Legislators Report on Many Exciting Accomplishments (and a Few Disappointments) in Santa Fe
We were honored to again this year hear reports from our excellent local legislators about the recent session in Santa Fe. In attendance were Senators Mary Kay Papen, Bill Soules and Jeff Steinborn, and Representatives Joseph Cervantes, Joanne Ferrary, Doreen Gallegos, and Nathan Small.
Sen. Bill Soules as Chair of the Senate Education Committee was pleased to report an increase of $250 million dollars in the state budget for education, including a 4% increase in salaries for educators in elementary, secondary and higher education. As a member of the conservation committee, he was disappointed that a Community Solar bill didn’t pass both houses of the legislature, but he hopes for better results in next year’s two-month session. Bill also announced that he will be running for re-election to his senate seat in 2020!
Rep. Joanne Ferrary reported success on a variety of important bills, including the Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Act, which will lower prescription drug prices for all New Mexicans and cap insulin co-pays for individuals at $25 per month. She also highlighted a bill allowing pharmacists to be paid for giving medical advice and prescribing medication, which should be especially helpful in rural areas. As a longtime animal welfare advocate, Joanne was happy to report that the Pet Food Label bill passed as well, which will impose a small annual tax on manufacturers of pet food sold in the state, raising $1.3 million per year to sponsor spay and neuter programs.
Rep. Doreen Gallegos, who serves as Majority Whip in the House of Representatives, shared big news: passage of the Early Childhood Trust Fund Bill that she sponsored, which establishes a $320 million trust fund, to be sustained by surplus oil and gas revenues, with interest on the fund going to support early childhood education programs. The fund’s first distribution of $20 million will occur in 2021. Doreen also reported that the overall state budget will increase general fund spending by nearly 8% in the coming year, which has made possible great progress in educational funding and in other important areas.
Sen. Mary Kay Papen, who serves as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, highlighted many important achievements in this year’s legislative session, including over $1 billion in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services. Sen. Papen sponsored the successful Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Act, which allows the importation of less-expensive wholesale drugs from Canada. She also pointed to the $30 million dollars in capital outlay brought back to Doña Ana County by our legislative delegation, money that will be spent for a wide variety of local projects.
Rep. Nathan Small highlighted a number of important achievements in education, health care, and environmental health and safety in the recent session, including the establishment of a budget that allots three quarters of a billion dollars to K-12 education while still keeping a 25% overall budget reserve. Nathan explained that the reserve is especially important given the state’s dependence on tax revenues from a cyclical oil and gas industry. Nathan also pointed to passage of a bill that will support the expansion of electricity transmission lines in the state, which will support the transmission of New Mexico-generated wind and solar power.
Sen. Jeff Steinborn reported that, thanks to the Senate, House and Governor, he experienced the best teamwork during the session that he has seen in the 12 years that he has been in the legislature. He was especially proud of his sponsoring a change to senate rules that will allow filming or photographs of committee hearings without prior approval from committee leaders. He also worked hard for legislation to protect New Mexicans as the federal government moves to establish a nuclear waste repository in Southeast New Mexico. That legislation failed, and Jeff urged us to speak out publicly about the dangers of the transportation of nuclear waste through our state’s cities and to the proposed repository itself. For more information about being a part of that advocacy, email Jeff.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes, as chair of the Judiciary Committee, played a lead role in a wide variety of important legislation. Of special note is his sponsorship of and leadership in passing – in the face of fierce opposition from the NRA and other gun groups – the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act (red flag bill), which allows firearms to be taken temporarily from those deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Joseph also noted passage of a bill to include pregnant workers in the Human Rights Act, so as to protect them in the work place, and a bill that prohibits the inclusion of a non-disclosure agreement – unless the plaintiff requests it – in settlements with former employers in sexual harassment, retaliation or discrimination cases.
Candidates for the New Mexico Supreme Court and Appellate Court Ask Our Support
New Mexico Supreme Court Justices Shannon Bacon and David Thomson, and Court of Appeals Judge Zach Ives asked for our support in their re-election campaigns. All three are Democrats and all three are running statewide as publicly financed candidates. They explained the key role of their courts in the legal process, the importance of public financing for judicial candidates, and that is crucial that voters go all the way down the ballot in November to vote in the judicial elections.
