Legislature 2020: Much to accomplish in not much time

By Brittany Fallon, Rio Grande Chapter legislative organizer

The 2020 Legislative session kicks off on Jan. 21, and this year Environment Day will be on Jan. 28. As you may know, 2020 will be a short 30-day session, the purpose of which is to enact the state’s budget.

This year, though, because our governor has made climate a priority, the Legislature will be hearing several clean-energy-related bills in addition to the state budget.

First, the electric-vehicle tax credit is long overdue in New Mexico. With the federal tax credit dwindling, there will be few to no tax incentives for Americans to electrify unless they live in one of 19 states that have an EV incentive such as a rebate or tax credit. Electric vehicles represent less than 1% of sales in New Mexico — in part because the state did not have many charging stations to support traveling EV drivers, and in part because the state has not yet adopted emission standards requiring automakers to produce EVs.

Thanks to the EV-infrastructure legislation in 2019, which you helped to pass, and to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s commitment to adopting low- and zero-emission-vehicle standards in 2020, that is changing. Add to the mix an electric-vehicle tax credit, and New Mexico will be poised to be a leader in transportation electrification.

The bill likely to be introduced will include a fee for EVs to contribute to the road fund (non-EV drivers contribute with a fee at the gas pump), and the tax credit doubles if you make less than $50,000 a year.

Second, we have been working to get state funding for home energy efficiency for low-income New Mexicans. When nearly 20% of New Mexicans live in poverty and low-income households have an energy burden three times that of other households, it’s important for the state to support money- and energy-saving weatherization efforts. This includes things like sealing leaky windows, patching roofs that allow heat to escape, and replacing old, costly appliances with those that cost much less to run and save energy.

Third, you may recall that state Sen. Mimi Stewart’s solar tax credit ran out of time to be heard in 2019. She and the governor are introducing it again, and this time our coalition of environmental and community groups aims to get it over the finish line.

As we head to press, there are also new developments on community solar that seem extremely promising. We are working hard to see this bill introduced again in 2020, and it will be our top priority if it is. Everyone in New Mexico should have access to solar, regardless of economic status.

Finally, last year you all helped us fight for increased agency budgets to the Oil Conservation Division and Energy Conservation Management Division, to help our regulatory agencies protect our environment. This year we will be doing the same for divisions of the Environment Department and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. Without proper staff and funding, the cabinet secretaries and their staff cannot do the important work of making sure our air, water, and health are protected.

Still unfolding is possible legislation on habitat preservation for wildlife; electric grid modernization to help move us toward 100% clean energy; and Public Regulation Commission reform.

You can be a lobbyist!

As we embark on the 30-day budget session at our State Legislature, we will again carry out grassroots lobby trainings throughout the state.  These trainings will provide you with an overview of key bills that our environmental community will be pushing forward (and in some cases pushing back on.).  You’ll hear from actual, local elected official about their experience at the Roundhouse and about what they think makes for an effective grassroots lobbyist. The training will help you learn how you can play a role in passing environmental legislation.

I look forward to keeping you all informed with our open-to-the-public calls on Monday of each week at 5 p.m. during the legislative session. Email me at Brittany.fallon@sierraclub.org to sign up for our legislative email list, Rio Lobby, to keep informed as bills come up for votes and move through committees during the session.

Legislature 2020: Much to accomplish in not much time