, there were several issues I promised to address and support in the upcoming session. Repealing the 1969 Abortion Ban, allowing the residents of New Mexico to vote on using a small percentage of the Land Grant Permanent Fund to support Early Childhood Education, and the legalizing of adult use cannabis which will help us diversify our economy. I am proud to say those were accomplished.
Although these were not pieces of legislation that I solely sponsored, it was an honor to be able to provide a Yes vote for legislation that has been years in the making and will impact so many New Mexicans.
Other legislation that I had the honor to support was the Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act, allowing individuals to die with dignity after suffering from terminal illnesses. It was also an honor to be the Senate Sponsor of HB 10, the Broadband Development Division, which provided the infrastructure for rural and tribal communities to be at the top of internet connectivity efforts throughout the state.
There are bills that I sponsored that didn’t make it through this time, like the Healthy Foods Financing Act, the Gender & Sexual Orientation Data Bill, and others but I am certainly excited about bringing those forth again in the next session.”
For more information, email Carrie.
What is new at the Las Cruces Municipal Court?
Municipal Judge Joy Goldbaum wanted to share a couple of updates at the City’s Court.
- Homeless Court is stalled by the pandemic because it requires close personal contact with participants. It remains a high priority for Municipal Court.
- DWI/Drug Court. Municipal Court has partnered with the Doña Ana Magistrate Court on the DWI/Drug Court launched by the Magistrate Court. Currently 15 of the 26 participants in this Court were referred from the Municipal Court.
- Dress Code for entering the Court has been abolished. All people seeking entry to the Court are permitted, unless their clothing contains profanity. Otherwise, it’s “come as you are” to accommodate all socio-economic levels. People wearing shirts with profanity are asked to turn them inside-out before entering Courtroom.
- Amnesty Day for Failure to Appear and Failure to Pay warrants. The previously scheduled event had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. However, individuals with warrants can come to Court to address them without being arrested.
- Court Operations. We continue to operate on a nearly normal basis. Windows are open for payment and to answer questions. Most hearings are conducted virtually on the Go To Meeting platform. The public can attend hearings through that platform (call the main Court number—575-541-2224–to get the call number and access code).
For more information, call the Court at 575-541-2224.
New Group Forming for CD2
A group of activists from Southern New Mexico is organizing to turn Blue Congressional District Two in 2022. The group, Blue CD2 NM, is made up of volunteers from nearly every county in the district with the goal of supporting Democratic candidates and programs district wide. The group’s purpose is to highlight specific programs that have benefitted families, businesses and communities in CD2. They also will focus on Rep. Yvette Herrell’s destructive actions and how they have harmed the district. The group pledges to support the Democratic nominee to replace Herrell as representative.
Those interested in participating in the group should contact Rochelle Williams.
State Public Bank of New Mexico Update
Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity team members met recently to plan for a renewed and invigorated campaign for a state-owned public bank. AFLEP is enlivened by the prospect of meeting with allies and legislators in person in the coming months to explain how a public bank will benefit New Mexico’s struggling economy and bring more equity and opportunity to our communities.
They will develop additional financial lending details to demonstrate how a public bank will support boosting our economy with emphasis on agriculture, food production and outdoor recreation, as well as with the transition to renewable energy. Finally, they will continue to show the ways a public bank can work with local banks to support our traditional small business sectors, provide financing for much-needed infrastructure improvements, and help our farmers to survive the burgeoning mega drought.
For more information about what a public bank can do for New Mexico, visit www.aflep.org.
Can you live without plastic grocery bags?
Mark Cobb was pleased to see that our City Government is considering a ban on plastic grocery bags. “Sometimes I wonder why it takes so long for national government to take the lead. Environmental engineering was not my focus of study during my college years, but don’t you think that those that had the major would have had the foresight to envision the horrible affect on the environment that those bags now present? They do not deteriorate for generations of years. Not only is it common to notice them stuck onto Russian thistle or on the ground during a local drive, but I can remember seeing them 60-80 feet under water on the Great Barrier Reef in 1987. Hats off to our local government’s action!”
