January 24, 2019

Unified Action

THE ISSUE:

The Legislative Response Team weighs in on critical issues under consideration during the legislative session in Santa Fe. Team members call or email legislators and make their positions known.

Past issues have included minimum wage, early childhood education, the environment, energy policy, voting rights, foreclosure procedures, and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).

The legislators notice and pay attention when they are hearing from their constituents.

Becoming a part of the Legislative Response Team means that you will receive an email when a bill is at a critical phase. The email will be simple: it will let you know the issue, which legislator to contact, the telephone number and email for that legislator, and whether you are recommending a Yes or No vote on that issue.

WHAT WE ARE ASKING:

Add your voice to the Legislative Response Team by:
sending an email to:
legislativeactionNM@gmail.com

Legal win for “One man, one vote”

Grant Price shared information about his lawsuit in the 3rd Judicial District Court against the State Soil and Water Conservation Commission which was filed in August of 2017. The case against Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District regards their use of a voting scheme that violates the U.S. Constitution’s “One man, One vote” mandate – and he asked the court to correct the use of that scheme. Grant believes that unfair voting zones in the past have given us supervisors who were not truly representative of the District and passed resolutions that were not good resource conservation – actions which he believes a fairly-elected board would not have taken.

After a year and a half of litigation, with 5 hearings, Judge James Martin found the constitutional argument compelling as a matter of law and, on December 21st, ordered that the voting inequality be corrected.

Grant added that the State Commission is still trying to delay or avoid following the court order, or they may also appeal the entire judgment.   If that is the case, he says they have an excellent appellate attorney on board.

“In 2017 we elected two actual conservationists to the District Board: Kevin Bixby and Craig Fenske. I hope the new Governor will appoint new, more responsible, conservation minded individuals to the State Commission,” said Grant.

Finally, Grant reminded everyone that there will be 3 supervisors up for election on November 3, 2019 and it is his hope that the court order will make those elections fairer.

Visit the links below for more on this issue:

Court Orders Doña Ana County Soil and Water District to Change Boundaries

Lawsuit alleges New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation Commission violates Constitution

“One Person, One Vote” Constitutional Mandate May Force Change For One Las Cruces Area Election

For more information, contact Grant.

Remember these acronyms. There will be a quiz.

Allen Downs shared the latest update about the ongoing battle advocating for renewable energy. Back in April, El Paso Electric (EPE) filed to build a high-priced community solar project. The case was poorly mishandled by the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) and they attempted to force EPE to continue the case even after EPE decided to cancel. However, at the PRC’s first meeting of the year, the PRC (with three newly elected commissioners) ended the case. In other words, if EPE wants to build high-priced community solar in New Mexico they will need to start over.

The new commission also reconsidered EPE’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and have asked the PRC to investigate the shortcomings identified by the Public Advisory Group that had been previously ignored. Among the shortcomings was a bias against renewables and for gas generation. However, when renewable energy resources are evaluated fairly they win over fossil fuel generation every time with lower costs for consumers and less damage to our planet.

State Senator Joseph Cervantes has introduced a bill that will require utilities, when they wish to add new generation, to use a “Request for Proposal” and to hire an independent evaluator who must testify to the fairness of the process. This should eliminate the practice of slanting specifications in such a way as to favor gas plants at the expense of renewables.

If you’d like to help Allen and New Mexico usher this bill through the legislature, please visit www.NewEnergyEconomy.org, click “Campaigns”, then on “2019 legislative platform”, and sign up to be a New Energy Advocate!

For more information, contact Allen.

Renewable energy for everyone

Fay Yurwit, a student from NMSU, spoke about the Community Solar Act (HB210) which allows multiple participants to share the cost-saving benefits of a single solar installation. (Read more here.) She was happy to report that the bill was passed through the House Natural Resources Committee, despite opposition. As it continues through the legislature, Fay asks that everyone contact their representatives about the bill to help New Mexico take a green step forward! [We’re on it, Fay!]

Speaking of green, Fay also encouraged everyone to go to the Green Energy Conference in Santa Fe (Jan 28-29).

For more information, contact Fay.

Quick – tell us what EPE, PRC, and IRP stand for. GO!

Philip Simpson has been participating in the Public Advisory Process for El Paso Electric Company’s Integrated Resource Plan, along with Merrie Lee Soules, Allen Downs, Rocky Bacchus, and Don Kurtz. He shared news about the successful battle against El Paso Electric’s plan to build another gas-fired power plant.

Things were looking dim, and it looked like EPE would succeed, but then on January 10, the PRC accepted a motion to reconsider and ordered the staff to address the details of the public comments. In doing so, they hope it will force EPE to revamp their Integrated Resource Plan and give clean energy the chance to compete with gas.

