Clean Fuels: The Clean Fuels bill ran again this year (SB 14) in an improved form. The bill would have removed some of the emissions from the transportation sector by creating requirements for lower carbon intensity fuels blending. A similar bill ran out of time on the House floor last year, but this year it got a hearing at 2am on the last night of the session. After three hours of debate, the bill ultimately failed on a 33-33 tie vote that saw several legislators flip their “yes” votes to “no” at the very last moment.
Voting Bills: Nationwide, communities are witnessing legislation introduced that would make it more difficult for voters to access the polls. In response, the New Mexico legislature introduced SB 8: New Mexico Voting Rights Act to expand and protect voting access. The bill would have instituted several key reforms, including online voter registration expansion, protections for Native voters, creation of a voting holiday, and other measures. Upon reaching the Senate floor the bill was stalled indefinitely by a procedural maneuver from the minority (Republican) party requiring all senators to be physically present on the floor. In response to this, advocates transferred key elements of SB 8 to another Senate bill that had already crossed over to the House, SB 144. Originally written as a bill preventing the intimidation of poll workers, the bill passed the House floor with additional amendments aimed at protecting voting rights and access. Unfortunately, the amended bill required concurrence on the Senate floor on the final morning of the session. Senator Bill Sharer effectively filibustered the concurrence motion, refusing to relinquish the floor until the clock ran down and the session ended at noon.
The Budget: Setting the budget has become a contentious affair in recent years. With development and passage of strong climate policy in the last several years, much of the state’s focus has shifted to implementation. For example, the Oil Conservation Commission and Environmental Improvement Board have both promulgated rules in the last two years to limit methane emissions, providing the state with the tools to tackle the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions: the oil and gas industry. The 2022 session saw the Governor propose a budget that would have moved the agencies forward in limiting those emissions, but the legislature’s budget proposal didn’t match the investment. Ultimately the budget that wound up passing was a compromise between the two that meant the law currently remains well ahead of the ability of the agencies to fully implement it.
The Junior Bill: Both the executive and legislative budget proposals are generally put together in the Summer and finalized during the Fall, based on revenue estimates that are constantly changing due to fluctuations in the price of oil, gross receipts revenue, and other factors. When the revenue estimate gets adjusted upward in the legislative session, rather than having the executive and legislative budget staff rewrite the budget proposals (which would likely be impossible given the time constraints on the legislative process) the surplus is divided equally among members of the legislature. In effect, we “crowd-source” the surplus to distribute it efficiently. Legislators can then designate the funds to various projects in state government. The document that results is called the “junior bill.” It usually appears midway through the session, and represents the collective ideas of the entire legislature about the best places to bolster the state budget, from extra money for agencies to funding for local district projects.
CEED: One of the bright spots of the 2022 legislative session was the passage of HB 37, which created a program to make energy efficiency home upgrade grants to low income homeowners in New Mexico. This program will accomplish a couple of important things. Homes that are more energy efficient will require less fuel or energy to heat and cool, easing burdens on the electrical grid while also reducing emissions. These home improvements will also help low-income homeowners lower their energy bills while also building equity in their properties, helping to alleviate structural and intergenerational inequality.
Uranium Cleanup: HB 164 is the first step toward sustained uranium mine and milling cleanup after years of effort by uranium mining impacted communities in the Grants/Milan area, Laguna and Acoma Pueblos, and Navajo chapters. The legislation calls for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to create a uranium mine cleanup coordinator. The New Mexico Environment Department is tasked with developing a cleanup strategic plan; establishing a process for effective consultation and coordination with federal agencies, Indigenous nations, tribes and Pueblos, and other states; and working with the Economic Development Department, Workforce Solutions and industry to establish uranium mine and mill reclamation as a target economic development activity in 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.