Friday, July 31, 2009

Rep. Brian Egolf: Eighteen Legislators Join Me in Critical Renewable Energy Filing

BrianegolfThis is a guest blog by New Mexico Rep. Brian Egolf, who represents House District 47 in Santa Fe County.

Today I, along with nineteen other legislators from both chambers, filed an important legal brief with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in support of renewable energy in New Mexico. You can view the brief here:

PRC Brief

In this brief, we argue that the renewable energy financing mechanism called a third-party arrangement is legal under New Mexico law. This is important because there is an effort underway to ban such arrangements, which would devastate the growing renewable energy industry in New Mexico and would severely hamper the ability of companies like Sun Edison to do business in New Mexico.

Third-party arrangements help cities, churches and non-profits (entities that cannot take advantage of tax incentives that support renewable energy because these entities do not have tax liabilities) deploy renewable energy generation. The arrangement allows a company to install solar systems at a customer's location while maintaining ownership of the system. In the arrangement, the third-party owner installs, owns, operates and maintains the PV system, charges the customer for the system based on kilowatt hours (kWhs) produced and receives the benefits of owning the system, including state and federal tax credits, depreciation, tax incentives and private investor-owned utility (IOU) cash incentives.

The third-party ownership PPA model is fast becoming "the financing method of choice" in many states because of the low or no initial investment cost to the customer. (See Frantzis, L., "Photovoltaics Business Models", National Renewable Energy Laboratory Subcontract Report 581-42304, February 2008.).

In the ongoing effort to support and extend the reach of solar, this case will me a major milestone. Please stay tuned.

The legislators who signed on to my brief are:

The Honorable Ben R. Lujan
Speaker of the House, District 46

The Honorable Mary Jane Garcia
Senate Majority Whip, District 36

The Honorable Sheryl Williams-Stapleton
House Majority Whip, District 19

The Honorable Carlos Cisneros
New Mexico Senator, District 6

The Honorable Nathan Cote
New Mexico Representative, District 53

The Honorable Dede Feldman
New Mexico Senator, District 13

The Honorable Steven Fischmann
New Mexico Senator, District 37

The Honorable Timothy Keller
New Mexico Senator, District 17

The Honorable Lynda Lovejoy
New Mexico Senator, District 22

The Honorable Antonio Lujan
New Mexico Representative, District 35

The Honorable Roger Madalena
New Mexico Representative, District 65

The Honorable Antonio Maestas
New Mexico Representative, District 16

The Honorable Cisco McSorley
New Mexico Senator, District 16

The Honorable Jerry Ortiz y Pino
New Mexico Senator, District 12

The Honorable Benjamin Rodefer
New Mexico Representative, District 23

The Honorable Sander Rue
New Mexico Senator, District 23

The Honorable Jeff Steinborn
New Mexico Representative, District 37

The Honorable Mimi Stewart
New Mexico Representative, District 21

This is a guest blog by Rep. Brian Egolf of Santa Fe. The piece was crossposted at his website, Brian for Santa Fe. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

July 31, 2009 at 06:24 PM in Energy, Environment, Green Economy, Guest Blogger, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NM Legislative Land Grant Committee to Hold Public Meeting in Taos July 30-31

The legislative interim Land Grant Committee will meet in the Rio Grande Hall of the Taos Convention Center on July 30th and then tour the Cristobal de la Serna Land Grant on July 31st, according to a statement released by the NM House. The public is encouraged to attend.

“This is the first of our annual round of taking the Committee to the ‘home ground’ of our land grant communities for our interim meetings. During this meeting we will get a first-hand view of the issues our community land grants are facing in the region surrounding Taos. I am particularly looking forward to our tour of the Cristobal de la Serna Land Grant," said Representative Miguel P. Garcia (D-Bernalillo-14), Chair of the Committee.

"We will also be taking a look at how some of the legislation we passed during the last legislative session is being implemented and how that implementation is filtering down to the local community land grants. Some of that legislation dealt with tort liability coverage for community land grants as governmental entities, and also with tailoring the financial reporting required for governmental entities to smaller entities like community land grants," said Senator Richard C. Martinez (D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba & Santa Fe-5), Vice-Chair of the Committee.

