[UPDATE] Liberal Santa Fe to vote on bill to become municipal lobbyist for ALEC bills

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Update (Dec 6, 2013, 7:35am):  Councilor Bushee provided a response to petition signers and some signers have asked for more information.  

We’ve included both of those items below, including a timeline of votes by councilors on the issue and our appreciation to councilors who have proposed to remove the ALEC-like policy from the city’s legislative priorities.

(12/3/13, 8:31am) Santa Fe – City Councilors in one of America’s most progressive cities are sponsoring legislation to turn Santa Fe, New Mexico into a municipal lobbyist for ALEC, the conservative corporate special interest bill factory and that has progressive advocates calling for change.

City Councilors Patti Bushee and Bill Dimas, both self-labeled progressives currently running for mayor, along with three other city councilors, recently sponsored legislation requiring the City of Santa Fe to lobby for mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, a key legislative agenda sponsored by the for-profit prison industry and advocated by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.   
ALEC has gained national notoriety as the organization pushing NRA-backed “Stand Your Ground” laws and voter suppression laws across the country.
The Center for Media and Democracy has published a long list of ALEC model bills, including the Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Act, an ALEC priority since the mid-1990s.  However, the policy has been so discredited that ALEC itself abandoned the policy earlier this year in favor of more discretion in limited cases.

ProgressNowNM, the state’s largest progressive advocacy organization, lauched a public petition and campaign urging Bushee, Dimas and other councilors to remove the pro-ALEC provisions from the city’s legislative priorities bill which will be heard and adopted on December 11.
“For years we’ve been fighting to keep ALEC and shadowy corporate money out of state legislatures,” says Patrick Davis, Executive Director of ProgressNow NM.  “I didn’t think we’d start fighting them locally in a city like Santa Fe but here we are so here we go.” 
In anticipation of the state’s 2014 legislative session convening in January, city councilors often propose various items they wish for the city mayor, police chief and other officials to publicly lobby for.
Earlier this year, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss announced an innovative program to divert low-level drug offenders into treatment in lieu of incarceration.  In direct conflict to the ALEC-like mandatory minimum legislation, councilors are also considering legislation to request special funding from the state to continue the “diversion in lieu of incarceration” program as a pilot.
Mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders are almost universally accepted as disproportionately criminalizing minority populations and the primary reason for the country’s exploding prison population, especially those housed in for-profit prisons including CCA and the GEO Group, both of whom have facilities in New Mexico.  Attorney General Eric Holder made national news earlier this year by changing federal prosecution policies to effectively mitigate the effects of mandatory minimum sentencing in federal prosecutions.

(12/6/13, 5:52 am):  
Patti Bushee message:

Pat Davis’s (Progress Now) blogspot and petition are dead wrong about my position on mandatory sentencing for drug offenses. The City’s legislative priorities resolution, introduced by Mayor Coss, inclu
des a provision requiring the City to lobby for mandatory sentencing for drug traffickers. I do not support that provision and will not vote for it.

If you want to understand my position on mandatory sentencing for drug offenses, read the City Council meeting minutes of October 30, 2013, I advocate for funding for Drug Courts, as a priority. I also advocate for diversion rather than incarceration.

“She said there needs to be a companion resolution that supports the other side where we are diverting from incarceration and moving toward treatment…” I have never supported the for-profit prison industry as suggested by Pat Davis, and that’s a statement that cannot be made by the other “self-labeled progressive” mayoral candidate, former County Commissioner Javier Gonzales, who successfully advocated building a for-profit County Jail. Check the record on that one.

I served on the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) task force and will continue to support treatment for drug addiction over incarceration and oppose mandatory sentencing. I think that the War on Drugs has been a colossal failure.  As for the trumped-up ALEC connection, it is absurd to think I would support anything they stand for.

12/6/13, 7:35am:

Ms. Bushee and some of our petition signers have asked us for additional information.  While a copy of the resolution has been posted here since the first call to action, we have provided an updated timeline and highlighted the specific provisions relevant to this issue.

October 9:   A resolution, sponsored by Councilors Bushee, Dimas, Trujillo, Dominguez and Rivera was prepared by the council’s legislative liaison at the sponsor’s direction.


October 15: The resolution, bearing the names of Councilors Bushee, Dimas and other sponsors was presented and placed in the record for discussion at the city’s council’s public safety committee meeting.  

October 21:  The resolution was discussed at the city council finance committee meeting where Ms. Bushee was present.  The minutes reflect that one councilor offered an amendment to another portion of the resolution.  Ms. Bushee voted, with others, to approve this amendment.   Councilor Dimas offered a spirited argument for mandatory minimum sentencing.  Ms. Bushee did not object or offer any comments.

Read the minutes online here

Ms. Bushee did not offer any amendments to remove, or even comment on, mandatory minimum sentencing.

October 30:  The resolution, in its original form, was discussed at the City Council meeting.   As Ms. Bushee notes, she expressed support for other provisions of the resolution, including a hotline for reporting drug activity. 

Also, as evidenced on the next page of minutes Ms. Bushee references in her response, some councilors questioned whether the lobbying directives in the Bushee-Dimas resolution should be included in the city’s other lobbying resolution, not in a resolution about a drug hotline.

Read the minutes online here

Instead of making a motion to remove the “lobby for mandatory minimum sentences” provisions from the bill, Ms. Bushee voted to merge her lobbying recommendation with those of the mayor and other councilors in the omnibus legislative priorities bill.   



Since we first brought attention to this issue, and the devious ALEC and for-profit prison connections behind these types of proposals, both Councilor Bushee and Dimas have expressed a desire to remove mandatory minimum sentencing from the council’s final legislative priorities legislation.

At ProgressNowNM, we thank them for being open to a robust public dialogue on the issue and for engaging with their constituents and concerned citizens who see any eroding of civil liberties on a few as a threat to us all.   We look forward to the City Council’s December 11th meeting where the conversation will, no doubt, continue and where councilors are expected to make the final decision on the city’s legislative priorities for 2014.