Yesterday we ran through our “Top 5 WORST things from #NMLEG 2016.”
Though bad bills and bad actors were plentiful this year, there were also a lot of great things to look back on from the progressive point-of-view.
Today we’re taking a look at the top 5 best things to happen in #NMLEG 2016.
Progressive champions in the House
Despite being in the minority, progressives in the House put forth a valiant effort this year to advance some key policies to help our kids, our economy, our education system, our voting systems, and much more. Here’s just a small sampling of these champions:
Rep. Bill McCamley had a bill to equalize the tax code in the state so that people earning most of their income from capital gains would pay the same rate as those who work hourly. “The bill would have increased the state’s Working Families Tax Credit from 10 percent of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to 20 percent.”
Rep. Jeff Steinborn got his bill to the governor’s desk – which he’s sponsored for years now – to allow some 17 year olds to participate in primary elections. It’s a proven way to get young people involved in the democratic process earlier in life and increase overall democratic participation.
Rep. Doreen Gallegos‘ HB 142 would create criminal statutes that would make it a crime to assault Children Youth and Family Division workers. Gallegos said that, “this legislation signals to our social workers that the state has their backs.” Her bill passed the House unanimously.
Rep. Andres Romero’s HB 97 got a lot of attention this year. It would save 9th and 10th graders about six hours of standardized testing time by getting rid of “short cycle” tests. It was a real winner as it has the support of Gov. Martinez, progressive and conservative legislators, and teacher’s unions.
And the House Democratic Caucus crafted a great Economic Opportunity Plan that, sadly, the House GOP majority refused to act on:
“Senate Democrats did the best they could with the bad situation that was handed to them,” said House Democratic Leader, Representative Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe). “We are in this economic crisis because of failed Republican leadership – starting with Governor Martinez who has spent the last 5 years fighting against driver’s licenses instead of fighting for jobs; then to House Republican Leadership who ignored the critical need for jobs during the session. Instead of helping working families they pushed their All Crime All the Time agenda instead of working with us on our jobs plan and increasing revenues for New Mexico.”
Marijuana makes it further than ever
A proposed constitutional amendment would have asked voters whether New Mexico should legalize and tax recreational marijuana. It made it to the Senate floor this year, which is as far as any such legislation has ever gotten.
It was a big victory for the progress of sensible drug laws, even though the measure was ultimately defeated on a full Senate vote.
A poll conducted by the ABQ Journal’s pollster, Brian Sanderoff, and released last month by the Drug Policy Alliance, showed that 61% of New Mexicans support legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana.
Sen. Ortiz y Pino, who sponsored the proposal, “said he proposed the legislation as a constitutional amendment to send a message to the federal government. He called the federal regulation on marijuana a “wrongheaded approach.”
“I only hope this is one time New Mexico will not be the 49th state to act,” Ortiz y Pino said.
Defeat of failed GOP pro-incarceration agenda
While Republicans inundated the 2016 session with a flood of “all crime all the time” bills, progressive leaders in the Senate smartly gave them the close vetting House Republicans refused to (the House GOP fast-tracked their crime agenda and didn’t even bother to look at the fiscal implications).
And the result of actually spending time thinking through what such pro-incarceration bills would do?
It became clear that these policies – like mandatory teen curfews and harsher three-strikes laws – are ineffective, are being repealed all the over the country, and would cost New Mexico a ton while not actually reducing crime.
“One sentence became familiar in many of the crime bills: ‘Enhanced sentences over time will increase the population of New Mexico’s prisons and long-term costs to the general fund.’”
As Senate Leader Michael Sanchez realized, and has been saying all along, the focus should be on treatment programs, crisis intervention, mental health programs, and education.
Senate progressives put forward a number of bills to make good on this strategy of treatment and investment over punishment and incarceration – including bills to raise wages for school employees and expand behavioral health services.
The Senate Public Affairs Committee (SPAC) firewall
The progressive members of the Senate Public Affairs Committee really shined this legislative session.
SPAC aims to oversee bills that will impact the public at large – so they get a lot of the most controversial bills coming across their desks.
More than once this year they heard – and thankfully tabled – bills that would have limited women’s rights to safe and legal medical care by inserting the government into the deeply personal decision about abortion.
Committee chair, Sen. Ortiz y Pino, and his fellow progressives on the committee also stopped some serious attacks on worker rights.
Bills like SB 269 used deceptive language like “employee preference” but are nothing more than insidious attempts to pass so-called “right-to-work” legislation.
Such bills have decimated work forces in Michigan and Wisconsin, so kudos to SPAC for standing up for New Mexico workers. Median household income in “right-to-work” states is $6,437 less than in free bargaining states. And 7 of the 10 states with the highest unemployment have passed these laws.
You can be sure Gov. Martinez and Nate Gentry’s well-monied attack machine will be coming for these (and other) Senators as we get closer to the November elections.
To send a thank you to your Senator for defending progressive values this year, click the link below:
REAL ID compromise is a major win
It only took half a decade of political posturing by Gov. Martinez, but a compromise over immigrant driver’s licenses and REAL ID was finally reached this year.
Despite the Republican propaganda machine spinning tall tales about citizens not being able to board planes, progressive leaders in the House and Senate crafted a compromise bill that is expected to be signed into law.
The compromise is basically what was passed last session in the Senate (but which was blocked by the Republican-controlled House) – a system where those who want REAL ID compliant licenses can jump through the required hoops to get them, those who don’t want to can get a driving authorization card, and our undocumented families will still be able to drive legally.
The compromise bill is being touted as a victory for immigrant families. From the Santa Fe New Mexican:
Martinez lost most of what she wanted and campaigned on for five years — a repeal of driving privileges for undocumented immigrants. The bill that she said she will sign into law allows undocumented immigrants to get state-issued driving authorization cards.
The bill also allows U.S. citizens and immigrants with lawful status to decide if they want a license that complies with the federal Real ID Act or the same type of authorization card that will go to immigrants with proof of identity and residency in New Mexico.
Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a Santa Fe-based immigrant advocacy group, said immigrants are happy because Martinez lost a yearslong “war.”
And here’s a great infographic from Somos Un Pueblo Unido that explains exactly what this new law will and won’t do:
[click to expand]
The best way to make sure more of these progressive idea and policies come to fruition in the future is to elect more progressives to your state legislature.
We need to make our lawmakers more accountable to the people and ProgressNow NM is working tirelessly everyday to make sure that happens.
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