The 2018 elections drastically shifted the political landscape with the election of Governor Lujan Grisham and a stronger majority pro-conservation House. The Governor made it clear from her first day in office that she wanted to create a climate-focused administration by signing a critical Executive Order on Climate. The legislature responded rapidly with pro-conservation legislation, a welcome change following eight years of an anti-conservation Governor whose veto power had made it pointless to attempt to pass proactive climate and conservation legislation.
New legislation included the groundbreaking Energy Transition Act, which started the state down the path toward a renewable energy economy with a nation-leading carbon-free energy standard, and processes and funding put in place to ensure the Four Corners region’s transition away from a coal-based economy would be equitable. There were also bills banning coyote killing contests and creating the Outdoor Recreation Division, including its first-of-a-kind Outdoor Equity Fund to increase access to the outdoors for historically underserved youth, especially youth of color.
The Scorecard for 2019 showed that female legislators outperformed their male counterparts on conservation votes by 15%, with an average conservation score of 78% compared to 63% for male legislators.
The 2021 session followed an election that broadened and deepened the diversity that had been developing since the 2016 and 2018 elections. The legislature is looking a lot more like New Mexico now. A pro-conservation majority also emerged in the Senate to match the House. An energized legislature driven primarily by new members produced an unprecedented amount of pro-conservation legislation. We identified 106 environmental bills and ultimately designated 47 of them as Support bills on our legislative agenda. Our Priority bills included the Environmental Database Act, the “Gila Bill”, and the Community Solar Act.
While there are many legislators we could highlight – a sign of how deep the pro-conservation bench is now – we would like to highlight four new legislators who exemplify a hopeful future for progressive legislation in New Mexico.
- Senator Carrie Hamblen sponsored several pieces of legislation to expand rural broadband access, two of which – SB 93 and SB 204 – passed and were signed by the Governor. They will not only improve educational and entrepreneurial opportunities, but also make virtual participation in the legislative process more effective and accessible. During the session, we mobilized voters in Carrie’s district to thank her for stepping up in committee and calling on the chair to provide equitable access for frontline community voices waiting online to make public comment.
- Senator Siah Correa Hemphill co-sponsored HB 200 (the Gila bill). This was a contentious piece of legislation impacting Siah’s district, and she stood behind the community-driven effort to redirect funding under the New Mexico Central Arizona Project (NMCAP) to regional sustainable water projects and replace the CAP with the Water Trust Board as fund administrator. After the bill was passed and signed, the Interstate Stream Commission officially defunded the NMCAP and withdrew from the entity working on a diversion project, and the CAP Entity executive director resigned, opening space for a much better community-driven approach to water management in the region.
- Senator Brenda McKenna co-sponsored SB 32, known as Roxy’s Law or the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act, culminating a decades-long effort to ban traps, snares, and poisons on public lands except under certain limited circumstances (passed and signed).
- Representative Kristina Ortez sponsored four bills on our agenda. These included HB 15 to extend and expand the sustainable building tax credit and add incentives involving LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building (passed & signed); HB 30 to change New Mexico law on water leases to require public notice and allow protests before a lease is approved (died in House Judiciary); HB 206 preventing utility services from being disconnected for customers impacted by Covid-19 and creating a bill relief program and various programs aimed at improving conditions for primarily low-income energy customers (passed the House and died in Senate Finance); HB 265 to expand the management purpose of the Natural Lands Protection Act and expand the list of possible priority determinations for projects (passed its House committees but was taken off the House calendar).
The message for us and for those looking at improving the legislature is clear. The legislature may need reform, but the new entering class – many of whom are women as well as a notable group of LGBTQ+ legislators, the first Black Senator in the legislature (Harold Pope, Jr.), and increasing tribal nation representation – are helping create a bold new path for New Mexico.
Know the Score > Take Action
Say ‘thanks’ … or, ‘no thanks’!
Tell your Legislators that you ‘know the score’
One of the best ways to influence the voting records of your elected officials is to communicate regularly with them. If your legislators scored well, it’s important to thank them and to support them. If you feel you weren’t well-represented by your legislators’ votes, it’s important to hold them accountable by letting them know what you think about their votes. The Scorecard is your key to staying informed on your legislators votes and getting in touch with them.
Communicate with the Governor and your Legislators
Whether you’re congratulating them on their score or expressing your disappointment, be direct, courteous and polite.
The most important part is letting them know that you are paying close attention to how they vote or, in the case of the Governor, what actions she takes on legislation that affects our air, land, and water.
Calling your legislator directly and sending letters through regular mail remain by far the most effective ways to communicate with your legislators.
The Governor and Lieutenant Governor can always be contacted at the State Capitol. Except during the legislative session, state legislators should be contacted in their home districts, as listed on the current Legislators page.