What is “Preemption” and Why is Nate Gentry Obsessed With It?
1. the purchase of goods or shares by one person or party before the opportunity is offered to others.
2. the action of preempting or forestalling, especially of making a preemptive attack.
You may have heard the word “preemption” floating around the world of New Mexico politics lately like an annoying gnat you can’t quite see but won’t seem to leave you alone.
Specifically, new Republican House Majority Leader Nate Gentry is carrying two preemption bills this session – one to prevent municipalities and counties from enforcing oil & gas laws and another to prevent local authorities from raising the minimum wage.
Why the sudden push for preemption? And what are the consequences?
Minimum Wage Preemption – HB 498
The thrust of this bill “would remove local authority to enact a minimum wage that is higher than the state minimum wage.” Proponents claim that the fact that there are differences in minimum wage rates across the state (Santa Fe has a higher minimum wage than the state mandates, for example) make it too complicated for businesses to figure out.
(Never mind the fact that it would take you all of 5 minutes to figure out the different rates – there aren’t that many of them and there are plenty of resources available to help.)
What’s really behind Gentry’s push is much more sinister and part of the ALEC agenda to infuse failed conservative policies into all levels of state and local government. (We previously outed Rep. Gentry as an ALEC member. Here’s the ALEC model bill his is based on.)
“To really understand the real motivation for Representative Nate Gentry’s pre-emption bill you have to look at what else is happening in the legislature. They want to pre-empt [minimum wage] increases locally while not actually increasing the minimum wage statewide. So this is really just an effort to suppress minimum wage increases. It would be one thing if the state were increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 and then pre-empting local ordinances but that’s not what’s going on here. They’re trying to pre-empt increases locally while not actually raising the state minimum wage.”
Like most of the legislation introduced by House and Senate Republicans during this session, this bill is a political maneuver masquerading as sound policy. (See also: right-to-work, the 3rd grade flunking bill, repealing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, mandatory photo voter ID, etc.)
It’s no secret most conservatives (and their big business special interest allies like ACI New Mexico, the ABQ Chamber of Commerce, the NM Business Coalition, etc.) fight tooth and nail against minimum wage increases. That’s why no one was fooled when Rep. Gentry tacked on a $0.50 minimum wage increase to the controversial right-to-work bill – it was simply a political ploy to put Democrats who voted against the bill on the record as having voted against a minimum wage increase.
If Republicans were serious about raising the wage – 60% of New Mexicans want an increase to $10 or more – they would have introduced a standalone bill with a substantial increase.
Rep. Gentry’s minimum wage preemption bill is simply a way for state government to stifle the ability of local governments to determine their own economic future. So much for the conservative fondness for local rights and small government, huh?
Oil & Gas Preemption – HB 366
In another counter-intuitive move from someone as conservative as Nate Gentry, he’s also carrying a bill to prevent local municipalities and counties from enforcing oil and gas laws.
You may remember that Mora County recently passed an ordinance banning fracking in their county. Needless to say, conservatives (like Gentry) in the pocket of corporate oil and gas interests were not amused. (An extremely cursory review of just one of Gentry’s finance reports in 2014 shows he took at least $3,150 from corporate oil and gas interests – Exxon, Concho Resources, etc.)
Despite the fact that a court already overturned Mora County’s ability to ban fracking, Gentry (and other Republicans carrying similar legislation) is going full steam ahead with his bill, making sure his special interest buddies know just how much of a champion he is for them. What’s all that campaign money for if not?
And two days ago, when Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Brian Egolf introduced an amendment to guard against the detrimental impacts of oil and gas development, every Republican present in the House voted against it. Here’s what Rep. Egolf had to say after that:
“[Rep. Gentry’s] deceptive legislation will endanger every New Mexican by giving a blank check to big polluters statewide…Our Oil and Gas Safety amendment would have protected New Mexicans from common harms caused by oil and gas operations. Rep. Gentry’s bill will abolish current local laws that protect our people, air, water, and land from pollution caused by oil and gas projects. House Republicans voted against a proposal that would have protected the health, safety, and welfare of New Mexicans, and will instead allow polluters to get away with future destruction with no remorse for the people, air, land, and water of New Mexico.”
Rep. Egolf’s words were put in somber perspective yesterday as an oil field explosion in Lea County killed one worker and seriously injured another. From KCBD:
LEA COUNTY, NM (KCBD) – One oil field worker has been killed and another has been seriously injured in an oil field accident in Jal, New Mexico. It happened around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Lea County Sheriff’s Office tells us Rusty Harrison James was killed in the explosion. Another worker, Tyler Winter, sustained injuries to his chest, torso, and right leg and was air lifted to Lubbock for treatment.
Sheriff’s Office representatives tell us the workers were loading oil field related materials into perforated pipe which was being installed into the drilling pipe when an explosion occurred. The victims were injured by metal and shrapnel, but there was no fire associated with the explosion.
The oil field site belonged to Mesquite SWD out of Carlsbad, NM and the company working on the site was Warrior Wireline. Both of the victims worked for Warrior Wireline. The investigation is continuing at this time.
If only Rep. Gentry were as concerned with helping working people as he is with making sure the special interests with which he’s aligned have everything they need to make a profit on the backs of New Mexico’s treasured natural resources: our lands and our people.