On Thursday, July 30th, the Committee will convene at 10:00 AM and will first hear from Darren Cordova, Mayor of Taos, Daniel R. Barone, Chair of the Taos County Commission and Representative Roberto "Bobby" J. Gonzales (D-Taos-42) or their representatives. At 10:30 AM, Joe Romero, President of the Cristobal de la Serna Land Grant will them provide the Committee with a history of that land grant and update them on the land grant’s current issues. At 11:15 AM the Committee will be briefed by Joanna Prukop, Secretary of Energy Minerals and Natural Resources on the Senate Bill 32 which provides tax credits for land conservation incentives and how the legislation can be applied to benefit community and grants.

After breaking for lunch, the Committee will reconvene at 1:30 PM when Al Duran, General Counsel of the General Services Department’s Risk Management Division (RMD), and Paula Ganz, RMD Staff Attorney, will address Senate Bill 59, which provides for land grant tort liability coverage under the state’s Tort Claims Act. At 2:30 PM, Evan Blackstone, General Counsel for the Office of the State Auditor, will brief the Committee on how the tiered financial reporting system provided for by Senate Bill 336 will be implemented.

At 3:15 PM, the Committee has invited the Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association to report on its current operations and programs. At 4:00 PM the Committee will be briefed on the Arroyo Hondo Land Grant’s history and the current issues it faces. At 4:45 PM, the Committee will conclude its business for the day with a presentation by Juan Sanchez, President of the Chilili Land Grant on the status of the nominating process for creating a land grant council.

On Friday, July 31st beginning at 9:00 AM, the Committee will be taken on a tour of the Cristobal de la Serna Land Grant and the Arroyo Honda Land Grant and their facilities by officials and representatives of the two community land grants. The gathering place for the tour will be determined during the meeting of the preceding day.

July 28, 2009 at 01:54 PM in Events, Land Issues, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2009, Taos | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Eight NM Democratic Legislators Receive Friend of Education Award

Democrats are all about supporting education. So it's no surprise that eight Democratic members of the New Mexico Legislature were honored today with the Earl Nunn Memorial Recognition for Friends of Education from the NM Coalition of School Administrators.

The representatives received the awards at the closing luncheon today at the Coalition's conference, "Leadership: The Path to Student Success." The award is named after Earl Nunn who was a former superintendent and founding father of the Coalition of School Administrators.

"In these tough economic times, the Democratic legislators honored today worked hard during the legislative session to make sure that our schools have the resources they need to prepare our children for the future," said Democratic Party Chairman Brian S. Colón in a statement released today. "I am pleased to see these eight champions in education honored by such a great organization."

The legislators awarded the honor are:

July 24, 2009 at 01:39 PM in Democratic Party, Education, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

NM Rep. Rick Miera to Meet with Bill Gates on Using Recovery Funds for Education Reform

HMIERThe New Mexico House Majority Office today announced that Representative Rick Miera (D-Bernalillo-11), chairman of the House Education Committee and vice chairman of the interim Legislative Education Study Committee, has been invited to meet privately with Bill Gates and a small number of other national legislative leaders. The small group will discuss the role of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the unique opportunity it brings for education reform, according to a press release.

The meeting, which will take place on July 21 from 10:30 to 11:30 AM in the Philadelphia Convention Center, was arranged by Speaker Joe Hackney of the North Carolina House of Representatives, the President of the National Council of State Legislatures, in conjunction with the group’s annual Legislative Summit. “As a critical decision maker on state education issues, we look forward to this discussion with you and other state leaders regarding promising reform strategies and the ARRA,” said Speaker Hackney in his invitation to Miera.

Bill Gates, America's most famous technology entrepreneur, has turned his energy and genius to improving education in our country.  Gates believes that economic stimulus money for education provides a unique opportunity -- a moment in time -- to create bold innovations that will redefine educational excellence.

This year’s NCSL Legislative Summit attendees will hear from Gates as he delivers the opening keynote address to legislators and staff.  Focusing on “A Bold New Vision for Education” in America, he will impress upon attendees the need to use stimulus monies to advance real education reform in their states.  Improving the nation’s current education system to ensure greater opportunity for all Americans through the attainment of secondary and post-secondary education with economic value is a priority of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s United States Program.

Rick Miera has represented District 11 in Bernalillo County since 1991. His recognized expertise in educational issues has been instrumental in the passage of many of the educational reforms of the past two decades in New Mexico.

