The Case for Campaign Contribution Limits: How Bob Perry bought a state Supreme Court

bob-perry1

As we’ve said before, the passage by the legislature of a campaign contribution limits bill – which now awaits Governor Richardson’s signature — was long past overdue.  New Mexico was one of only five states in the nation with no caps whatsoever. Texas is another.

Perhaps that’s why Bob Perry, the multi-millionaire Houston homebuilder, and his wife Doylene Perry have found New Mexico politics so hospitable.  In 2008, Bob wrote campaign checks to the New Mexico Republican Party totaling $240,000.  In the 2006 cycle, the Bob and Doylene dropped a total of $361,000 into the state — to the following beneficiaries:

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Putting the Brown Back in Green

What does this statement even mean?  Mainly it’s talking of how Hispanics, Native-Americans, and African-Americans across the country are getting reacquainted with their roots in the soil.

I’m sure that most people of color are aware of these roots, but they have other issues (getting a good education, finding a good job, surviving in this crazy world) to worry about, than to think about organic farming and working on sustainability and conservation.  Yet what I’m going to be saying by the end of this is that this green thing that many of us have been ignoring is one of the simple answers to help improve our lives and our communities.

My first major act of environmentalism was also an act of survival.

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The Twitter Debate

To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question.

PRO Twitter:  Matt at FBIHOP makes a strong case for the utility of Twitter – (How I use Twitter).

CON Twitter:  But then there’s this short vid on youtube –“Trouble with Twitter.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5Ff2X_3P_4&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0x999999&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]

I tweet, therefore I am.

Session Wrap: Big Wins for Ethics Reform, Green Jobs and the Environment

gavel1The gavel has sounded, the 60-day session is over, and we’re pleased to report a number of significant victories for ethics reform, green jobs and the environment.

ETHICS REFORM

On the ethics reform front, three high priority measures passed and await the Governor’s signature.

Campaign Contribution Limits: New Mexico was one of only five states with no restriction on the size of campaign donations.  Now you can scratch us from that ignominious list. Thanks to Common Cause, Senator Dede Feldman, Senator Peter Wirth, Representative Jeff Steinborn and others for their tireless work on this issue. (link)

Open Conference Committees: In years past, six designated lawmakers would often meet behind closed doors, away from the prying eyes of the public and the news media, where they could then radically alter passed legislation.  And year after year, the Senate would kill efforts to open up these conference committees to the public.  But this year the Senate broke with tradition and passed this reform overwhelmingly.  Hats off to the sponsors, Senator Dede Feldman and Representative Joseph Cervantes.

Legislative Webcasting: 2009 was the year of sunshine.  Now audio webcasting of floor sessions of both houses is available to the public.  Primitive video webcasts of Senate floor sessions started in the last week.

Defense of Nonprofits: A number of bills were introduced to restrict the public education efforts of nonprofit organizations around legislative issues. All of these assaults of the First Amendment were turned back.  In an impressive show of unity, the nonprofit community rose up to meet the threat, including the ACLU, American Cancer Society, Amigos Bravos, Audubon Society, Common Cause, Environmental Law Center, New Energy Economy, Conservation Voters New Mexico, AFSCME and many others.

GREEN JOBS

New Mexico Youth Organized, working with a host of allies, passed SB318.  SB 318 creates a one million dollar job-training program for green jobs. In the final hour, the legislature also passed HB 622, creating a bonding framework for green jobs.  Extra special thanks to the bill sponsors, Speaker Ben Lujan and Senator Eric Griego!

TIDDs

Conservation Voters New Mexico worked tirelessly to kill a $400 million Tax Increment Development District proposal for sprawl development west of Albuquerque. The California developer SunCal spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on industry lobbyists and advertising.  Nice work, CVNM!

Thanks to all of you for following this blog, and for your commitment to social and economic justice!

VIDEO: Youth play vital role at the Roundhouse

It’s the last day of the 2009 Legislative Session I want to recognize the important role young people played in helping to shape public policy and educate our representatives on youth issues. During the week of March 2nd young people from across the state visited the Capitol for New Mexico Children’s Cabinet Days. I was lucky to catch some of these young leaders and interview them.

They spoke about the need for green jobs and renewable energy, teen pregnancy prevention and stopping bills that would cut youth programs among many other issues. I was impressed by their level of commitment and how organized they are. It was also clear that there is great respect from the youth for Lt. Governor Diane Denish and Claire Dudley for their work to make NM Cabinet Days a success.

Check out the video here:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAfWU_uHOeE&hl=en&fs=1]

It has also been exciting to see the fruits of their labor with the passage of the first Green Jobs Bill, Senate Bill 318 on 3/20/09. Democracy for New Mexico blogged about this important measure.

The passage of SB 318 is a huge success for groups like New Mexico Youth Organized, Green For All, Conservation Voters NM, New Energy Economy, the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council and 1Sky.

Big up’s to our young leaders!

Senate webcasting opens to bad reviews

johnsapienI generally don’t encounter much free-flowing consensus when I’m wandering around the Roundhouse. But as I haunted the curving halls of the Capitol yesterday, I found one thing on which everyone agrees:

The new Senate webcasting sucks.

It seems no one – legislators, constituents, journalists – is happy with the single, fixed camera positioned in the back of the chamber that provides a stultifying view of the back of everyone’s heads.

The webcasting began Monday after a protracted battle in the Senate, waged mostly by legislators who apparently did not relish the thought of cameras recording them for posterity if they said something silly.