Neomi Martinez-Parra is running for State Senate
Democrat Neomi Martinez-Parra is running for State Senate in District 35, where she will challenge Senator John Arthur Smith in the June primary. Neomi is a retired Special Education Teacher who is especially concerned about guaranteeing quality, equitable education at the K-12 and post-secondary level, and women’s access to health care. For more information, email Neomi.
Councilor Yvonne Flores Promotes Voter Registration Agent Training
Las Cruces City Councilor Yvonne Flores urged us to become Voter Registration Agents to help make sure there is strong voter turnout in 2020. The next Voter Registration Agent Training session will be from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Tuesday, March 17 at the County Clerk’s Office, at the County Building on Motel Boulevard. For more information, email Yvonne.
Jay Levine asks for our support as he seeks election to the Democratic National Committee
Jay Levine came from Taos to ask for our support as he seeks election to the Democratic National Committee. Jay serves on the Democratic Party’s State Platform and Resolutions Committee and he has worked for progressive candidates and on a wide variety of progressive issues. He wants the DNC to be more active in addressing climate change, wealth inequality, health care for all, and the racist policies that exist in our immigration system. For more information, visit Jay’s website.
City Councilor Kasandra Gandara highlights funding for Apodaca Park
Las Cruces City Councilor Kasandra Gandara announced that the City of Las Cruces has received a one million dollar grant from the federal Land and Conservation Fund for improvements to Apodaca Park. She gave a shout out to Senator Udall, Senator Heinrich, and Congresswoman Torres-Small for their assistance in securing the grant. She is also working with Dell Computers on an accelerator program for women entrepreneurs. For more information, email Kasandra.
Working Families Party seeks minor party status in NM
Adam Sommers asked us to sign petitions seeking minor party status in New Mexico for the Working Families Party, which is a grassroots, multiracial, progressive movement working to elect progressive leaders up and down the ballot. Among their endorsed candidates is Neomi Martinez Parra, for the state senate seat currently held by John Arthur Smith.
Councilor Tessa Abeyta-Stuve speaks on behalf of Representative Micaela Cadena
Las Cruces City Councilor Tessa Abeyta-Stuve spoke on behalf of State Representative Micaela Cadena, who will be seeking re-election in District 33. Micaela was not able to attend because she was in Arizona for a gymnastic meet with her daughter. Micaela was a co-sponsor of the successful Prescription Drug Cost Sharing bill which caps insulin co-pays for individuals at $25 per month. She also was a sponsor of the Electric Vehicle Income Tax Credit which passed the House but was blocked by the Senate in the final days of the session. For more information, visit Micaela’s campaign website.
Melissa Ontiveros is running for State Senate
Melissa Ontiveros is a candidate for State Senate in District 31, and she asked for our support as she challenges Sen. Joseph Cervantes in the June primary. Melissa is Special Operations Coordinator for the Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico and a board member of the LC3 Behavioral Health Collaborative. She is currently involved in a collaborative effort to support young mothers and children. For more information, see Melissa’s website or email her.
Xochitl’s campaign manager visits PVA
Helen Smith, campaign manager for Congresswoman Xochitl Torres-Small’s re-election campaign, visited PVA to remind us of Xochitl’s excellence as our congressional representative and to stress the importance of registering new voters. For more information or to join Xochitl’s campaign, email Helen.
Senator Jeff Steinborn announces he will be running for re-election
Sen. Jeff Steinborn announced that he will be seeking re-election to the state senate in District 36, so that he can continue to fight for working people, ethics and transparency in the legislature and our environment. He reported that our strongly progressive legislative delegation will be challenged by well-funded Republican challengers, and he urged us to continue to support our local representatives and senators. For more information email Jeff.
