By Mona Blaber
Lots of good news as we wave goodbye to this year’s New Mexico legislative session, which ended at noon Thursday. Here’s a recap of some of the bills you lobbied your legislators on. Thanks to our lead lobbyists, Dan Lorimier, Patricia Cardona and Melinda Smith, for keeping us in the loop and working so hard on all of these bills.
Solar tax credits! On the final night, the House passed Senate Bill 79, which renews the 10% tax credit for residents and small businesses who install solar panels, passed the House and moved to Gov. Martinez’s office. This credit will reduce the effect of the recent U.S. tariff on solar panels, if the governor signs it. Thanks to Environment New Mexico for their leadership on this bill!
Good news on HB 325! The Senate Conservation Committee never heard this bill, which would have damaged chances to close the polluting San Juan coal plant and replace it with renewable energy, so it never reached the Senate floor. It was dicey there in those last two days, and your calls and emails were imperative.
You sent hundreds of notes, and we heard that Conservation Committee members were flooded with calls. After Chair Joseph Cervantes’ scary tweet Wednesday morning, he was the one whose decision not to hold a meeting to hear HB 325 doomed the bill. It was heartening to see your responses stacked up under Cervantes’ Tweet. Gold star to Mary K., who appears to have created a Twitter account just to respond! This is your victory. It might be worthwhile to send Cervantes a thank-you note (Joseph@cervanteslawnm.com), in addition to Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Keeping the Gila wild: HB330, which would have moved funds away from an ill-conceived Gila River diversion project to instead fund local water-conservation projects in Southwestern New Mexico, was pulled from the House floor and died. We’ll try again next year, led by Gila Resources Information Project and Gila Conservation Coalition.
Bad Seed bill died: HB161, an ALEC bill that would have stopped any local government from, for example, requiring labeling of genetically modified crops or imposing public-health restrictions like setbacks or pesticide-drift regulations, died in the House State Government, Indian Affairs and Veterans Committee. Thank you for writing and calling this committee’s members. Thanks also to the New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance for their leadership on opposing this bill and to the many traditional and indigenous farmers who testified against it.
Chaco memorials: SM 43 and HM 85 affirmed New Mexico’s commitment to protecting and preserving the cultural and historical sites in the Greater Chaco landscape and were amended, thanks to efforts by the Chaco Coalition, to include protection for the people living in the region, not just archaeological treasures. Both memorials passed their committees but were not heard by their full chambers.
Study on workforce training for uranium cleanup: HB 208 and SB 251 would have appropriated $250,000 to study what programs are needed to train New Mexicans for jobs that will be created from recent funding for cleanup of uranium sites. The budget that passed earmarked $200,000 for this purpose, so the bills’ purpose was fulfilled. Thanks for your calls and emails in support of this legislation that will help provide jobs for New Mexicans and make our state safer to live in!
Higher bonds for plugging oil and gas wells: SB 189 increases the cap of the amount of the surety bond a company must post for the plugging an inactive oil or gas well from $50,000 to $250,000. The increased amount is more in line with the cost of plugging a well and remediating a plugged well that leaks, blows out or otherwise fails. The bill is now on the governor’s desk.
Once again, a gazillion thank-yous to all of you who wrote, called, attended meetings or met with your representatives. It was a thrill to watch in real time the impact your actions had. Also thanks to those who let us know they had acted! It helps in assessing what kind of effect we’re having on lawmakers, and so are your reports of chats with office assistants, etc.! We may have more actions in the coming weeks as we urge Gov. Martinez to support the positive legislation on her desk, and we will definitely contact you in the coming months about holding these legislators accountable and encouraging them to pass good legislation in next year’s longer session with a new governor (!!!).
Featured image from Alpha Stock Images