It’s difficult to overstate what a historic year 2019 was for conservation in New Mexico. The first session of the Lujan Grisham administration represented a tremendously ambitious leap right out of the gate. The Energy Transition Act took New Mexico from the middle of the pack in renewable energy adoption to a national leader overnight. The creation of the Outdoor Recreation Division represented a concrete first step towards acknowledging the deep relationship New Mexicans have with their public lands. The re-establishment of administrative penalty authority at the Oil Conservation Division also laid the groundwork for new rulemaking. However, visionary legislation is only truly effective if the state is able to turn it into real, on-the-ground results for New Mexicans. Bold vision requires strong-follow through and execution, which brings us to our focus for the 2020 legislative session.
Generally, the budget setting process in New Mexico has not been particularly well understood, largely because the budget is typically developed in the late summer and early fall when the public’s attention isn’t as focused on the legislature. The administration submits a budget request to the legislature’s budget committee (called the Legislative Finance Committee, or LFC) by September 1st of each year. Once a draft budget is submitted, state agencies present their budget requests to the LFC in public hearings during the fall. During this time, LFC Committee Members ask questions about specifics of the agency requests, express their concerns about what is or is not sufficiently funded, and deliberate. The LFC then begins the process of finalizing a legislative budget proposal. This will act as the “legislative response” to the Governor’s budget request. This multi-month process is the foundation of the budget that is voted on during the legislative session, and serves to reconcile any differences between the budgets submitted by the Governor and the legislature.
The official deadline for the Governor to submit the budget request to the legislature is early January prior to the start of the session, but requests are typically submitted much earlier. In recent years, the January deadline has served as an opportunity for the Governor to articulate the policy intentions and values that inform the budget proposal for the upcoming session.
Once the session begins, the budget proposal turns into a single bill that is given the same number every year: House Bill (HB) 2. This piece of legislation is where operating budgets for agencies are largely determined. There are other bills that are introduced that focus on different elements of the state’s budget, such as capital outlay (infrastructure funding) and special appropriations, but the bulk of the money the state appropriates is in HB 2. Like any policy introduced in the House, HB 2 goes through House committee hearings, most notably House Appropriations and Finance, before being sent to the House floor for approval. After the House floor, the bill moves to the Senate, where the Senate Finance committee takes over. This is critical to note because it highlights a key component of the power dynamic in the budget process: the Senate deliberates last. Any changes that the Senate makes to the budget will force HB 2 to go to conference for reconciliation with the House version (and the House must approve changes again on the floor). This means that the Senate typically spends the back half of any given legislative session with the budget, and sometimes uses the end of the session as leverage to get changes accepted.
The legislative process to approve a budget in the session can (and frequently does) go right down to the wire, occasionally getting voted for final passage just hours before the end of the legislative session. Once the legislature has passed HB 2, it, along with the other bills dealing with appropriations, goes to the Governor’s desk for approval. The Governor has the ability to make line item vetoes to HB 2, meaning she can strike certain items within the budget that the legislature approves without having to veto the entire document.
At CVNM, we know how important the budget is to achieving the ambitious vision set out in the policy that passed in 2019 and 2020. We have been building up our budget advocacy work as a result. We look forward to sharing the outcomes of this work in the coming years.
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. You can get their contact information by clicking on their name on the current Legislators page.