July 16, 2009 at 01:17 PM in Economy, Populism, Education, NM Legislature 2009, NM Office of Recovery and Reinvestment, Obama Administration | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Carpe Diem: NM Senator Dede Feldman to Serve on White House State Legislators for Health Reform Group

DedeFeldmanCRU.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle have announced the establishment of State Legislators for Health Reform. The group includes State Legislators from across the country who will work to advance the need for health reform this year in their communities across the country. Members of the group (see below) met with Sebelius and DeParle at the White House yesterday. New Mexico State Senator Dede Feldman (photo above) was among them.

Senator Feldman had this to say when I asked her about the opportunity to impact national health care policies:

"It was great to join with fellow legislators who have been working on these health issues for years," Senator Feldman told me. "For the past eight years we have not waited for Washington to enact reforms where we could. So now we are thrilled to be asked to partner with Washington and the Obama folks who want to use our expertise on insurance reform, cost control, and reforms in payments for and delivery of basic health care. President Obama gets it and so does Senator Jeff Bingaman, who is right in the middle of the Senate action. It is a historic opportunity to affect peoples lives in the most helpful way possible. Carpe diem."

According to a press release from the White House, State Legislators for Health Reform includes leaders from across the country who will educate their communities on the need for health reform this year. The legislators will host public events, author opinion pieces in local publications, and use their established networks to organize constituents in support of health reform.

“As a former Governor, I know that state legislators can be an incredible asset as we work to make reform a reality,” said Secretary Sebelius. “These leaders see why we need health reform every day because they are living in communities where families and businesses are struggling with skyrocketing health care costs. State Legislators know first-hand how the high cost of care is impacting their state budget and forcing incredibly tough choices. They are hearing from constituents who can’t get the care they need, and they are committed to reform that builds on what works and fixes what doesn’t.”

“Lots of people in Washington are talking about health care, but the most important conversations about health care are happening around kitchen tables in cities and towns across America,” said DeParle. “State Legislators will help ensure Americans across the country know how health reform can help improve health care for all of us.”

For more information on the group and how Senator Feldman's sees her role in it, check out her recent post on her blog. Also click to see a letter sent this week to President Obama by the Progressive States Network in consultation with national health care reform advocates. The letter, which outlines key priorities for health care reform, was signed by legislators from around the nation including Senator Feldman, Sen. Stephen Fischmann, Sen. Eric Griego, Sen. Cisco McSorley, Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino and Rep. Mimi Stewart. One of the top recommendations of the advocates is the inclusion of a public health insurance option in the reform bill.

Senator Feldman, who has long been a leading advocate in the New Mexico Legislature for comprehensive health care reform and universal coverage, represents Senate District 13 in Albuquerque and is currently the Vice Chair of the Interim Legislative Health and Human Services Committee.

A list of State Legislators who participated in yesterday's meeting at the White House is included below.

State Legislators for Health Reform
  • Sen. Dede Feldman, New Mexico
  • Sen. Jack Hatch, Iowa
  • Sen. Richard Moore, Massachusetts
  • Rep. Jonathan Windyboy, Montana
  • Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, Maryland
  • Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona
  • Rep. Chris Donovan, Connecticut
  • Sen. Nan Orrock, Georgia
  • Rep. Hannah Pingree, Maine
  • Rep. Sharon Treat, Maine
  • Del. Heather Mizeur, Maryland
  • Rep. Tom Huntley, Minnesota
  • Sen. Karen Keiser, Washington
  • Sen. Jon Erpenbach, Wisconsin
  • Rep. Garnet F. Coleman, Texas
  • Rep. Joe Armstrong, Tennessee
  • Asm. Felix Ortiz, New York
  • Rep. Susana A. Mendoza, Illinois
  • Rep. Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania
  • Sen. Joe Bolkcom, Iowa
  • Sen. Kathleen Sgambati, New Hampshire
  • Del. Tom Hucker, Maryland

To see our previous posts on health care issues, visit our archive.

June 18, 2009 at 10:27 AM in Events, Healthcare, NM Legislature 2009, Obama Administration | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, June 08, 2009

State Senator Tim Keller Proposes Comprehensive NM Investment Fund Reforms

SKELLState Senator Tim Keller (D-17, Albuquerque), is calling for comprehensive reform of the way in which New Mexico handles its large trust funds in response to a variety of recent controversies related to state fund investments. As he explained at a recent neighborhood gathering:

“The recent issues surrounding our state funds speak to a clear need for better performance, accountability and the mitigation of conflicts of interest in our investment operations. We need to address the structural causes that allowed this to happen. The public deserves more than just knowing what has been occurring inside our state investment funds, they want solutions."

