Holy Tea Party (and ALEC!) House Takeover
New Mexico’s new Republican House majority isn’t wasting any time laying out their extreme agenda.
On the first business day, they eliminated committees on voting and elections and created new committees to deal with “regulations,” crime and punishment.
Yesterday we learned who will be in charge of the new committees (story at NM Political Report here) and it’s a who’s-who of ALEC leaders and Tea Party crazy.
Nothing qualifies a Republican for a leadership position in education policy like proposing to ban Hispanic heritage books in schools.
Meet the new House Education Committee Chair, Nora Espinoza (R- Roswell, ALEC) . We helped generate national press for Espinoza last year after she proposed banning books during a House Education Committee meeting.
ProgressNow New Mexico launched an action calling on New Mexicans to email and call Espinoza to encourage her to reverse her stance on supporting the banning of books by the government.
Espinoza, a conservative legislator who is herself Hispanic, went off on a rant against the Latino intellectuals whose books were banished, saying they don’t belong in New Mexico schools.
Madam Chair will now oversee the Education Committee, responsible for everything from curriculum in schools to student testing and teacher qualifications.
Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (R-Valencia Co.)will also be returning to the House Education Committee.
We helped make him famous in 2014 after he hijacked an Education Committee hearing to investigate how schools were using yoga in PE as an indoctrination tool for eastern religions. Seriously.
“Of all the things a legislator could focus on to get our public schools back on track, Rep. Baldonado chose this one as his most important,” said Patrick Davis of ProgressNowNM.org. “Even for conspiracy theorists, this one seems far-fetched. How he thinks a rudimentary stretching routine meant to improve physical health could lead students to join a religious cult is beyond me.”
Rep. Nora Espinoza (her hat has it’s own Twitter handle @NorasHat) has already introduced two bills heavily laden with ALEC-style DNA. House bills 53 and 55 both deal with education policy and are closely modeled in ALEC model education bills. (more on 2015’s ALEC bills soon).
State Rep. Paul Bandy (R-San Juan Co., ALEC) has now been appointed to lead the Rules Committee for the new House.
What qualifies Bandy to lead a committee? His years as the state’s ALEC chair, for one. Bandy sat down with us and constituents in 2012 to explain how, as ALEC chair, he controls a slush fund to send fellow legislators on ALEC excursions to meet with corporations pushing new pro-corporate bills. He also nicely told us that, as an ALEC member, corporate checks “just show up in my mailbox.”
State Rep. Paul Bandy, co-chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council in New Mexico, gave a surprisingly candid, on-the-record interview that Progress Now New Mexico attended and recorded.
Bandy says that he never solicited a single donation and that money just appears in his mailbox from ALEC-related corporations. Some in the audience laughed at the remarks, but Bandy didn’t bristle at being called a ‘corporate-sponsored legislator,’ something that should give pause to New Mexico voters…
Anyone interested in getting legislation passed, Bandy said, should do like ALEC and write him a check for $2,300, buy him lunch and he will consider the legislation. Theoretically, this comment was a joke.
House Agriculture, Water & Wildlife Committee
Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell (R- Roswell) is one of the most colorful members of the state legislature. She routinely sponsors bills relating to horse racing (she’s a big fan).
A few years back, she received some interesting attention by suggesting that the state add miniature giraffes to the state’s list of permitted service animals (like service dogs, only with longer legs, presumably). We think she was joking. Maybe.
Service giraffes: It seemed like an innocent enough bill. Sen. Nancy Rodriguez’s Senate Bill 320 would add miniature horses to the lists of service animals for the disabled. It easily passed the Senate, but when it got to the House, the road got a little bumpy, at least for a couple of minutes. Rep. Candy Spence-Ezzell, R-Roswell — a rancher who does know horses — was skeptical.
“I don’t want to be sitting at a restaurant and have some horse come up to my table and start eating my salad,” she said.
Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who was carrying the bill on the House floor, assured her that her salad probably would be safe.
But Spence-Ezzell wasn’t satisfied. Was this just a hoof in the door for other exotic service animals? Would this end up with people having service giraffes, she pondered.
However, fear of long-necked mayhem didn’t sway the House. The bill passed 47-14, and it now awaits the signature of the governor. – Santa Fe New Mexican, 2013
House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee
ALEC has a big imprint on the new combined Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chair James Strickler (R-San Juan Co. ALEC) lists his occupation as a “Petroleum Landman” (different than a Petroleum Landwoman, apparently).
He’ll have backup from new Majority Floor Leader Nate Gentry (R – Albuquerque, ALEC) whose personal experiences with poaching (he was convicted and served probation for illegal hunting during last year’s legislative session) make him more qualified to weigh in on the new Wildlife committee, but Natural Resources is close.
ALEC’s new influence over environmental issues is concerning for many reasons. But Google’s CEO summed it up nicely last year when he explained to NPR that ALEC was “just literally lying” about climate change:
“Well, the company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts—what a shock,” Schmidt said. “And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people—they’re just, they’re just literally lying.“
You can read more about ALEC’s recent meeting of corporations and legislators in their Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force thanks to documents that leaked to the Washington Post and others last year. Their enviro agenda is included.
House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee
When Maj. Leader Nate Gentry (R-ABQ., ALEC) introduced the GOP’s newly conceived Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee, the speaker’s chief of staff said it would handle everything from crossing guards to speed limits.
Leading that anti-regulation committee will be one of ALEC’s most vocal defenders in the legislature, Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Otero Co., ALEC) .
We stood up in last year’s session to oppose Herrell’s bill turning over federal public lands to state entities responsible for managing oil and gas leases, among others. When we outed the bill as an ALEC bill she responded by saying, “Yes, Mr. Chairman I am a member of ALEC!” (read that story here).
She later wrote an op-ed defending her membership in ALEC (likely written by ALEC’s PR department) to several local newspapers.
She was rewarded by being named ALEC’s “State Chair of the Year” that same year. Here’s ALEC’s glowing review of her performance for their agenda:
Rep. Herrell has been a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives since 2010. She serves on several legislative committees, including Business and Industry, Courts, Corrections and Justice and Economic and Rural Development. In addition to serving as the ALEC New Mexico public sector co-chair, Rep. Herrell is a member of the ALEC Task Force on International Relations and Federalism and the Task Force on Energy, Environment and Agriculture.
“Representative Herrell is an incredible ALEC partner in New Mexico,” said ALEC Chair of State Chairs Sen. Barbara Cegavske.
The newly created Health Committee is led by Las Cruces-area Republican Dr. Terry McMillian (R-Dona Ana, ALEC?). McMillian has not been publicly named as an ALEC member, but he at least deserves honorable mention after being spotted at ALEC’s New Mexico legislative dinner in 2012.
House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee
The new House has a slew of committees dealing with crime and punishment and regulations. One of them is led by Rep. Bill Rehm (R-ABQ, ALEC) . As a longtime member of ALEC’s Public Safety Committee, Rehm is well versed on ALEC’s public safety agenda.
House Appropriations and Finance Committee
New Mexico’s budget is now in the hands of long-time ALEC member Larry Larrañaga (R – Bernalillo County, ALEC) .