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Every year in the CVNM Scorecard, we discuss the high and low points of the legislative session.  In 2011/2012, it seemed as if every pro-conservation aspect of the session had a flip side, and vice-versa.  So instead of our traditional ‘Highlights & Lowlights,’ we’re presenting ‘The Flip Side’ for those of you with the misfortune—or, on the flip side, the fortune!—of missing the 2011/2012 legislative session.

On the good side…

Senator Peter Wirth finally (!) passed the Combined Reporting bill.

On the flip side…

Unfortunately, the bill (SB9, 2012) was gutted to a shadow of its former self. Senator Phil Griego amended the bill to apply only to “big box” stores, thus exempting major corporations–such as oil, gas and mining (among others)–that have significant impacts on our environment.

On the bad side…

Then going from bad to worse, Governor Martinez vetoed the drastically weakened SB9.

On the good side…

Despite the contentious atmosphere in the legislature, 2011 saw the passage of a number of innovative bills that tackled serious environmental problems with practical, bipartisan solutions.  Whether promoting energy efficiency, improving cyclist safety, reducing mercury pollution or increasing transparency, these bills would make New Mexicans happier, healthier and better informed.

On the flip side…

Unfortunately, the bipartisanship that propelled these common-sense bills to the Governor’s desk could not save them.  Every single one of them was vetoed by Governor Martinez, with no explanation of how those decisions benefited (or failed to benefit) the public.

On the bad side…

Every year it seems that the attacks on our environmental safeguards increase in number, scope and intensity.

On the flip side…

We are proud to report our 8th consecutive year of 100% success in opposing anti-environmental legislation.

On the good side…

The Solid Waste Act Public Hearings bill (HB252, 2012) was originally introduced as a companion (identical) bill to SB164, which significantly weakened the public hearing process for landfill permits. However, several parties negotiated an acceptable incremental compromise that was represented in the substitute bill that emerged from House Energy & Natural Resources Committee. HB 252 was substituted to address our concerns, and CVNM withdrew our opposition.  The negotiation process stirred a positive dialogue over what qualifies as “significant public interest.” 

On the flip side…

A better compromise could have been achieved much sooner—and therefore stood a stronger chance of passing—were it not for the “all or nothing” attitude from the Martinez administration.  The unwillingness of the Governor’s administration to accept a true compromise is—from our perspective—the reason that a common-sense solution was not adopted.

On the bad side…

Governor Martinez nominated Harrison Schmitt in 2011—well-known for his denial of human-caused climate change—as Secretary of Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources.  The position of cabinet secretary is wholly inappropriate for someone who ignores or discounts sound science.

On the flip side…

New Mexicans of all political stripes weighed in with their legislators and members of the Senate Rules Committee, and Schmitt’s nomination became one of the more contentious issues of the session.  After the Chair of Senate Rules Committee, Senator Linda Lopez, held firm on the common-sense procedures and vetting that nominees must undergo before their hearing, Schmitt withdrew his nomination.

On the bad side…

In a 2011 late-session maneuver, the Governor’s office attempted to reauthorize, or shift, $5 million that had already been allocated to conservation and river restoration projects.  The language was inserted in a funding bill that emerged from the Senate during the last week of the session.

On the flip side…

A dogged and diverse group of New Mexicans worked tirelessly with key legislators from both parties in an effort to protect the funding for these important projects—many of which were already underway.  Led by Representative Don Tripp and Chairman of House Appropriations & Finance Kiki Saavedra, the House of Representatives successfully restored the funding in a floor vote during the last night of the session.

On a good note… (with no flip side)

Surprises abounded during the 2011/2012 sessions.  One of the most pleasant was the emergence of unexpected allies in the Roundhouse.  Legislators who had previously demonstrated an ambivalence towards conservation efforts seemed to recognize the danger in the Governor’s and industry’s efforts to strip critical protections from vulnerable New Mexican families and communities.

Representative Debbie Rodella worked diligently to defend the state’s renewable energy requirement, and also tried to ensure that inactive oil and gas wells would not pose a threat to New Mexico’s groundwater.  Senator Mary Kay Papen was a key ally in the fight to restore $5 million of conservation and river restoration funding.

Among others, these legislators stepped up to the plate and fought back, and for that we are grateful.

Although our Land of Enchantment emerged from the 2011/2012 sessions relatively unscathed, the threats facing our communities are escalating—driven by industry-backed efforts to dismantle the common-sense safeguards that protect the health and safety of all New Mexicans.

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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.

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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.

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