It’s almost here; the final day of the 2016 legislature.
As always, the battles inside the Roundhouse this year were hard fought.
Sadly, though, the trend of New Mexico Republicans being completely and laughably out-of-touch with the needs of ordinary New Mexicans continued unabated this year.
From new Secretary of State candidate Rep. Nora Espinoza trying to legalize discrimination and gut wages for construction workers, to male Republican lawmakers trying to insert the government into private decisions about women’s reproductive health, to a House committee chairman claiming that people in New Mexico don’t understand real poverty (!), Republican legislators proved again this year that they’re living in a different universe.
But guess what? There’s an election coming up in November. Be sure to remember what New Mexico’s conservative leaders are all about as the voting booth draws nearer…
Anti-abortion groups and legislators try to interfere in private medical decisions
Women were under attack again by Republican lawmakers this year.
Both of the major efforts this year aimed at targeting the healthcare providers that might offer abortion services.
An unnecessary and dangerous bill (HB 275) would have added burdensome restrictions to abortion providers and was meant to vilify abortion providers as outside of mainstream medicine.
Other bills would have banned abortion later in pregnancy regardless of a woman’s circumstances (SB 242 and 243). Thankfully, the bills were tabled and once again New Mexico affirmed that a woman making the personal and complex decision about abortion later in pregnancy needs access to safe and legal healthcare without government interference.
[A coalition of community groups, faith leaders, health care providers and others launched Respect NM Women during the session this year and were instrumental in defeating these measures. This coalition grew out of the Respect ABQ Women campaign that defeated an extremist attempt to ban abortions later in pregnancy regardless of circumstance in 2013 in Albuquerque. You can check them out here and here.]
Republicans push failed crime bills straight out of the 1980’s
Coming in 4th on our list are the heap of supposed “anti-crime” bills from Gov. Martinez and Republican lawmakers. After a string of high-profile crimes in Albuquerque, Republicans saw an opportunity to make vulnerable Democrats take votes on “tough on crime” bills and so flooded the legislature with them.
Over 20 separate bills were introduced in the house ALONE that covered everything from criminalizing youth by instituting curfews to expanding outdated Three Strikes laws.
As most states have worked in the past few years to undo mandatory minimum sentencing laws and three-strikes laws, New Mexico Republicans were laser-focused on such policies this session.
Of course when you look at where Republicans are getting some of their funding this starts to make even more sense. Turns out that the private prison industry was a big player in attacking Democrats during the last election.
A ProgressNow NM investigation found that a mega-donation from for-profit prison group Geo Group Inc. funded a slew of attack ads that helped Republicans win the House in 2014. More incarceration is needed for such companies to profit and the crime bills put forth this year would put more and more people in private prison beds.
Republicans want to pass bills as long as they don’t provide jobs, education funding, or help anyone.
Republicans put forward a lot of bills this year that might make you say “what?” but it was the lack of bills that would have done something, anything to help New Mexico working families that really leaves us dumbfounded.
And while not putting any effort forward to actively protect jobs and workers is bad enough, Republicans like Nora Espinoza tried to actually undo workers’ rights with a bill that would have cut construction worker wages by 30%.
Multiple attempts by Democrats to freeze the phase-in of the 2013 corporate income tax cuts that are costing the state millions in lost revenue were defeated by Republicans.
Other Republican bills were aimed at rolling back the minimum wage and weakening worker rights with a so-called “right to work” law. Luckily, those were defeated.
Nora Espinoza. Need we say more?
Rep. Nora Espinoza could have her own top 5 worst moments list considering all the crazy she unleashes in Santa Fe year after year.
Espinoza started off the 2016 session trying to legalize discrimination through so called “religious freedom” exemptions for businesses. Fortunately the bill (HB 55) died almost immediately, but the WTF didn’t stop there as Espinoza then went on to announce her intention to run for Secretary of State.
Even before she submitted her signatures to get on the ballot, Espinoza was caught up in an ethics scandal. She directed potential campaign supporters to her state-managed legislative website, basically campaigning on the voters’ dime.
That’s not a great way to distinguish yourself from Dianna Duran – neither is Espinoza’s choice of Rod Adair for her campaign manager. (The same Rod Adair who oversaw campaign finance reporting and ethics under Dianna Duran. How’d that work out?).
Speaking of ethics (or the lack thereof), Espinoza apparently also didn’t want to be on record about an independent ethics board for New Mexico, choosing instead to just duck out of the House entirely during that vote in the house.
White male chemical engineer with cushy job says New Mexicans “have no clue what real poverty is like”
Topping our list of the worst moments from #NMLEG 2016 is Republican Rep. Jason Harper’s remarks about New Mexico and poverty.
“I get really frustrated when I hear things like ‘our state is dying,” is what Harper said in a committee hearing about a state that hasn’t seen job growth in nearly a decade, has the worst rate of childhood poverty in the nation, and is next to last in educating its kids.
Then he said that New Mexicans “have no clue what real poverty is like.”
[A video of the committee hearing can be found here]
Such a completely faulty comparison ignores the elephant in the Roundhouse that most lawmakers simply refuse to address: New Mexico has the highest rate of childhood poverty, the highest unemployment rate, and the third highest child hunger rate.
To add insult to injury, Harper’s callous remarks came before he voted alongside his fellow Republicans to table a bill that would have allowed working families to keep more of their income every year. Currently, New Mexico’s top tax rate of 4.9% affects anyone who earns more than $16,000 a year whereas those who earn income from capital gains pay a paltry 2.5%.
The best defense against these attacks in the future is to change the composition of 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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