Activism, deadlock define legislative session

Now that New Mexico’s 2017 legislative session has come to a close, how did climate, clean water, wildlife and public lands do?

  1. Some of the biggest proactive environmental bills died disappointing deaths. But none was likely to make it past Gov. Martinez’s veto pen. They’ll all be back in 2019.
  2. Some great legislation that doesn’t need the governor’s signature did pass, and so did some progressive renewable-energy and wildlife bills that are now on the governor’s desk. You can help by asking Gov. Martinez to sign them (see below).
  3. We worked with conservation allies to defeat – again – all significantly damaging legislation.
  4. Easily the biggest takeaway: You. Sierra Club volunteers were an immense presence. No group or constituency had more citizens active at the Roundhouse than the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, and your emails, calls and attendance at committee meetings changed the outcome of several bills for the better.

This was the first stab at some bold, important legislation, telling us where we need to concentrate before the next long session in 2019, when New Mexico will have a new governor.

Let’s start working on 2019 now. Can you meet with your representative and senator on these issue? We’ll go over issues with you and connect people who share legislators to arrange group meetings. See the end of this article for specific actions you can take.

Key bills

Here’s a rundown of key bills (as of this writing, none of the bills that passed have been signed by the governor).

Pro-environment legislation

Senate Bill 312 would have amended New Mexico’s Renewable Energy Act to increase requirements for investor-owned utilities from the current 20% by 2020 to 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2040. It passed the Senate Conservation Committee 6-3 but died in the Senate Corporations Committee. We knew this would be a several-year effort, and its progress this year was promising.

Senate Bill 81Passed. Sen. Mimi Stewart’s bill to thwart trafficking in endangered species or their parts or products, passed both the Senate and House and is on the governor’s desk. Thanks to everyone who contacted your representative about this bill!

House Bill 338. Rep. Patricia Roybal-Caballero’s community-solar bill, failed by a 31-34 vote on the House floor. This important legislation would have created the framework to make solar energy available to renters and others who can’t install solar on their homes. This is the farthest this legislation has ever gotten, and some of those legislators who either didn’t vote or voted “no” can be persuaded by their constituents — that’s you — in the two years before the next long session.

Senate Bill 227Passed. sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, would put the wheels in motion to put renewable energy on state buildings with no money down, saving everyone money. It passed both chambers and is on the governor’s desk. Please ask her to sign it!

Senate Bill 307, sponsored by Sen. Richard Martinez, would have restored the authority of the state Oil Conservation Division to levy fines on oil and gas operations that violate safety rules. Despite thousands of violations, a flaw in state law means oil and gas facilities haven’t paid a cent in fines since 2010. This bill passed Senate Conservation Committee but was never heard in Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Arthur Smith.

Senate Bill 268, prohibiting coyote-killing contests, got so close.

Senate Bill 286 would have banned trapping on public lands.

House Memorial 70Passed. Sponsored by newly elected Rep. Derrick Lente, requests that the BLM not lease any land in the greater Chaco Canyon region without prior consultation with tribes until it finishes amending its management plan for the region.

Senate Memorial 102Passed. Sponsored by Sen. Benny Shendo, asks the state to make information it is collecting about venting and flaring and operators’ gas-capture plans available to the public. It also asks for the top 25 oil and gas companies that vent and top 25 for flaring to be identified. This gives us the tools for future rulemaking (memorials don’t require the governor’s signature).

House Bill 61, Senate Bill 41: These bills would have restored job-creating tax credits for businesses and residents who installed solar on their homes. HB61 passed the House and both bills were never heard by the Senate Corporations Committee, chaired by Sen. Clemente Sanchez.

House Bill 338, Senate Bill 342: These “solar for all” companion bills adjusted the law to allow those who can’t install solar on their own residences to participate in community solar. HB338 lost a close vote on the House floor. Persuading just a few lawmakers will reverse this bill’s fate.

House Bill 254, sponsored by Rep. Matthew McQueen, would have reformed the state Game Commission.

Negative legislation

House Bill 275, which would allowed private operations of virtually any public facility in the state, including water systems and other critical environmental infrastructure for 50 years. Your calls and emails helped stop this bill in its first committee.

Senate Bill 182, sponsored by Sen. Mary Kay Papen, would have allowed the state Land Office to seize federal mineral rights under New Mexico private property and lease them to oil and gas companies. Papen withdrew the bill, citing public opposition — that was you — as a major reason for pulling it.

Senate Joint Resolution 15, an unnecessary constitutional amendment to make hunting, fishing and the harvesting of wildlife a constitutional right, failed.

Senate Bill 364, a bill to involve the state land commissioner, governor and attorney general in limiting the size of National Monument designations also died, in part thanks to your activism.

Senate Bill 210, House Bill 199. These companion bills emerged from legislation pushed by PNM last year that saddled solar installers with a long list of onerous disclosure requirements. PNM pared down the 2017 bill and lobbied legislators all year, but the legislation still had troublesome aspects. Hundreds of you contacting your senators and representatives in opposition paved the way for removal of the most objectionable requirements in the bill that passed.

There is still work to do

This is just a short list of the dozens of bills we advocated for or against this year. The Rio Grande Chapter is committed to passing bold, effective legislation to protect our climate and wildlife. You can help by meeting with your representatives — contact riogrande.chapter@sierraclub.org and we’ll guide you through the process. Thanks to the hundreds of you who stepped us this year. It was inspiring, and together, we can become the most powerful force at the Legislature.

  1. Ask Governor Martinez to sign the bills on her desk – Senate Bill 81 and Senate Bill 227
  2. Meet with your representatives.
  3. Join us on April 23 for our Training for Action workshop.
Activism, deadlock define legislative session