This month’s recap includes many references to bills before the New Mexico legislature. Full information about each bill (sponsor, complete text, recommendations, and its route through committees) can be found at http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/, the Web site of the New Mexico Legislature. You can find committee memberships and complete contact information for each senator and representative.
The ACLU at Work in Santa Fe
Vicki Gaubeca and Emily Carey were on hand to give an overview of the American Civil Liberty Union’s work with the New Mexico legislature and to let us know about four important bills before this session.
• The Domestic Partner Rights (HB 21, SB 12) bill failed in the senate on the day of the PVA meeting, 25-17. This was unexpected and gravely disappointing news.• House Bill 285 would abolish the death penalty. This bill has been approved 40-28 by the house and will next be heard in committee on March 3. Doña Ana senators Mary Jane Garcia and Mary Kay Papen have committed to support this bill.• House Bill 41 would prevent unwarranted gathering of information about New Mexico residents. Representative Joseph Cervantes is sponsoring this bill.• House Bill 428 would ban bias profiling on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, language, etc. Representative Nate Cote is sponsor of this bill.
The ACLU continues to train volunteers to visit prison inmates. To volunteer for this program or for further information about the ACLU, email Emily or Vicki. Emily is the program coordinator for the Regional Center for Border Rights here in Las Cruces. Vicki is the new director for the ACLU’s Las Cruces office.
PVA’s Legislative Response Team—One Month Down, One to Go
The New Mexico legislature will be in session only until noon on March 21. For the next two weeks the Legislative Response Team will let you know–if you are signed up as a participant–when our senators and representatives need to hear from you about important bills. For more information or to participate, email Theresa Westbrock.
Unified Action for February—Stop the Border Fence
Roger Turner of the Southwest Environmental Center (SWEC) presented this month’s unified action, which calls for urging a halt to border fence construction. The timing for this action is good for the following reasons:
• We have a new administration in Washington.• Janet Napolitano, former Arizona governor, has replaced Michael Chertoff as head of Homeland Security. Napolitano knows the border and has articulated her ideas for a multifaceted border security policy.• The section of the fence that was funded has already been built. There is at present no money appropriated for fence construction.• We have a new administration in Washington.
The action is to contact President Obama, Secretary Napolitano, and Senator Bingaman and urge a thorough review of the human and environmental impacts of the border fence before any more construction is approved. To participate in this month’s Unified Action go here, and, as always, please let us know I DID IT by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update on last month’s Unified Action
Vicki Simons briefed us on the ever-complex fate of health care for New Mexicans. The Health Security Act (SB 281 and HB 339) is alive, if not exactly well. There is some evidence that Governor Richardson is feeling pressure to acknowledge the wisdom and feasibility of the Health Security Act.
An appropriate follow-up action at this point would be a phone call to House Speaker Ben Lujan urging that this bill not be left to die. To sign up for email updates that let you know exactly what is happening with health care in the legislature, send a request to the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign or visit the Health Security Web site.
Expert on Mexican Immigration to Speak at NMSU
Dr. Jorge Bustamante, a United Nations special reporter for the human rights of migrants, will speak on Mexican Immigration to the United States. Thursday, March 12, 7:30 p.m., at the PSL (Clinton P. Anderson Hall) Auditorium at NMSU, (corner of Espina and Stewart Streets).
For further information call 646-7041 or send email to email@example.com.
Democratic Party of Doña Ana County Gets Organized
Mary Helen Ratje announced that the Doña Ana Democratic Party has two busy months ahead, full of meetings from the precinct to the state levels. Meetings start Thursday, March 5, with a training for people interested in being precinct officers and continuing Thursday, March 19, for precinct meetings and election of precinct officers.
For more information call 524-4444 or see a full schedule of events posted on the Democratic Party’s Web page.
The Jefferson/Jackson Gala and fundraiser will be held Saturday, April 4, 7 p.m., at Dickerson’s Barn. Tickets are $50. Save the date!
House Bill 537, Safe House Legislation
Joe Alexander asked for support of HB 537, which would create a safe house in southern New Mexico so that seriously mentally ill individuals could stay in their community rather than be transported to the state hospital in Las Vegas. He asked that we contact Consumer and Public Affairs Committee members and voice our support for this measure. Representative Nate Cote has sponsored this bill.
For more information send email to Joe.
Rising to Meet Obama’s Challenge for Community Service
Bill McCamley announced that Doña Ana County is organizing to participate in the President Obama’s community service initiative. The current plan is to engage in a once-a-month, large-scale volunteer effort to match volunteers up with a variety of service needs in our county.