But proponents of webcasting, including an overwhelming section of the public, pushed for an officially-sanctioned, ever-present light on the sometimes impenetrable process of lawmaking.

In the end, webcasting friends (mostly rank and file Senators) and foes (mostly Senate leaders) compromised on a plan to install one stationary camera in the back of the Senate chamber. As one legislator reasoned, it was exactly the view anyone would get if he or she drove to Santa Fe and sat in the gallery – no more, no less.

It’s gone over like a lead balloon.

The New Mexico Independent’s Gwyneth Doland – who, in the absence of webcasting, has performed a public service by logging hours and hours of legislative webcasting and liveblogs for her site — posted this on Wednesday to register her continuing displeasure with the limited camera scope.

Let’s be clear – the frustrating footage is not the fault of the Legislative Council Services staff, who are working hard to improve the performance of the single camera it’s been tasked with operating.

No, the people I talked to place the blame squarely on the man who spearheaded the much-maligned compromise plan – Sen. John Sapien (D-Corrales).

Let’s recap.

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Accommodating SunCal’s Message Strategy

I’m glad someone else noticed that surreal statement from Westland/SunCal spokeswoman Catherine Wambach in Sunday’s Albuquerque Journal.

Wambach was asked how much the California-based development company spent wooing New Mexico legislators who are poised to consider legislation that could give the company over $400 million in tax increment development districts, or TIDDs, for a development on Albuquerque’s West Side.

That includes how much they spent for a massive web, television, radio and billboard advertising blitz in favor of TIDDS that recently blanketed the state.

From the Journal story:

SunCal spokeswoman Catherine Wambach on Thursday declined to say how much the company spent, saying the totals will be available in state-mandated reports 15 days after the legislative session ends later this month.

Providing the numbers in advance of that is “not part of our strategy. It’s not part of our messages,” Wambach said.

Matt Reichbach, who blogs at nmfbihop.com, gets it dead right in his analysis where he questions this ridiculous statement.

But it’s also interesting to note that the Secretary of State’s office has added a whole new section of their website, just to deal with lobbyist advertising campaign reports – like the kind Westland/SunCal is supposed to file?

What’s the rationale for that?

Again, why does SunCal get special favors?

Department of Distress: SOS on-line woes continue

What’s going on at the Secretary of State’s office?

sos1No, I’m not referring to this.

Infuriating as that is, it’s old news.

No, I’m talking about backlogs in posting public records online and barriers to access for people who are searching for those records.

Legislators, election observers and advocates for good government have been complaining about the efficiency of the SOS electronic filing system since it was instituted.

And I’m here to tell you:  It hasn’t gotten any better during the current legislative session.

I know this because of my personal experience with the office and because of the constant complaints I hear from reporters who frequent the SOS office and are grimly familiar with the roadblocks it throws up for anyone seeking public records.

That really bothers me, because if skilled, paid searchers have problems getting the documents they came for, what chance does the average New Mexican have?

My Story

I made a special trip to the Secretary of State’s office in Santa Fe on Feb. 12.

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Power Shifting on Home

power shift

Juan and I have just arrived back home from Power Shift 09, where over 12,000 young people took over Washington, D.C to make their voices heard on the issue of climate change. It was both inspiring and motivating to meet such a diverse group of young people who are working everyday to make change in their communities and on the federal level.

The event consisted of renowned speakers, work shops, rallies, and an organized lobby day where young folks were able to meet, many for the first time, with their respective elected officials to talk about why we need to set new policies that support a new, clean and green economy. Other highlights from the event included a variety of amazing documentary screenings and a hyped performance by The Roots!

Power Shift 09 may have come to an end, but I know that it has only helped to promote and even stronger movement where young activists across the nation are going home with a new set of tools to move our country in a new positive direction…after a good, well-deserved nap, of course!

(Video to Follow)

Green Jobs on the Hill: NMYO organizer speaks before Congress

Here at Clearly New Mexico, we’re incredibly proud to announce that one of our own was chosen to testify today before the United States Congress in Washington, D.C.

Juan Reynosa, NMYO Field Organizer

Juan Reynosa, NMYO Field Organizer

Juan Reynosa, a field organizer for New Mexico Youth Organized and a native of Hobbs, N.M., spoke about green jobs legislation in New Mexico this afternoon before the House Committee on Global Warming. Reynosa, who with NMYO is working to help promote green jobs legislation at the local and federal level, was chosen to testify before Congress by Powershift 09, a nationwide annual collaboration of organizations and new young leaders who intend to hold their leaders accountable to the need and urgency for federal climate action.

Last Friday, as part of Powershift 09, Reynosa was picked to introduce acclaimed organizer and Green For All founder Van Jones to a crowd of thousands of Powershift members at their annual meeting in D.C. In his appearance today before Congress, Reynosa drew upon his experiences growing up in the midst of extensive oil and gas production in Southeastern New Mexico. He spoke about his conviction that for both economic and environmental reasons, America must embrace green jobs, green businesses, carbon caps and a national clean energy corps.

“I was born and raised in Hobbs, where my father has been working in the same oil field for the past 30 years without hardly any advancement in his job and has been forced to move to keep his job because of the decline of oil production in the area,” Reynosa said before his testimony. “My family, and all of America, is ready for a new energy economy, because it will create new jobs, boost our economy, and help us move from dirty, energy industries into cleaner and more sustainable, energy industries.”

Keep an eye out for a report from Reynosa later on Clearly New Mexico about his appearance on the Hill. You can also read more about Reynosa here in a profile that appeared last summer in The Nation magazine.