Monday, January 09, 2012
NM Legislature Show Up, Be Counted!
Guest contributor Lora Anne Lucero is currently a registered lobbyist for the League of Women Voters of New Mexico. In years past she has lobbied on behalf of other organizations and also served as an analyst for the House Judiciary Committee in 1992.
Something New Mexico Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) said a few weeks ago to a gathering in Santa Fe has stuck with me through the holidays. Simple and to the point. He said, “If you want to make a difference, show up.” Or words to that effect.
He was talking about the New Mexico Legislature and how ordinary citizens can have a real impact on the fate of legislation. Wirth shared his story about one contentious committee hearing years ago. A constituent called him and said she wanted to bring her students to the Roundhouse to see their government in action. He encouraged her to arrive early because the committee rooms at the Roundhouse fill up quickly when there is a controversial bill.
The teacher arrived early with her gaggle of students in tow. They all sat down and patiently waited for the action to begin. Soon enough, the lobbyists in suits and ties showed up but there were no seats available. One lobbyist asked Senator Wirth to move the students out of the room, but he refused, telling the lobbyist: “This is their government too.” Or words to that effect. The controversial bill that Senator Wirth was hoping would make it out of committee did, thanks in part to the students who showed up and participated in the process. The suits were not pleased.
The short 30-day session begins on January 17th at noon and ends on February 16th at noon. Some lament that New Mexico Legislators don’t have enough time to accomplish much. I say, “they don’t have much time to get into mischief.”
When in session, the Roundhouse is a madhouse that makes little sense to the average New Mexican. In addition to the Legislators, their staff, analysts, lobbyists, and the press, you will find women dressed in their finest outfits dripping with Spanish jewelry, and young pages scurrying around delivering messages, and citizen activists hoping for a moment to share their elevator speech with a Legislator. You will also find some of the best pieces of New Mexican art on the walls of the State Capitol.
If you have never attended a legislative committee hearing, resolve to make 2012 the year you do. Your presence, whether you speak or not, will have an impact.
One way to magnify your presence is by joining other New Mexicans who plan to Occupy the Roundhouse on opening day of the session. “At 10:30 am on Tuesday, January 17, a unified gathering of statewide New Mexico Occupy / (un)Occupy groups and allies will commence in Santa Fe at the NM State Capitol for opening day of the 2012 NM Legislature, meeting on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail & Paseo de Peralta .At 11:30 am, a march will also start at the Railyard Station (North) and make its way to the Roundhouse. This march is for people traveling on the train that arrives at 11:15 am from Albuquerque, plus everyone else from Santa Fe and statewide who would like to join. We will then all converge together at the Roundhouse – OUR HOUSE!”
Connecting with your State Senator or Representative, either in person, phone or email, is easy to do. All of the information is available here. http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/default.aspx Following the progress of draft legislation is fairly easy too. http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/BillFinder.aspx Believe me, when a Legislator sees a message from a constituent, he or she takes it seriously, on both sides of the aisle. Let them know what you think.
My very first experience sharing my two cents with New Mexico Legislators was 20 years ago as a new resident, having just returned from California. I was sitting in the House Judiciary Committee, just observing the proceedings. The committee was discussing the “Bottle Recycling” bill for the upteenth time. On the spur of the moment, I stood up and introduced myself as a new resident who had recently moved from Califonria where they had great success with their version of the “Bottle Recycling” bill and I encouraged the committee to approve it. Or words to that effect.
Lo and behold, did I get a tongue-lashing from a Legislator who wagged his finger at me and said “We don’t need any advice from Californians.” The room fell quiet, everyone looked over at me (or at least it felt like all eyes were on me). I was shocked, wanted to crawl under my chair, and swore I would have nothing to do with these “nuts” ever again.
Thank goodness I didn’t follow through with that promise. The very next day, that very same Legislator who wagged his finger at me the day before saw me in the hall and apologized!
New Mexicans are lucky to have a State Legislature that is open and accessible to everyone, unlike many other states. We need to take advantage of that and participate in the process.
Hope to see you on the 17th!
Go get'em, Lora!
Posted by: John Atkeison | Jan 9, 2012 2:05:46 PM
2nd, Lora. It is accessible. I will be there 2 Occupy the Roundhouse.
Posted by: bg | Jan 9, 2012 8:24:36 PM
Lora is right on all counts. The New Mexico Legislature committee meetings, where most of the important business is conducted (at least that which is publicly conducted) is very open. Usually, the chair asks for public comment, and, usually, everyone wishing to speak is heard.
17 January will be an important day.
Posted by: Paul Stokes | Jan 10, 2012 8:59:23 AM
Just like Sen. Wirth's schoolkids, let's occupy the space to show that we care. Are there specific pieces of legislation that follow the Occupy agenda? It's good to focus on precise actions and ideas: economic issues that redress income inequality; voting issues that increase access to the ballot box; environmental issues that address sustainability.
Great article, Lora!
Posted by: Rebecca Shankland | Jan 10, 2012 10:26:06 AM
This year I'm focusing on Senator Wirth's bill to close the tax loophole that favors large multi-state corporations. It's called combined reporting and the loophole currently allows Walmart, etc. to dodge responsibility for paying taxes in New Mexico. Unbelievable!
SB 9 http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/_session.aspx?chamber=S&legtype=B&legno=%20%20%209&year=12
Wirth has introduced this bill for 8 years I think ... without success. The difference this year? The 99% has his back.
Posted by: Lora Lucero | Jan 10, 2012 10:42:44 AM
If you are coming to the Roundhouse on January 17th, you might find this resource helpful.
Posted by: Lora Lucero | Jan 10, 2012 12:46:16 PM