Opinion: Retake Our Democracy group rolls out NM legislative report card Monday

By Paul Gibson, co-founder, Retake Our Democracy, based in Santa Fe. Gibson
Posted 7/3/19

Are New Mexico politics and the state legislative process confusing to you? Do you wonder why so many good bills that you support never make it into law? Marijuana legalization, abortion …

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Opinion: Retake Our Democracy group rolls out NM legislative report card Monday

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Are New Mexico politics and the state legislative process confusing to you? Do you wonder why so many good bills that you support never make it into law? Marijuana legalization, abortion decriminalization, permanent funds for early childhood education and community solar all died in 2019, as did efforts to increase gas and oil royalties, something that has not been done in 40 years. All these bills make sense; they all enjoy polling support by a large majority of New Mexicans, and yet they die year after year. How?

On Monday (July 8), 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Taos County Democratic Party headquarters, Retake Our Democracy co-founders Paul Gibson and Roxanne Barber will debut Retake's 2019 Legislative Report Card. The report card explains what passed, what didn't and why. It identifies heroes who pressed hard to advance good legislation, and it identifies those who undermined good legislation. What's more, it explains how committees are formed and how through the committee process moderate and conservative Democrats join with Republicans to keep things moderate in the Roundhouse and thwart justice in our state.

Retake Our Democracy is a 501c4 volunteer-based advocacy organization that spent two years working with more than 20 nonprofit advocacy groups like Common Cause, ACLU, Planned Parenthood and New Energy Economy to identify 28 must-pass and 18 priority bills in the 2019 legislative session. At the same time, we developed a growing statewide network of activists. During this year's session, Retake's Response Network action alerts were used by thousands of New Mexicans to advocate effectively from home and to prepare for trips to the Roundhouse. The alerts were sent whenever one of our 46 bills was going to a committee or floor vote. These alerts included bill summaries, [reasons] why the bill was good for New Mexico and contact information for the legislators who would be voting on the bill. Our well-informed advocates called and emailed and made their voices heard.

Retake also coordinated dozens of volunteer advocates at legislative committee hearings every day. We distributed speaking points to advocates and we supplied research on each of our 46 must-pass and priority bills to legislators before they attended hearings where they would vote on those bills. We also assigned trained volunteers to take meticulous notes at each hearing where one of our bills was being heard.

Those observations, conversations with nonprofit advocacy groups and legislators and a meticulous review of votes and committee reports are the foundation of our report card.

In addition to a legislative strategy, Retake Our Democracy has also developed a successful election strategy. We have a track record of working effectively with other grassroots organizations across the state to unseat conservative Democrats and support Democrats to take seats held by Republicans. We played a significant role in Susan Herrera's successful campaign to defeat Debbie Rodella, and we played a lead role in unseating Carl Trujillo. And we helped Democrats take the State House in 2016 and expand their gains in 2018. We are currently working with Working Families Party, Adelante Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party and others to organize for the 2020 June primaries, focusing on the eight Democratic senators who often join Republicans to defeat important legislation, including the effort to decriminalize abortion.

On Monday (July 8), 6:30-8:30 pm, at Taos County Democratic Party Headquarters, 729 Paseo de Pueblo Sur, Retake Our Democracy will present findings from the report card and share our legislative strategy for 2020 and our election strategy for the June 2020 primaries. This event is organized and sponsored by local advocacy groups Taos United and TaosProgressive.

If you can't get to this meeting, you will be able to get the report card the morning of July 9 at RetakeOurDemocracy.org. If you want to subscribe to our blog that is published five days a week and covers issues of state and national importance, you can click subscribe on the right of the home page. To enroll in our statewide response network, go to RetakeResponseNetwork.org and click to join.

With New Mexico 50th in all things good, and with climate change setting a firm deadline, we have no time for modest proposals or accepting that "we'll get to it next session." We need to do it now. On Monday night, find out how we can work together to advance justice in New Mexico, not when the powers-that-be allow us, but when we demand it.

Paul Gibson, co-founder, Retake Our Democracy, based in Santa Fe. Gibson worked with Taos residents Cristy Holden, Darien Fernandez and Jay Levine to organize Monday's meeting.

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