For more information, contact Mark.
Vaccinations in Las Cruces and other border communities
Paul Dulin, former Director of the Office of Border Health and a manager of numerous vaccination campaigns, raises questions about the low priority assigned to Doña Ana County, Las Cruces, and other border communities in the state’s vaccination campaign. He points to El Paso’s high infection rate and the spread of COVID through border points of entry as factors that should have ensured a higher vaccination rate along the border than we have experienced. He is concerned that this lack of attention to the border may continue, including in future surges that may occur.
RoadRUNNER Short Range Transit Plan & a survey for you
Charlotte Lipson wanted to get the word out about the City of Las Cruces RoadRUNNER Transit and the Mesilla Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (MVMPO) partnering with Alliance Transportation Group, Inc (ATG) to update the Short Range Transit Plan (SRTP). The SRTP is a 5-year plan that will create clear goals and a vision to improve transit in Las Cruces and surrounding areas.
One of the most critical components of this process is public engagement, and we need to both take RoadRUNNER’s public input survey and to share that link through email, social media, or any other means we have available. The results of this survey will directly influence the future of transit in the Las Cruces community.
For more information, contact Charlotte.
Legislative environmental progress
E. Shirley Baca reports that this past Legislative Session, she had the privilege of being a Democratic Analyst for the Senate Conservation Committee. “As we celebrate Earth Day, let’s give “kudos” to our own legislators for their efforts to make our earth a little healthier by passing: Electric Generation Project Requirements, and Local Government Air Quality Regulations (Rep. Small). Other legislation that didn’t make it but carried strong support was; Game & Fish & Wildlife Changes (Steinborn/Small), Narrow Landowner Animal Takings (Steinborn) Ratepayer Relief Act(Soules), and Increase Penalties for Enviro Violations (Steinborn). Thanks to these legislators who keep conservation and the environment at the forefront every day!!”
For more information, contact Shirley.
Drive-through food drive
PVA in Laramie, Wyoming going strong
Don Kurtz reports that he attended the PVA Meeting in Laramie, Wyoming on April 20. Marian and Jim Erdelyi, who spend a few winter weeks in Las Cruces every year, formed their own PVA a couple of years ago, and it is proceeding actively during the pandemic through a monthly Zoom meeting. Don reports that the meeting was very well-organized and dynamic, with a large range of speakers taking their two minutes on key state, local and national issues. Like our own group, the participants are do-ers, and what they are accomplishing was very impressive and inspiring. We are all cordially invited to join one of their monthly hour-long meetings, which are held at 7 pm on the third Tuesday of every month, which makes the next meeting on Tuesday, May 18. Just email Jim and Marian beforehand to get that month’s Zoom link — Don says you won’t regret it!
Participate in this fun Sierra Club project at the border
President Biden has temporarily halted border wall construction that was illegally funded without congressional appropriation as part of a 60 day review process. While the Sierra Club continues to work with partners to advocate for restoring much of the land that was desecrated under President Trump as well as the rights taken from indigenous communities along the US-Mexico border, we are also working to identify priority areas of borderlands that are important for ecological and cultural reasons. Many of these areas are still threatened by “virtual walls” currently being proposed that rely on technology and lighting as opposed to physical barriers.
Sierra Club would like to invite volunteers interested in traveling to the Southern Border to help with a fun project. Our partners are trying to document sky quality along the border, in order to shine light on where the sky is darkest so that our coalition can better work to protect the nighttime environment. You do not need to be an expert or have any prior experience with constellations. Volunteers only need a pen, paper, and a simple star-watching guide that will guide you every step of the way. Volunteers are asked to visit the border at least one hour after sunset. Volunteers will then look for a specific constellation according to the guide’s instructions and then will note how bright it is according to the guide’s examples. This star mapping project can be done for every 0.5 miles that a person is interested in mapping for us.
To participate in this project or for more information, please contact Antoinette at Antoinette.Reyes@sierraclub.org or 575-342-1727.