“When we speak of our state’s investment funds we are really talking about our ability to fund our schools, economic development, healthcare and social services. It is also important that New Mexico shows the greater financial community that we are professional, diligent and expect strong fund performance,” Senator Keller noted.

The state's Investment Oversight Committee is meeting in Santa Fe today and, according to a statement released by Senator Keller, he will submit recommendations to work with the executive branch, legislature leadership, state funds and the broader finance community to preserve the sanctity of state funds and work to restore public faith in New Mexico's investment process. After discussions with numerous individuals in the investment field in and out of our state, as well as with the Legislative Council Service, Senator Keller reports that he has consolidated potential solutions for consideration by the interim committee on investment oversight that include:

  • Redesign the governance structure of the state investment funds based on the separation of stakeholders, experts and staff. Create formal committee structures and requiring investment qualifications to reduce conflict of interested, improve oversight, effectiveness and accountability.
  • Require a public fund “prospectus” similar to other funds that outlines allocations, goals, and processes for each fund each year
  • Determine the right balance of diversification of financial advisors (i.e. have a different advisor and fund partners vs consolidating advisors into a few relationships with full service financial institution).
  • Specify clear delegation of authority to oversight boards (approval requirements) for staff and advisors based on investment size, liquidation preference and other risk factors to create clear lines of accountability for all investments
  • Require tracking of not just benchmarks but allocation and performance comparables for a basket of “peer” funds (endowments, other states etc.)
  • Consider writing down Private Equity investments based on implied market value to ensure ‘real value’ of the fund for expected returns and planning purposes.
  • Discontinue allowing individuals and entities to play the role of advisors and fund managers, and across funds, to reduce conflicts of interest and reduce risk.
  • Specify an “arm’s length” for all transactions, meaning the market would determine all related fees and associated advisors and all relationships would be disclosed in advance of any decision.

Further details are outlined in an investment policy considerations memo distributed by Keller. Senator Keller also released a comparative analysis contrasting how New Mexico's funds and other large trusts are operated, as well as charts that compare how the assets of these funds are allocated.

Senator Keller carried HB 876 (M. Garcia) in the Senate this year, which made it a felony for third-party marketers not to disclose fees. After signage by the Governor, this legislation has enabled the state and the public to uncover fees that were charged. Keller, a freshman Senator, has professional experience in corporate governance, securities and alternative investments.

June 8, 2009 at 12:18 PM in Finance, Investments, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Mexico Summit on GLBT Rights Set for June 6

Summit on GLBT Rights New Mexico
Saturday June 6, 2009
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
University of New Mexico
School of Law Room 2402
1117 Stanford, NE, Albuquerque
Click for FLYER (pdf)

All New Mexico Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Allied Organizations are encouraged to participate by sending a representative. Individual activists are also urged to attend. A facilitated community discussion will take place in order to build support around next steps for our community. Learn about current and future efforts in regards to LGBT Equality:

• Domestic Partnership Legislation
• Marriage Litigation
• Putting the focus on Marriage Equality in New Mexico
• What we have accomplished so far...

The Summit on LGBT Rights in New Mexico is being hosted by an ad-hoc steering committee of activists who wish to engage the larger LGBTA community in a conversation about our future.

We have secured a discounted room rate at Sandia Courtyard Hotel and Convention Center starting at $54/night plus tax. You may contact the hotel directly at (505) 296-4852 and reference code LNOP. For more information, or to RSVP—please contact: summitlgbtNM@gmail.com

May 23, 2009 at 02:28 PM in Civil Liberties, Events, GLBT Rights, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

ABC Poll: Most Americans Now Support Marriage Equality

That's right. The latest ABC News-Washington Post poll has Americans favoring same-sex marriage 49-46% and support growing across the board:

At its low, in 2004, just 32 percent of Americans favored gay marriage, with 62 percent opposed. Now 49 percent support it versus 46 percent opposed -- the first time in ABC/Post polls that supporters have outnumbered opponents.

More than half, moreover -- 53 percent -- say gay marriages held legally in another state should be recognized as legal in their states.

