Westside Legislators Present Aggressive Agenda
to Voters in a Celebratory Victory Lap
with West Side Democrats
In an inspiring evening, 7 newly elected and re-elected state legislators representing Southwest and Northwest Albuquerque and Sandoval Counties laid out an impressive list of bills and reforms they want passed in the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session which starts on January 19. They also accurately predicted a special session to be called by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced for November 24 to help with COVID-19 relief for unemployed residents and small businesses.
The panelists were featured on November 18 at the monthly meeting of the West Side Democrats, and had the opportunity to thank their volunteers and donors for helping them win their seats. West Side Democrat Harold Pope, Jr., who will be the state’s first African American state senator, joined his colleagues in supporting small business development opportunities to increase jobs on the Westside. Pope, a retired U.S. Army veteran, also plans to support legislation to make it easier for military families who are professionally licensed to find employment when then move to NM by reducing the barriers around reciprocity. Pope flipped the seat held by Republican Sander Rue since 2009.
Newly elected Senator Katy Duhigg, who also flipped a red seat to blue, wants to focus mainly on consumer protection bills, stating “We can’t allow consumers to be abused.” Duhigg beat Republican incumbent Candace Gould. She joined re-elected Representative Joy Garratt, who shared her passion for consumer protection.
Garratt, a school teacher, said she plans to continue her work to bring more teachers into the pipeline. Garratt also plans to work with her colleague, Daymon Ely, on reshaping the Extreme Risk Firearms Protection Bill to strengthen its intent to protect vulnerable populations from using guns for self-harm.
Representative Ely, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2017, wants to work on criminal justice reform and ban private prisons in New Mexico. He pointed out that NM has the highest number of private prisons in the country. He believes that criminal justice reform can be a bipartisan effort, citing the Koch brothers as proponents of keeping non-violent offenders out of long-term jail sentences due to the costs to taxpayers for incarcerating individuals. He also advocated for more creative ways to bring the Internet to the entire state, which has become even more crucial since COVID.
Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero, re-elected to the seat she has held since 2013, plans to sponsor a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. She is a long-time proponent of the Community Solar Act and plans to re-introduce the bill that creates opportunities for solar energy to be shared among subscribers. She also supports legislation for paid sick leave and family medical leave.
Senator Linda Lopez who has held her seat since 1997, plans to re-introduce the anti-institutional racism bill which has had past support from the other Westside legislators on the panel. She urged serious changes in how state government operates in light of the racial divides fueled by the lame duck Administration in the White House. She also plans to introduce a bill on teaching ethics in the classroom, and plans to partner with the ACLU on a bill to reduce excessive use of force by the police.
Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas, who has held his seat since 200, advocated for accessing the Permanent Land Grant Fund for early childhood legislation. He supports legislation to require students to complete a financial literacy course before graduating high school, and will continue to be a leader for criminal justice reform. Specifically, he would like to reform the state’s probation program to help reduce reincarceration for minor violations. Another bill he plans to introduce is on liquor licensing reform, which he believes will help decrease the costly barriers associated with starting a new business.
One of the common themes throughout the evening was the need to expand the legislative sessions, which currently do not provide enough time to get much needed work done. Currently, the legislature meets for a 60-day session every other year, then alternates the other years with a 30-day session. All of the panelists were in agreement that reforms are necessary to help bring the legislature into the 20th century. “The days of the horse and buggy are gone,” said Roybal Caballero.
Among the wish list for the panelists include a repeal of the 1969 abortion law in NM, raising taxes on cigarettes, education reform to address the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit, support for the Health Security Act, assistance with student loan debt, public banking, and campaign finance reform.
“With a new Senate, we have an opportunity that I think is going to be rare to be able to rock and roll,” said Representative Ely.
We can’t wait for the fireworks!