A Few Things You Might Not Know about Early Voter Registration

castaballot2We all know that the right to vote in elections is one of the most cherished and unique freedoms available to United States citizens. Americans of all political stripes recognize that the right to vote is the cornerstone of our freely-elected democracy and a crucial tenet that sets us apart from many other nations.

But too often, eligible voters face barriers such as work, childcare, transportation issues or lack of evening or weekend hours at registration sites that keep them from registering to vote. And among those who do register to vote, a significant portion don’t subsequently make it to the polls. These are eligible voters, representing all political parties, who for various reasons find it difficult to complete the two-step process of registering and then, at least one month later, getting to the polls to cast their vote. Continue reading

Creating a new sector: Green Jobs Now!

Speaker Lujan

Speaker Ben Lujan

Could New Mexico become a national hub for green jobs? A package of bills modeled after the film industry legislation that’s brought a slew of television and movie productions to New Mexico could do the same thing for green jobs, say the lawmakers who sponsored the bills.

Three bills – one sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan and two introduced by Sen. Eric Griego – form the backbone of a robust network of incentives to be offered to schools that train workers for green jobs, to businesses who hire green workers and to companies who choose to develop green technologies in the state. Continue reading

Ethics Reform for Dummies: The Journal doesn’t get it, but Sherry Robinson does

The legislative session passed the mid-point of the sixty-day session last week, and the major ethics reform bills are still in the Senate Rules Committee.

Bills still waiting for their day are ones to establish an independent ethics commission, Clean Elections public financing, and contributions limits (N.M. is one of only five states with no limits whatsoever).

Bear in mind that this is the calendar dictated by Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. Every year, the major ethics reform bills always seem to get to the Senate floor just hours before the end of the session. And that’s where they die outright or get tagged with last minute amendments that send them back to the house as the clock runs out.

In 2007, it was Senator Sanchez who slipped through a bill (later vetoed by the Governor) that would have overturned the state disclosure law that requires candidates and officeholders to file reports electronically to the secretary of state’s website where they can be accessed by the public.

Sanchez offered this excuse to reporter Steve Terrell of the SF New Mexican: “This isn’t trying to hide campaign-finance reports. It’s for people like me who aren’t very good at computers or access to the Internet.” Sanchez also strongly opposes attempts to open legislative conference committees to the public.

But this year, with the public clamor for ethics reform growing and the new media subjecting his actions to greater scrutiny, Sanchez seems to have altered his obstructionist tactics. Continue reading

Van Jones Speaks Out for Green Jobs in NM

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In a recorded video message, Van Jones, founding President of Green for All and acclaimed author of The Green Collar Economy (Harper One 2008), offers his support for the NM Green Jobs Collaborative and a green jobs bills package being introduced in the NM legislature this year. Van Jones has been at the forefront of the green jobs movement across the nation and was named a Time Magazine 2008 Environmental Hero as well as one of Fast Company’s 12 Most Creative Minds of 2008, just to name a few. His forward thinking solutions have really succeeded in escalating the environmental movement into a new nationwide social justice initiative that is meant to provide new opportunities for some of the most disadvantaged populations across the country. New Mexico’s green jobs bill package, which “can be model legislation for the rest of the country,” according to Van, can succeed in “putting the state on a journey toward clean energy and all the work and wealth and health that comes from using clean energy.”

HB 622, sponsored by Speaker Ben Lujan, provides the necessary resources to create green jobs training programs to build a new local green collar workforce. It would also create infrastructure within NM to leverage federal funds when they become available. In conjunction, SB 318 and SB 420, both sponsored by Senator Eric Griego, Continue reading

Webcast the legislature, New Mexico

An important package of ethics bills in New Mexico’s history will be heard tomorrow in the Senate Rules Committee.

Lobbyists, advocates and the members of the media are expected to cram the meeting room to hear lawmakers discuss matters of huge importance to us all.

Shockingly, neither the Senate nor the House have decided yet whether that hearing – or any legislative hearing – is fit to broadcast live to the public.

Thank goodness for the New Mexico Independent, which has pledged to liveblog and webcast the meeting as it happens.

Judging from the overwhelming public support of the actions of “rogue” legislator Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, who has dared to webcast committee meetings on which she sits, New Mexico is clearly clamoring for more transparency in government.

And in the Senate, a small number of technology deniers are holding up what the majority of the members of that chamber want. Continue reading

An organizer’s update from Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference

Having attended both Good Jobs, Green Jobs conferences; one cannot help but to try and compare the two. I say this because the conference has grown in both size and diversity since it was held last year in Pittsburgh. Not only were there more young people and more people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, but I also saw a more diverse array of labor and union organizations.

This was an exciting sight for me (yes, I know I’m being an organizing nerd now) because last year all I saw were mainly over 40, Caucasian people all wearing suits and schmoozing all over each other. This time around people were talking more about real issues and not the status of their organizations. To be honest, I was surprised. Continue reading

Transparency Watch: N.M. State Senate proves irony is not dead

By Eli Il Yong Lee – Feb 1st, 2009 at 11:35 am MST
Now let me see if I’ve got this straight. The New Mexico State Senate is NOT currently webcasting its floor sessions because the Senate leadership overruled a vote of the full membership authorizing that this be done.

Say again?

That’s right. Last year (Feb. 12, 2008), by a sizable bipartisan majority (27 For and only 13 Against), the Senate passed the webcast authorization along with a $75,000 appropriation. That was Senate Memorial 45 sponsored by Senator Mark Boitano (R-Albuquerque).

By December 2008, after an expenditure of just $30,000, everything was in place and ready to go for the 2009 session. But then something totally unexpected happened. Continue reading