Will a virtual session make real progress? 

By Camilla Feibelman, Chapter director

This is a complex moment for legislative transformation. On the one hand, New Mexicans are clearly communicating their desire for big, bold change. We demonstrated that in the elections, creating a progressive state Senate to go with our progressive House.

On the other hand, despite the incredible opportunities of the moment, we don’t have a great sense of how the legislative process will take place. The House may limit legislators to five bills. The Senate may meet on the floor for a couple of days and then break out for virtual committee hearings for five days and then back for floor sessions. Legislators may hold office hours for constituents and advocates that will try not to conflict with committee times.

But given all that we’ve already navigated this year, maybe a virtual legislative session isn’t so bad. As a working mom, I enjoyed being able to participate during the summer special session and speak out, from home, in a committee at 11:30 p.m. in favor of expanded voting while folding the laundry.

We’ll need your support whether from the laundry room or the dining room on a host of environmental bills and other legislation to create equity and better quality of life for all New Mexicans. Our environmental community is working on legislation that will make a real difference for New Mexico. A carbon-reduction and climate-resilience bill being sponsored by Rep. Melanie Stansbury, Sen. Benny Shendo and Sen. Carrie Hamblen will tackle climate change by putting Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 2019 Executive Order on climate into law.

Stringency legislation, sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth would allow state rules on air quality and hazardous waste to be stronger than federal limits. Just transition legislation from Rep. Angelica Rubio would help encourage and develop workforce solutions and diversification as we move away from fossil fuels. Community solar (Sen. Liz Stefanics, Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero) would allow renters and homeowners without roof access to buy into larger community solar gardens. The Sustainable Buildings Tax Credit would incentivize emissions reductions from buildings and require they be EV-ready.

We are hoping this is the year to pass a ban on trapping on public lands (see article at left). An Environmental Database Law (Sen. Mimi Stewart, Rep. Gail Chasey) would allow agencies and the public to find wildlife, leasing, and air-quality data all in a centralized location. A memorial  from Stansbury would create a framework for a 50-year water plan. The Green Amendment (Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Sen. Bill Soules, Rep. Joanne Ferrary) would create an actionable environmental protection in the Constitution, while Private Right of Action legislation (Rep. Georgene Louis) would allow impacted individuals to sue for environmental compliance. Another bill would raise penalty caps in an array of environmental sectors. Oil Conservation Commission reform would put the public interest at the heart of state oversight of extractive industries, and amendments to the Produced Water Act would increase protection for human health and freshwater. Other promising bills from Sen. Soules explore solar- and EV-ready buildings, regular updates of energy-efficient building codes, and a 100% electric state vehicle fleet. Another bill would provide relief for those who couldn’t pay their electric bills during the pandemic.

Thanks to all of the incredible bill sponsors and to the organizers working so hard to make them happen.

Will a virtual session make real progress? 
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