To participate or for more information, send email to Bill McCamley.
House Bill 548, Better Recycling for New Mexico
Recycling activist Al McBrayer announced that Representative Jeff Steinborn has introduced HB 548, which would give a big boost to communities that want to expand and strengthen their recycling efforts. The Doña Ana County Commission and the Las Cruces City Council have voted to take advantage of the opportunity to improve recycling efforts if this bill passes.
For more information, send email to Al or call him at 575-541-9667.
Education Bills to Watch
Maria Flores, the newest member of the Las Cruces School Board thanked those who supported her campaign. (Maria noted her narrow victory of two votes over her worthy opponent, Merrie Lee Soules.) Maria called our attention to three important education bills:
• House Bill 373 would require superintendents and school boards to share responsibility for staffing decisions. Superintendents now have sole authority over appointments, hires, salary, etc.• House Bill 332 would encourage community use of school property by streamlining the application process that community groups must follow in order to use school facilities.• House Bill 620 would improve school maintenance practices and payment mechanisms.
Employee Free Choice Act
Brett Siegel of the Communication Workers of America, spoke in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers to join unions without undue interference or fear of reprisal. Brett asked that we contact Senator Jeff Bingaman and ask him to sign on as a cosponsor of the bill.
Our Nearly-Impossible-to-Amend Constitution
Jack Soules pointed out that our NM constitution is nearly possible to amend. This fact was illustrated in the November 2008 election. An amendment on the ballot to allow municipal and school board elections to be held jointly did not pass even though 74% of voters were in favor—just not the necessary 75%. For more information send email to Jack. You might also check out Piecemeal Amendment of the Constitution of New Mexico, 1911 to 2004.
Jean Ossorio described the sad state of affairs for the Mexican gray wolf recovery program. The wolf population remained unchanged from January of 2008 to January of 2009. Only two breeding pairs are currently in the wild.
In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed 17 animals from the wild—none has been reintroduced; they sit in captivity. To receive wolf updates via email, send email to Jean. By the way, the Mexican gray wolf is the smallest (German Shepherd size) and rarest subspecies of gray wolf in America.
For more information, send email to Jean or call her at 647-1362.
Kent Wingenroth let us know that all is well with the magistrate court. The court heard 10,623 cases last year. For more information, send email to Judge Wingenroth.
House Bill 185, Regional Water Services
County Commissioner Karen Perez—not in her role as commissioner, but as professional engineer and water specialist—let us know that HB 185 would create a regional water service to improve water quality including arsenic treatment. The bill would NOT, as has been rumored, hinder Anthony’s plans for incorporation. For more information, send email to Karen.
SWEC Needs You
Ella Nelson invited us to join SWEC, buy a raffle ticket to win a Toyota Prius, and otherwise support the Southwest Environmental Center. SWEC faces a $50,000 deficit this year because grants and donations have tanked along with the economy.
For more information or to buy a raffle ticket, send email to Ella.
Lomas de Poleo
Charlotte Lipson announced continuing difficulties for the citizens of Lomas de Poleo. Most recently another hearing has been postponed. Each hearing means that $1500 must be raised to cover transportation costs to the Agrarian Court in Chihuahua—airfare for the Lomas de Poleo lawyers and bus fare for the residents.
For more information or to be placed on an email updates list, send email to Charlotte.
Organizing for America’s Environmental Team
Gill Sorg announced a meeting of the OFA Environmental Team to be held Tuesday, March 10, 6 p.m., at the Democratic Headquarters (Solano and Foster). Sarah Parker, a staffer for Senator Bingaman, will be on hand. The environmental team has identified five priorities:
•Decentralization of energy sources.
The upcoming March 10 meeting will focus on solar energy. For more information, send email to Gill or call him at 541-0577.
Organizing for America
Eric Hilberg announced that he is the newly appointed volunteer liaison to Organizing for America for the entire state of New Mexico. Eric will work to keep the grassroots organizations energized, focused, and engaged.
For more information send email to Eric or call him at 571-9082.
Department of Peace and Nonviolence
Tim Reed spoke on behalf of the Peace Alliance, a movement to create a U.S. Department of Peace and Nonviolence. Tim is collecting signatures for a petition to present to the Las Cruces City Council. The group will have petitions in front of Mountain View Co-op on Saturday, March 14, at 1 p.m.
Plight of the Cuban Five
Jennifer Smith spoke in support of the Cuban Five and brought a petition asking for an end to their imprisonment. For more information, visit http://www.freethefive.org/.