Philip believes this is important because it could prevent the utility from spending everyone’s money to build a new polluting power plant that will most likely become a stranded asset which would require consumer-funded bailout much like the coal-fired plants in the Four Corners Area. He feels that this is good because the public can hold the utility to the legal requirements but felt disappointed that he had to file a legal “motion to reconsider” to force the staff to look at public comments.

You can read a press release about this win here.

For more information, contact Philip.

Thank you, PVA, for contributing to our local food pantry

Mary Lujan shared that at the November meeting she collected donations for Casa de Peregrinos. Guess what? As a group we contributed $525! Thank you! Mary also encouraged everyone to give food, money, and other supplies to Community of Hope, and to consider that furloughed federal employees may also be struggling.

Here is the website for information or to donate: https://www.casadeperegrinos.org/

For more information, contact Mary.

No. Wall.

Greg White announced he is the new chair for Indivisible Las Cruces. He said there are some changes to take note of: most importantly, “Indivisible Las Cruces isn’t non-partisan! We are against Donald Trump and against the wall!” He said Indivisible Las Cruces wants fair treatment of immigrants, affordable and accessible health care for all, a green economy, transportation for rural communities, and they want Southern New Mexicans and Downwinders (people and communities  who were exposed to radioactive contamination or nuclear fallout from atmospheric or underground nuclear weapons testing) to have a voice in Santa Fe. He said Indivisible is here to work for and service the community. He also mentioned that they would be carpooling to El Paso for The March Against the Wall.

For more information, visit the Indivisible Las Cruces Facebook page.

350.org, Sunrise Movement, and the bus to Santa Fe

Kathy Wooten announced that there would be a meeting at her house to see what 350.org had to say about the Green New Deal which is going forward and super important for everyone.

She also shared that on February 5th the Sunrise Movement, which is a movement of youth led climate activists, is hoping to a do a house party and are looking for someone to volunteer their space to host a livestream at 7:00 PM.

Finally, she announced that CAFé had arranged for a bus to Santa Fe on January 28 to lobby for four immigration bills, making New Mexico a sanctuary state, minimum wage, and the Clean Energy Conference.

For more information, visit the Adelante Progressive Caucus’ Facebook page or website.

Do you enjoy politics? Do you enjoy laughing? Here’s the concert for you.

Jan Thompson announced an upcoming concert featuring Roy Zimmerman. Here is how Wikipedia describes Roy: Roy Zimmerman is an American satirical singer-songwriter and guitarist now based in Northern California. He has a leftist political philosophy which is focused on social issues and politics.

Jan guarantees lots and lots of laughs because we could all use a little bit of that right now, right? Tickets are $20 or pay what you can, they want you there! Jan said that if you’re not there, you’re really missing out! Here’s his YouTube channel to hear/see for yourself.

Roy Zimmerman: Rize Up
Monday, February 4, at 7:00 PM
Unitarian Universalist Church of Las Cruces
2000 S. Solano, Las Cruces

If Florida can…

Rocky Bacchus said a huge utility in Florida has announced they are going to install 30 million solar panels. Rocky asks, “Why are they doing this? Simple: because it’s cheaper.”

To bring it back home though, Rocky shared that we have a renewable portfolio standard which the local utilities have essentially been bypassing. The bottom line, Rocky said, is that solar energy is good and RPS has won but we need to push for community solar to make it truly effective and to ensure that utility companies aren’t being greedy or wasteful.

For more information, contact Rocky.

Make a difference and become a tree steward 

There’s a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Craig Fenske announced that the City of Las Cruces will be holding Tree Steward training sessions which will take place on Wednesdays February 27-April 17 at the Mesilla Park Recreation Center. Why should you be interested in learning how to plant trees? Craig emphasized that people who plant trees aren’t doing it for themselves, they’re doing it for our children and grandchildren just as our ancestors planted trees for us. This is something everyone can do to pay it forward for the future of Las Cruces and something everyone can learn from while making a difference.

For more information click here, or visit their Facebook page and give them a “like.”

Now is the time for the New Mexico Health Security Act

Davena Norris spoke in support of the NM Health Security Act (HB295/SB279) which is being sponsored by two of our DAC representatives: Senator Bill Soules and Representative Joanne Ferrary. She explained that the NMHSA is a “homegrown” New Mexico solution and would allow NM to set up our own health plan to ensure all New Mexicans have comprehensive health coverage and freedom of choices of providers even across state lines. It would be run by a citizen’s commission which is geographically representative of New Mexico and the meetings would be open to the public and scrutiny. Davena hopes you will keep an eye on this legislation as it passes through the legislature and ask your legislators to vote yes on this well thought out bill.

For more information, contact Davena.

NM Health Security Act, part 2

In a tag team effort with Davena, Dr. Don Apodaca also advocated for the NM Health Security Act. He said that he is a part of the local coordinating group and the goal is to pass resolutions by the city council and by the county commission in support of this act. Unfortunately, they have yet to get on the agenda, so Don is asking that if you support the Health Security Act, please contact your county commissioners, city councilors, and state representatives, and ask them to support the NMHSA.

