2012 Legislative wrap-up
By Dan Lorimier, Chapter Lobbyist
The 2012 New Mexico Legislative Session, the second half of our 50th Legislature, ended on February 16th after making very little environmental headway, but losing very little environmental ground.
It was marked by the announcement, on the first day of the Session, by House Speaker Ben Lujan that he was fighting lung cancer and would not run for another term. This was followed by the end of the Session with nearly 20 other legislators deciding not to run again. House Democrats Al Park (Bernalillo), Rhonda King (Stanley) and environmental champion Danice Picraux (Bernalillo) are among those who will not run for re-election. On the Senate side, more of the same. Another of our champions, Senator Dede Feldman (Bernalillo), is retiring, as are Republican senators Vernon Asbill (Eddy and Otero) and Clinton Harden (Colfax, Curry, Harding, Quay, San Miguel, Taos and Union).
Gov. Susana Martinez, who is busily trying to roll back many of New Mexico’s environmental protections through her boards and commissions, looked quite uncoordinated and confused in her dealings with the Legislature. Nominations for various departments and boards were sent to the Legislature for confirmation then withdrawn and substituted with other nominees. Consequently, many nominees remain unconfirmed.
Harmful legislation that our team successfully fought:
- SM50 (Senator Phil Griego) - No Additional Wilderness Near Pecos: This memorial would have sent a message to Congress from the New Mexico Senate asking for no more wilderness designations near the Pecos Wilderness. Years of effort to expand the Pecos Wilderness would have been undermined.
- HR12 (Rep. Andy Nuñez) – No Federal Wilderness Near Border: This Memorial would have sent a message to Congress from the New Mexico House asking for no more wilderness designations near the New Mexico/ Mexico border. The Organ Mountain Desert Peaks Wilderness Act, sponsored by U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, seeks just such a wilderness designation and would have been impeded had this memorial passed.
- SB200 (Senator Phil Griego) – Land Conservation Tax Credit: This bill, despite its title, was crafted to gut New Mexico’s existing tax credits for landowners who decide to give or sell conservation easements — which protect land, water and wildlife from development.
Good legislation that did not pass in 2012 included:
- HB177 (Rep. Brian Egolf) – Energy-Efficient Home Purchase Tax Credit: A bill that encourages energy efficiency in residences by offering tax relief to owners of such residences.
- SB39 (Sen. Peter Wirth) – Mercury Warning Signs at Lakes and Rivers: This bill would have given on-site warnings to children and pregnant women not to eat contaminated fish.
Good legislation we fought for and WON featured:
- HM3 (Rep. Mimi Stewart) – Ample Outdoor Opportunities for Children.
- SM10 (Sen. Cynthia Nava) – Outdoor Opportunities for Children: This important memorial is identical to HM3.
Given the announced retirements and the general election in November, we can expect to have a 51st Legislature with a different character and direction. It’s up to us to vote in pro-environment candidates!
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