Impact of oil and gas revenues on legislative process: State appropriators are always concerned about whether or not the level of oil and gas development activity will generate enough state revenue to keep critical agencies functioning properly. This issue is compounded by the fact that New Mexico under-collects revenues from this industry which – tends to do well only during times of new drilling and growth – and by the shocks to state revenues when the industry experiences a decline, which has happened several times just in the past decade. Industry messaging has been designed to reinforce this anxiety in legislators, focusing extensively on the revenue that severance tax payments bring to state coffers as a method of building leverage to push back against regulatory efforts. The state has begun to take proactive measures to diversify revenue sources, such as tax reforms in 2019 that will see high earners taxed more equitably. The New Mexico State Land Office has also been a leader in the conversation to develop and promote new revenue sources for New Mexico.
Legislating in uncertainty: The 2021 session brought tremendous uncertainty around ways the legislature could function in a pandemic. What would virtual committee meetings be like? How could advocates successfully lobby in an all-virtual session? What would public participation look and be like? With so much in flux, it didn’t seem practical to try to pass a breakthrough bill like 2019’s Energy Transition Act, so we prioritized a legislative agenda that centered on an array of smaller but still transformative bills. Ultimately, 11 pro-conservation bills passed, and all were signed by the Governor, including three of our Priority bills. This was historic, representing the largest number of pro-conservation bills to pass in a single legislative session. Two of the 11 enacted into law, Community Solar and Roxy’s Law, represented years of advocacy effort aided in this session by strong coalition work.
Community voices in a virtual session: The Covid-19 pandemic forced everyone to confront the task of carrying out a virtual legislative process. A big question was how the public would be able to participate in an effective way. Despite some stumbles and failures at the outset, making public comment in a virtual legislature became, suddenly, much more democratic. Low-income and frontline community members across the state did not have to drive to Santa Fe and just hope that the committee they wanted to attend wasn’t postponed or too full to accommodate them. Simultaneous Spanish-English translation during committee Zoom calls allowed new voices to be heard. Many legislators said they would push to continue virtual access to committee meetings even after in-person legislation returns.
Climate Solutions: The Climate Solutions Act (HB 9) required a statewide framework to address climate change and establish a sustainable economy. It directed state agencies to adopt rules to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 while ensuring inclusion in workforce development and procurement – a just transition. The lack of support for setting an ambitious – but necessary – goal for eliminating GHG emissions by 2050 looked like it had killed the bill. However, legislative sponsors, especially then-Rep. Melanie Stansbury and Rep. Angelica Rubio, pivoted. With strong support from Power4NM’s community-based organizations, they shifted to a new focus on the just transition aspect of HB 9 and sponsored the Workforce & Economic Prosperity Act (HB 297). This received committee support in the House, but with better prospects in the Senate, they rolled the House bill into Senator Mimi Stewart’s SB 112, the Sustainable Economy Task Force. That bill easily passed and was signed by the Governor. This was a victory for frontline communities because the bill put into statute the requirement to fully engage them in a just transition from oil and gas to a sustainable renewable energy economy.
Coalition work: Even though some of our hard-fought priority bills didn’t make it through, the partner work carried out in coalition with our legislative champions and the communities most impacted by policy has built a strong advocacy base. Working together, we will continue to push to get critical climate and pro-conservation legislation enacted in the coming years. Community-based allies also sparked new conversations in committees, and centered social justice in the policy discussion. Native American Voting Alliance (NAVA) Education Project was a critical ally, as were other groups in the Power4NM coalition, including OLÉ (Organizers in the Land of Enchantment), NM CAFé (Communidades en Accion y de Fé) and Somos Un Pueblo Unido.
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.