The surprise is that the shift has occurred across ideological groups. While conservatives are least apt to favor gay marriage, they've gone from 10 percent support in 2004 to 19 percent in 2006 and 30 percent now -- overall a 20-point, threefold increase, alongside a 13-point gain among liberals and 14 points among moderates. (Politically, support for gay marriage has risen sharply among Democrats and independents alike, while far more slightly among Republicans.)

The latest NY Times-CBS News poll taken 4/22-26 shows equally encouraging results, with 67% of Americans supporting either legal marriage or civil unions:

Which comes closest to your view? Gay couples should be allowed to legally marry. OR, Gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry. OR, There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship.

Legal Marriage 42 (33)
Civil Unions 25 (27)
No Legal Recognition 28 (35)
(In parentheses: 3/12-16 results)

And it's an age thing:

31 percent of respondents over the age of 40 said they supported gay marriage. By contrast, 57 percent under age 40 said they supported it, a 26-point difference. Among the older respondents, 35 percent said they opposed any legal recognition of same-sex couples, be it marriage or civil unions. Among the younger crowd, just 19 percent held that view.

Even within the evangelical Christian population, opinions are rapidly evolving:

Leaders of evangelical Christian organizations — the most vocal opponents of gay marriage as the issue polarized the electorate for much of this decade — now face a similar divide in their own ranks. In a survey last fall by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc., 58 percent of white evangelicals ages 18 to 29 said they support either civil unions or gay marriage; support dropped to 46 percent among white evangelicals who were older than that.

Take note New Mexico Democratic Legislators. Do you want to continue advocating second-class status for gay couples and be viewed as part of an intolerant and shrinking "fringe minority" made up mostly of right-wing Republicans?

April 30, 2009 at 05:47 PM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Legal Issues, Local Politics, NM Legislature 2009, Youth | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

State Senator Tim Keller: More Than $600K of Rugby Concession Stand Dollars Moved to APS

TimKeller1CRThink back to the Democratic state senate primary election in Albuquerque's District 17 in 2008. That's when progressive reform candidate Tim Keller (right) beat long-time incumbent Senator Shannon Robinson 66-34% for the nomination. As you know, Keller later went on to win the general election is his heavily Democratic district.

One of the issues that helped bring Robinson down last year was the revelation that the Senator was using devious means to get funding for projects connected to the UNM rugby club where he was a coach. Robinson got a lot of flack for ignoring the real needs of his district and his constituents in order to support his pet projects and those of his cronies.

RobinsonIn May of 2008, when it became apparent that Robinson (left) was likely to lose his primary election to Keller, he complained to AG Gary King's office that local nonprofit New Mexico Youth Organized had crossed the line into electioneering with a piece it sent out before the NM Legislature's special session about Robinson's voting record and campaign donors. (Targeted nonprofits have a pending suit against the state over this incident.) And when Robinson lost the primary to Keller, he initiated a lawsuit along with two other incumbent legislators who lost in the primary claiming an election fraud conspiracy was to blame. It was later tossed out. Unfortunately, the sort of vengeful and inaccurate attacks against nonprofits initiated by Robinson live on -- as I've described in many posts.

Sen. Keller: Putting the Money Where His Mouth Is
The good news is that Senator Tim Keller is doing just what he said he'd do when he ran for office -- work hard to meet the real needs of the neighborhoods he represents. As part of that effort, he's undoing some of the damage done by Robinson in terms of the allocation of capital outlay funds in Senate District 17. He's reauthorizing some of the misbegotten allocations made by former Sen. Shannon Robinson to better serve the community.

“I am proud to return these monies to the Southeast Heights Community, our schools and projects important to our district. These reauthorized funds will help fill the gap left by our budget shortfall and initiate revitalization efforts in the neighborhoods. Each one of these investments came directly from constituents and in cooperation with Albuquerque Public Schools,” said Senator Tim Keller (D-Bernalillo-17), sponsor of several capital outlay reauthorizations, in a statement released today.

“I have worked diligently with local elected officials, neighborhood leaders and APS to re-allocate roughly $1,000,000 of funds previously spent by the old senator that were either of tangential importance to our community, earmarked for special projects outside our district, no longer feasible or irresponsible,” Senator Keller concluded.