For more information, visit the website.

Wildlife agenda

Kevin Bixby, who represents Zone 3 of the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District,reiterated Grant’s point about the three seats that are up for election this year and encourages people to vote for real conservationists. He and Craig Fenske are trying to stop the production of bad things coming in while passing good resolutions, but they need a majority vote so voting new people in would help immensely.

Also, the Southwest Environmental Center is supporting five wildlife bills in legislature that would address the serious problems with wildlife management in New Mexico.

Kevin invited everyone to join the movement to protect all wildlife and promote true democracy in wildlife conservation. SWEC will be having a meeting to discuss their 2019 legislative agenda and how you can be involved!

SWEC Meeting
February 7,at 6:00 PM
at the Southwest Environmental Center

To donate or find more information visit their website.

Please fill out and return your census 2020 forms!

Paul Dulin shared that the 2020 Census is 14 months away; the census is based on the people who make an impact on resources regardless of citizenship. Paul is worried about the “hard-to-count” people who consist of documented/undocumented immigrants, Spanish speakers, the homeless, the elderly, the poor, people who live in group homes, people who move frequently, etc.  New Mexico is 50th out of all the states in terms of returning their census forms. So Paul implored, “Fill out and return your forms!”

Check out the population counter on this US Census Bureau website. As of 10pm on 1-31-19, the US Population is 328,374,510… what will it be when you look?

For more information, contact Paul.

NMSU Climate Change Education Seminar Series

Rene Romo shared an upcoming event at NMSU called Climate Change Education Seminar Series. He said that it’s an inspiring opportunity to see a renowned speaker, Katharine Hayhoe, speak on climate change via video feed. Her talk is called, “Barriers to Public Acceptance of Climate Science”. Rene reiterated that this talk is to help advocate change and to get real action going; it needs to start at the local level since the current administration has stopped all action.

Click here to visit Katharine Hayhoe’s YouTube channel.

Climate Change Education Seminar Series
“Barriers to Public Acceptance of Climate Science”
February 6, at 6:30 PM
Domenici Hall, Room 109, Yates Theater, at NMSU.

For more information, contact Rene.

Dying with dignity

Dean Lively talked about SB153 and HB90 (Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act) which would legalize the option of medically assisted end of life care for terminally ill patients. Dean said that, if it became necessary, he would like the option to die with dignity and shared that this bill emphasizes the humanitarian aspects of this act to reduce suffering. He asks that you urge New Mexico legislators to support SB153 and HB90.

For more information, contact Dean.

Congratulations, Karen!

Don Kurtz spoke to make sure everyone knew that Karen Trujillo has been named Secretary of the New Mexico Public Education Department. “This is very good news for the teachers, parents and school children of our state,” said Don. It also means that the governor will need to name a replacement for Karen on the Doña Ana County Commission.  While it’s the governor’s decision, Don suggested that we can send ideas for who that person might be to Karen.

For more information, contact Don.

Getting active with the Democratic Party of Doña Ana County

Jan Hertzch is running for District 37 Director of the Democratic Party of Doña Ana County and Cheryl Frank is running for Deputy District Director. He asked that you attend the precinct meeting on March 21 so you can vote for them at the County meeting. Jan said we need good people in these positions – those who get stuff done by being organized, communicating, and helping precincts get out the vote.

DPDAC Precinct Meetings
Thursday, March 21, at 6:00 PM at
(probably) Oñate High School for District 37

DPDAC County Meeting
Saturday, March 30, 9am
location tbd

For more information, visit Jan’s Facebook page.

Advocacy Training Workshop

Rich Renner, a RESULTS volunteer, announced an Advocacy Training Workshop that will be taking place. He reminded us that RESULTS, which is a campaign to end poverty, has been successfully teaching advocacy skills for 40 years; since the 2016 election, citizens are newly energized and hungry for real action and change. From the workshop, you’ll learn how to speak powerfully, correctly write and format letters to public officials, the media, editors, and legislators, etc. You will learn effective advocacy skills and other tools to use on any issue you’re passionate about. Rich said, “To improve policies that affect us, we need to make our hopes and intentions as constituents known in an effective way.”

RESULTS Advocacy Training
February 9, 2:30-4:30 PM
Branigan Library, Roadrunner Room

For more information or to RSVP, contact Rich.

A last word from Gill

Mayor Pro Tem Gill Sorg thanked PVA for being a breath of fresh air in these difficult and tumultuous times. He said that the City of Las Cruces needs to pass resolutions making solar energy more accessible; he encouraged everyone to support HB210, whch is going through the legislative process now, and to ask your representatives to vote yes.

For more information, contact Gill.

The next PVA meeting is:

Thursday, February 28, 7pm

Munson Center