Public Financing for candidates for NM Supreme and Appellate Courts
Paolo Lanucara explained the public financing program for state judicial races, explaining that the money gathered to qualify for public financing does not go to the individual candidates but to the state, with a fixed amount eventually being allotted to all publicly financed campaigns. Public financing allows judicial campaigns to be conducted without any direct contributions from individuals, organizations or corporations, so as to eliminate the buying of influence through campaign contributions. Paolo said that he would be collecting petition signatures and qualifying public financing contributions for Supreme Court Justices Shannon Bacon and David Thomson, and Court of Appeals Judge Zach Ives at the back of the room after the meeting. For more information, email Paolo.
County Clerk Amanda Lopez-Askins will be running for re-election
County Clerk Amanda Lopez-Askins announced that she will be running for re-election. She pointed to her successful administration of 3 elections since she was appointed clerk in 2018. These included the 2018 general election and 2019 consolidated election, which involved administration of Southern New Mexico’s first Ranked Choice Voting election for the Las Cruces City Council. Amanda has put a special emphasis on outreach to unregistered voters, and her office has registered over 700 high school seniors since her appointment. For more information about Amanda’s official duties, visit the County Clerk website and for information about her campaign for re-election visit her campaign website or email Amanda.
County Commissioner Manny Sanchez will be running for re-election + the census!
Manny Sanchez announced that he will be seeking re-election as County Commissioner in District 5. Since being appointed to the seat by Governor Lujan-Grisham in early 2019 he has held monthly meetings throughout the district, gaining first-hand knowledge of residents’ concerns. He has worked closely with members of our legislative delegation to make sure capital outlay is spent for projects important to district residents.
Manny also emphasized the importance of helping our census workers reach every person in our community, pointing out that an 1% undercount of residents of Doña Ana County – about 2,000 people – would mean $6.6 million less per year in federal funding for our county residents. Add up the 10 years until the next census, and that would be a $66 million impact on our community! For more information visit Manny’s Facebook page or email him.
State Representative Joanne Ferrary will be running for re-election
State Representative Joanne Ferrary will be running for re-election in District 37. Joanne reported that she will have a Republican opponent, and that she will again need our active support for her campaign. Joanne said she will continue to work hard on issues that she has championed in the legislature, including reproductive justice, the environment and education. For more information visit Joanne’s website or email her.
Migratory Bird Treaty Act under assault by Trump administration – online comments needed!
Wildlife biologist Trish Cutler let us know that the Trump administration has proposed new regulations that remove 99% of protections for migratory birds from the 100 year old Migratory Bird Treaty Act. She said it is extremely important that we go online to make comments opposing these new regulations on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife webpage before the March 19 deadline. You can point out that birds are a public resource, important to our economy, environment and enjoyment of life, and they must be protected. Information about changes to the act are available here, and you can make comments on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website by going here. For more information, email Trish.
State Representative Doreen Gallegos will be running for re-election
Scott Scanland announced that (his wife and favorite legislator) House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos will be running for re-election in New Mexico House District 52. Scott said that Republicans are especially targeting Doña Ana County legislators and that Doreen has already drawn 2 (!) Republican challengers for the upcoming election. For more information, visit Doreen’s campaign website
Gerald Byers will be running for District Attorney
Gerald Byers, who is currently Deputy District Attorney in Doña Ana County, announced that he will be running for District Attorney, to replace current DA Mark D’Antonio, who is retiring. Gerald is a Democrat and emphasized two main components in his approach to justice: honoring victims and respecting the rights of the accused. He believes in practicing prosecution integrity in all aspects of the District Attorney’s actions, and says prosecutors need to get it right before any legal process begins. For more information email Gerald.
Carrie Hamblen will be running for State Senate
Carrie Hamblen will be running for State Senate in District 38, where she will challenge incumbent Senator Mary Kay Papen in the June primary. Carrie expressed her respect for Senator Papen, but said it is time for a change, and she intends to bring a new voice and new perspective to the district. Carrie has lived in Las Cruces for 27 years and has a wide breadth of experience. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, where she has worked in collaboration with city, state and federal elected officials to develop good policy. For more information, visit Carrie’s website or email her.
Senator Joseph Cervantes seeking re-election
Senator Joseph Cervantes spoke about his sponsorship of the Red Flag Bill and his successful efforts to steer it through a contentious path to passage by the legislature and signing into law by Governor Lujan-Grisham. He pointed to this challenge and the opportunity to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee as two of the many reasons he is eager to continue to serve us in the legislature, seeking re-election in Senate District 31. For more information, email Joseph.