Traditionally, capital outlay funds are used for community projects, schools, roads in a legislator’s respective district and other projects the legislator deems important. However, upon investigation of historical District 17 capital outlay funding, approximately $1,057,000 was deemed not in line with community priorities. Included in the funds shifted to public schools in Senator Keller’s district was more than half a million dollars ($656,000) previously allocated to a rugby field concession stand in Santa Fe, according to the Senator.

Projects funded by Senator Keller’s reauthorization include: a Kindergarten building at Emerson Elementary; playground and patio equipment at Hawthorne Elementary; library books at Highland High school, La Mesa, Tomasita and Manzano Mesa Elementary; a sports field at Wherry Elementary; alley improvements and lighting in Trumbull; Elder Homestead and South San Pedro neighborhoods; NM Veterans Integration Center; the East Central Gateway Revitalization Plan and an International District Early Childhood Development Center.

An APS spokesperson and several members of the communities represented by Sen. Keller also weighed in on the reallocations.

“East Central Redevelopment is a goal that is important to all who live, work or own businesses in the area. It is great that Senator Keller is working with City leaders in a collaborative fashion to help find real solutions, for the benefit of everyone,” noted Don Harris (Councilor District 9).

Rey Garduno (Councilor District 6) added, "the southeast heights is fortunate to have a very productive partnership between city, state and county. Senator Keller's efforts to coordinate state funds will help kick start some of our revitalization efforts, something this vibrant part of the city needs.”

Joseph Escobedo of APS Government Relations commented, “Senator Keller has a commitment to education and improving education for all students. He worked hard at ensuring that as many appropriations as possible went to education facilities. We look forward to continuing to work with him to continue to improve lives of kids in our community.”

At a recent town hall at Caesar Chavez Community Center, Sen. Keller summed it up saying, “These decisions are about listening to the community, being responsive to the district's evolving needs, prioritizing and taking action. I am looking forward to continued cooperation with APS, Commissioner Archuleta, Councilors Rey Garduno and Don Harris and Mayor Chavez to implement these projects for our public schools and help stimulate our economy.”

Go Senator Keller. And when you think about the continuing attacks on nonprofits in New Mexico, remember that the genesis of the onslaught can be traced right to the door of the unsavory Shannon Robinson.

April 29, 2009 at 02:34 PM in Children and Families, Education, Ethics & Campaign Reform, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Guest Blog: Sen. Wirth and Rep. Egolf on Earth Day and the New Reality in New Mexico

This is a guest blog by State Senator Peter Wirth and State Representative Brian Egolf of Santa Fe.

SWIRT HEGOL

On Wednesday of this week we celebrate Earth Day, a day to reflect on the important role the environment plays in our lives and the important role we play in our environment. All people who care about our natural environment -- from outdoorsmen to activists -- come together to support preservation of the special places we love in nature and our collective effort to find more responsible ways of living on our planet.

It is indisputable that we have a major effect on our environment. It is also indisputable that the choices we make both individually and as a society have enormous impacts across a staggeringly complex range of natural systems that impact every aspect of life on Earth. Let us take this day to acknowledge the positive steps we have taken and the challenges that lie ahead.

New Mexico has become a leader in renewable energy and green jobs. Our home state is literally at the forefront of a global revolution in the way we create and consume energy, and though we are collectively only a small percentage of the world’s population, we are making a big difference through our leadership on these issues.

For the past several months, you have read on this blog about the important legislation passed during the 2009 session that removes the upfront cost of renewable energy installations, gives meaningful tax incentives to encourage renewable energy, provides robust financial support for the training of workers to start in “green collar” jobs, and encourages research and development in new energy technologies.

What may not be clear from the posts is that these new laws, while important individually, are incredibly meaningful collectively. The new reality here in New Mexico is that renewable energy and green jobs have become mainstream policy goals with broad public and private support. And, most importantly, protecting the environment is now making bottom line economic sense.

New Mexico is setting a powerful example for our neighboring states, the federal government, and other nations. The example shows not only that these policy initiatives are popular with voters, but that the initiatives are achievable and will produce quantifiable results for the citizens and the environment. This is the contribution we, as a state, can make to the global energy revolution. No better contribution can be made than to produce real results through voluntary and cost-effective programs such as the ones we have enacted during this legislative session.