Speak up for Chaparral
The proposed expansion of the Newman 6 Gas Plant outside of Chaparral, NM continues to move forward. The Sierra Club needs your help turning community members in Southern Dona Ana County out to a June 3rd hearing challenging the air permit El Paso Electric is seeking from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Many families suffer from asthma and other chronic health conditions, as this area is already heavily impacted by poor air quality thanks to the existing gas facility, overwhelming dairy and manure fumes, industrial air pollution in El Paso and Juarez, as well as from conventional sources such as from I-10 traffic. El Paso is currently waiting on a new EPA designation that would indicate the high levels of ozone in the area are in violation of the Clean Air Act. The designation is not expected until next February but our communities can’t wait that long. If this project slips through prior to the designation, it will not be required to use emissions reductions technology to prevent adding to the region’s air quality problem.
If you know someone interested in attending or speaking at the meeting, please contact Antoinette at Antoinette.Reyes@sierraclub.org or 575-342-1727.
Here is an update on El Paso Electric (EPE):
Allen Downs explains that there are several regulatory actions involving El Paso Electric (EPE) ongoing at the Public Regulation Commission (PRC). EPE has:
- Filed a Transportation Electrification Plan (hearing set for 6 July).
- Requested permission to abandon their oldest power plant (hearing set for 14 July).
- Requested a variance to charge around $5 million of claimed extra February purchased power costs due to the February freeze, spread over 12 months. (Allen discussed this last month.)
- Filed a rate case requesting rate increases (a recommended decision has been filed).
In the rate case, EPE asked for a $6.8 million INCREASE in rates but the recommended decision suggests a $3.3 million DECREASE. EPE said its request would result in a 12.17% INCREASE in residential non-fuel rates but the recommended decision suggests a 4.6% DECREASE for the average residential customer.
Due in large part to the intervention of the City of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County and to the experts they hired to testify on our behalf, the recommended decision, if adopted by the PRC, will result in a savings for New Mexico rate payers of over $17 MILLION PER YEAR!! More detail on the recommended decision can be found here.
So when next you talk with, or write, the Mayor or a City Councilor, or a County Commissioner, please thank them for their commitment to intervening for us. And join me in Merrie Lee’s battle cry – NO NEW FOSSIL FUEL GENERATION!
Casa de Peregrinos has exciting news
Casa de Peregrinos Board President, Eric J. Walkinshaw, would like to thank PVA members who have donated to CdP, especially during this unprecedented time. Also, he is happy to announce that Casa de Peregrinos was recognized by the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce as the best non-profit organization of the year! Eric believes that this recognition is due to the organization’s ability to pivot in response to the huge increase in food needs attributed to the ongoing pandemic. CdP has received a huge uptick in donations from the public and private sector. They want to thank all who have donated so that they can continue to meet the growing needs for our family, friends, and neighbors in Doña Ana County. However, the need for sustainable donations persists. “Not only are we in need of donations to sustain our current operations, we currently have a shortfall of approximately $2.3 million for our proposed new significantly expanded facility that will help us address current and future food needs.” To find out more about the program to fund the construction as well as expanded staffing to go from the current 4,000 square foot facility to the proposed 12,000 square foot facility, please go to the website at casadeperegrinos.org “You will also find on the website the 2020 Annual Report as well as ways to donate for either our ongoing operations or for the new facility or BOTH! Thanks for your previous support and in advance for future support.”
For more information, email Eric.
Simple action to lift American children out of poverty
Rich Renner asks us to take action to halve childhood poverty in the US by this simple call or email. Here’s the action: call or email members of Congress and urge them to support making the expansion of the EITC and CTC permanent. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has stated that these expansions are the most important thing to do in our careers in order to solve poverty in America. The recent COVID relief bill has expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for low-income workers and families. However these expansions are temporary. They should be expanded permanently. Expanding (and restructuring) the CTC could cut child poverty by almost half. Finally, expand EITC for younger workers/others who don’t claim dependents.
Representative Yvette Herrell 202-225-2365
Senator Martin Heinrich 202-224-5521 (supportive)
Senator Ben Ray Lujan 202-224-6621
For more information, email Rich or visit RESULTS.org.