Utility warrior Allen Downs updates us on current EPE issues
Allen Downs informed us that he, Merrie Lee Soules, Phil Simpson and the City of Las Cruces have all intervened in solar Power Purchase Agreement cases that will be argued in front of a PRC hearing examiner in Santa Fe the week of March 2. Our warriors are arguing cost issues on behalf of local ratepayers and continue to insist that there be no new fossil fuel generation to serve New Mexico customers. For more information, email Allen.
Make a real personal difference in someone’s life
Jan Thompson is continuing to provide us opportunities to visit immigrants being held in long-term detention for adjudication of their immigration cases. These are people from all over the world who are experiencing isolation, despair and loneliness. Want to be a real help to someone? You can become a volunteer with YANA (You Are Not Alone) to help someone with visits and/or letters. To sign up for a short training with or for more information, email Jan.
State Representative Nathan Small seeking re-election
State Representative Nathan Small highlighted legislative activity he couldn’t get to during his three minutes in the legislative recap, including a bill that allows any qualified person to get a state professional license, whatever his or her immigration status. Excited by progress on so many progressive issues, Nathan announced that he will be seeking re-election in House District 36. For more information, visit Nathan’s website or email Nathan.
Join a Time Bank to exchange services and build community
Samantha MacNeil, a member of Doña Ana Communities United, described a Time Bank her organization has established. There will be an orientation to the Time Bank at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, March 4 at 151 S. Walnut, Suite B13. In case this recap doesn’t come out in time for you to make that orientation, or for more information, email Samantha.
County Commission candidate Debra Hathaway features issue advocates at her campaign events
Debra Hathaway, a Democrat running in District 4, the County Commission seat that Isabella Solis will be leaving, is featuring Behavioral Health advocates at her next Meet and Greet from 2-4 pm on Sunday, March 15 at Jan Hertzsch’s house, 4374 Purple Sage in Las Cruces. This follows last month’s Meet and Greet where Environment and Wildlife advocates were featured. For more information, email Debra.
Pat Aguirre seeks signatures for Rep. Joanne Ferrary
Pat Aguirre said she would be in the back of the room after the meeting to collect nominating petition signatures for State Representative Joanne Ferrary. Pat will be working hard again this year (as only Pat can) for Joanne – to get involved, email Pat.
Peter Goodman tells us three important things
Peter Goodman stressed the importance of the 2020 election in terms of the supreme court, the effectiveness and integrity of the intelligence community, and many other issues. He urged us to “mute our personal ambitions” and to become a team as we move toward the election. He reminded us of the importance of our local community radio station KTAL 101.5 FM, which is “Las Cruces speaking to itself”. Finally, he announced the annual “For the Love of Poetry” reading, which took place on February 29 at the Center for Spiritual Living in downtown Las Cruces. For more information, email Peter.
Senator Mary Kay Papen to seek re-election
Senator Mary Kay Papen is seeking re-election in District 38. Senator Papen services as President Pro Tempore of the State Senate and serves as the chair of the Committees’ Committee, which allows her to appoint the chairs of all senate committees. Senator Papen told us that that gave her an opportunity to appoint highly qualified senators from downstate, like Joseph Cervantes as chair of the Judiciary Committee, Bill Soules as chair of the Conservation Committee, and Jeff Steinborn as Vice Chair of Public Affairs. For more information, email Mary Kay.
Join RESULTS action network
Rich Renner invited each of us to join the RESULTS Action Network, in which participants receive one email a month with a sample email or letter that should be sent to either our U.S. senators or congresswoman. RESULTS has, over the past forty years, worked directly with lawmakers at the federal level to secure billions of dollars in new funding for health, education and economic opportunity programs worldwide. In the process, the number of children in the world who die every day from preventable diseases has fallen from 40,000 per day to 15,000 per day, with RESULTS working hard to get that number to zero. It only takes a few minutes once a month to save children’s lives all over the world. For more information, email Rich or call him at 360-698-4786.