So as we take time to reflect this Earth day, let’s celebrate with a hike in the mountains or an afternoon bike ride with our kids. Then let’s sit down around our respective kitchen tables and map out own individual plan for the coming years. Whether it’s eliminating an electric bill by installing new solar panels, adding new insulation to our house, or simply installing power strips to turn off appliances at night, collectively we are all part of the solution we seek.

State Senator Peter Wirth represents District 25 and is a Santa Fe lawyer. State Representative Brian Egolf represents District 47 and also is a Santa Fe lawyer with a water and natural resources practice.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

April 21, 2009 at 09:20 AM in Environment, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Green Jobs Bills Signed: Moving to a Sustainable Tomorrow in New Mexico

RichardsonGreenFrom Juan Reynosa at New Mexico Youth Organized: On Thursday, Governor Bill Richardson signed a number of great “green” bills. By so doing, he helped New Mexico take many steps towards more sustainable economic growth in the future.

New Mexico Youth Organized had the honor of working with outstanding groups like New Energy Economy, Conservation Voters New Mexico and others to help enact two key pieces of legislation.

Senate Bill 318, sponsored by Senator Eric Griego, earmarks $1 million dollars of the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) fund to go towards supporting and bringing in green businesses, such as solar manufacturing, wind technology, bio-fuels production, and energy retrofits.

House Bill 622, sponsored by Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, has many components of the Federal 2007 Green Jobs Bill. It will provide support to the Department of Higher Education for implementing green jobs training programs in colleges throughout the state. Not only that, it also prioritizes many local populations (single mothers, unemployed, at risk youth) to provide them with new opportunities in the emerging green economy.

Environmental leaders across the state also worked with state legislators to enact the following policies: add a 10% state tax credit to the 30% federal tax credit to help people install solar power systems (SB 257), provide tax credits for production of utility scale solar and geothermal plants (SB 237), and form financing districts (SB 647) or use a special property tax assessment to also help New Mexico residents install renewable energy technology.

New Mexico is beginning to move in a direction where we can begin to use our vastly underused resources of solar, wind, and geothermal. Significant federal support exists to help take us in this direction, and, from what I saw at yesterday’s signing ceremony, we are beginning to gain a great amount of state support as well. With the enactment of these policies, we are creating opportunities for residents of New Mexico to become part of the green economy.

A big round of thanks goes out to all the great individuals and organizations that played a part in this success. A thank you as well to Governor Richardson, Senator Griego, Speaker Lujan, and all the other legislators who are helping to create a more sustainable New Mexico.

Also see our previous post on the signing of SB 647, sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth.

April 11, 2009 at 02:19 PM in Energy, Environment, Green Economy, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 10, 2009

State Auditor Balderas' Bill Aiding Rural New Mexico Signed By Governor Richardson

Hector-Balderas-07Late yesterday, Governor Bill Richardson signed SB 336, a bill creating a multi-tier audit system that eases the financial burdens shouldered by smaller governmental entities when complying with state audit requirements. The legislation was the result of State Auditor Balderas' Task Force on Rural Accountability and directly impacts acequias, land grants, soil and water conservation districts, mutual domestic water associations, and small municipalities. The legislation was widely supported by representatives of those entities statewide.

"I'm proud that the work of the Task Force produced a more practical financial reporting system for smaller government agencies throughout rural New Mexico," Balderas said in a written statement. "Tough economic times require creative solutions in assisting rural communities with state financial requirements without compromising accountability. This new system provides some relief for the smallest of governmental agencies and is long overdue."

Balderas explained that the bill makes certain financial reporting requirements for entities economical, given the entity's annual revenue. Under the new law, if the operating budget revenues of an entity are:

  • Less than $10,000, the entity is not required to submit a financial report unless the entity directly receives and expends appropriations for capital outlay projects;
  • $10,000 to just under $50,000, the entity must submit its budget to the Local Government Division of the Department of Finance and Administration for certification;
  • $50,000 to just under $250,000, the entity must submit a financial report to the State Auditor according to a specific set of agreed-upon procedures;
  • $250,000 to just under $500,000 the entity must submit a financial report to the State Auditor according to a specific set of agreed-upon procedures, as well as a compilation of its financial statements;
  • $500,000 or more, the entity must submit a full financial and compliance audit to the State Auditor.

SB 336 was sponsored by Senator John Sapien (D, Corrales-9). For more information about the State Auditor's Office, please log onto www.osanm.org.

April 10, 2009 at 10:14 AM in Government, NM Legislature 2009, Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)