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Too many times have I heard New Mexico scorned as “The Land of Entrapment.” Too many times, as a New Mexico college student, I’ve seen my peers feel as if they must escape New Mexico for better opportunities elsewhere. This is true even when they come from families committed to growing our economy and their parents are local businesspeople, university professors, or even our state officials. To that I say, “No more!” To that I say, “Let our soon-to-be-established New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division have as its first director someone qualified to implement the Outdoor Equity Fund.” To that I say, “Let this director not lose sight of the true potential of the Division, which is to connect the youth of New Mexico to their natural heritage.”
The Outdoor Recreation Division was established in the last legislative session and its first director is about to be appointed by the Secretary of Economic Development. To fully realize the potential of this new Division, it will take a New Mexican at the helm, baptized in the enchantment of our natural heritage. The director must have the economic savvy for sustainable development of New Mexico’s natural beauty and the capacity to cultivate our young people to be leaders in this $9 billion industry.
At the start of the last Congress, one of the first votes House Republicans took was on a bill designed to unravel protections for workers exposed to chemicals like beryllium. Beryllium is one of the chemicals that poisoned my father’s lungs and caused his cancer. Watching House Republicans vote against the health and safety needs of people like my father in order to placate special interests left me sick. That first vote is indicative of the Republican party. Last Congress, House Republicans raised taxes on and stripped health care from working Americans all to satisfy their special interest donors.
Climate change represents one of the greatest security and economic threats our country has ever seen. But our response to climate change can also become the greatest opportunity for economic growth in generations. New Mexico is well positioned to seize this opportunity. Our wind and solar resources are unrivaled, and by transitioning to a 100 percent carbon-free energy policy by 2045, we can become a national leader on clean energy, confront climate change, create new jobs, and attract private capital to our communities. That’s why I’m proud that Governor Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Legislature passed the Energy Transition Act.
Last November, voters cast their aspirations for better government, but the Independent Ethics Commission they enshrined in the state’s constitution won’t be the silver bullet they hoped for in the ballot booth. It’s disappointing, since only 20 percent of citizens think state government is on the right track. It’s doubtful the ethics commission will move current perceptions. The reality is, getting upward movement in these kinds of polls will require leadership and a shift in the public’s mindset that the commission is truly independent.
Ultimately, we think it will be even harder than that since most of us think our district’s officials do a fine job representing our public interests. It’s other district’s state representatives and senators, whom we probably haven’t met, that we need to closely watch, right?
The Energy Transition Act, Senate Bill 489 (SB 489) now inches closer to the governor’s desk –increasing the opportunity for our state to become a clean energy leader. With this bold piece of legislation moving forward, there’s a growing opportunity to diversify New Mexico’s economy by investing to develop our clean energy industry. Most importantly, this represents a chance for every New Mexican family to be able to access the emerging clean, safe, and good paying jobs ensuring our children and communities can thrive. And all the while SB 489 has solidified the fact New Mexicans understand our move to a clean energy world is not a matter of why, rather a matter of when, there have been many questions of how we will ensure to not leave New Mexican communities behind. Knowing workers in rural and indigenous communities continue to have very few choices when it comes to job opportunities and could be left behind as clean energy jobs are created, preparing our workforce for the emerging clean energy economy has become one of our state’s topmost priorities.
I watched the nearly four-hour filibuster from Senator Bill Sharer on the Energy Transition Act from my home in Farmington on Wednesday. The bill passed overwhelmingly, 32-9, with strong bipartisan support. This stunt by Senator Sharer actually provides a window into his behavior over the past year on this piece of legislation and his behavior on the pending closure of the San Juan Generating Station for the past several years. Whether you agree or disagree with the Energy Transition Act, one thing is clear: The looming closure of the San Juan Generating Station has been evident for a long time. Throughout all of last summer, there were deep discussions on this bill—at interim legislative hearings in Farmington, and through a process convened by the Speaker of the House with lawmakers and many key stakeholders.
When I was 30, a mother of two daughters and the proud bearer of a long-worked-for college degree, I underwent a tubal ligation. My husband and I had the family we had planned and could afford. Less than two months later, I learned that I had become a statistic, the one woman in a thousand for whom a tubal ligation fails. The year was 1980. I had an abortion, relieved and enormously grateful that I could access and afford the medical care I needed.
New Mexico has a big legal loophole in dire need of a fix. Shale oil and gas production in the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico has catapulted the state to be one of the largest producers in the nation. Along with that rapid increase comes more pollution and a dramatic rise in spills of chemicals and waste. In fact, the total number of oil and gas related spills increased nearly 100 percent since 2008 and more than 500 percent since 2000. Despite this increase in violations by the oil and gas industry, fines for those infractions have plummeted to zero.
We have a unique opportunity to transform energy in New Mexico with the Energy Transition Act. Senate Bill 489 is bold, comprehensive legislation that will establish the state as a national leader in both renewable energy and address the causes of climate change, providing a pathway for a low-carbon energy transition away from coal and providing workforce training and transition assistance to affected communities. On top of accelerating New Mexico’s march to the front lines of climate-conscious governance, the ETA is a fair deal for ratepayers in the state. This is landmark legislation for its ambitious and achievable renewable and carbon-free targets; it also provides for a conscientious and reasonable transition away from the San Juan Generating Station that does not overburden New Mexicans and will actually save consumers money. Right now, PNM’s financing payments on the coal plant are passed onto ratepayers.
The legislature is poised to pass a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage and benefit nearly 250.000 New Mexican residents and families, providing a boost to communities across the state. The New Mexico House of Representatives version of the bill phases in a raise of $12 by 2022. It also includes provisions to index the minimum wage to rise with the cost of living and eliminate the sub-minimum wage for workers who rely on tips. Instead of the current basement wage of $2.13 per hour, tipped employees would earn the same minimum wage as other workers, plus tips. But big business and the restaurant industry are engaged in intense lobbying at the Roundhouse mischaracterizing what it means to work for a basement wage.
We have the opportunity in New Mexico to become a national champion for women’s healthcare by creating a Medicaid Buy-In. This straightforward proposal, championed in the Legislature by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Rep. Debbie Armstrong, will allow some New Mexico families to pay for the trusted care that Medicaid already provides. I know personally how Medicaid helps women and families right now. My sister-in-law was rear-ended while seven months pregnant, bringing my beautiful nephew into the world prematurely. Fortunately, they were already covered by Medicaid and didn’t have to be overly worried about the cost of care while they were frightened for their newborn son’s well being.