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Local Leagues in New Mexico

 

LWVNM Council Minutes, May 19, 2018

May 19, 2018, MCM Elegante, Albuquerque

The meeting was called to order at 11:50 a.m. A quorum was established, and two volunteers were chosen to review the minutes. They are Meredith Machen and Becky Shankland.

Lunch featured speaker James Jimenez, Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children, who shared stories he's heard from people around the state of poverty-related challenges they've encountered. He also provided delegates with several handouts full of statistics about NM’s children and families. He discussed needed policy changes and legislative priorities, and he thanked the League for working on most of these over the years.

President's Report

Judy Williams discussed the upcoming elections, including the measure on the ballot to create an independent ethics commission. We need to promote getting out the vote and remind people about this important measure.

The 2020 census count is important. George Washington University has a report called "Counting for Dollars" that shows that more than $6 billion a year in federal monies come into New Mexico based on census figures. This includes Medicaid, Medicare payments, SNAP and many other programs.

Several LWVNM board members had met the previous day with a representative from LWVUS, and that was one of the issues discussed. The new census will no longer involve knocking on doors; instead, they're apparently planning to mail out flyers with log-in directions. This will be a problem in NM, with low rates of internet access.

The NM house count is going to happen through the UNM Dept. of Geospatial Studies, but it's not clear how they're going to do that. NM is the hardest state in the union to count. According to the experts, this is correlated with the high poverty level, large Hispanic and Native American populations and the rural nature of the state.

Then there's the citizenship question on the census, which is an especially big problem in NM because we have significant numbers of non-citizens. The census is meant to count every resident, since all residents use services.

Dick Mason was at a meeting last week where someone working for the assessor's office mentioned having purchased a software package [LUCA] that counts every house based on aerial photos. He wondered if that could be used to get a more accurate house count. Williams said she was hoping to meet with Robert Rhatigan to discuss some of these issues.

Program: There have been almost no changes in our positions except our new position in support of ranked choice voting, approved at our March meeting. Santa Fe's most recent election used RCV, and it worked out pretty well; Las Cruces is considering it, and now LWVNM has a position they can use to advocate for it.

We also had a recent meeting on elections and voting, discussing issues we might want to add to our positions by concurrence with Leagues in other states. That will be discussed at the board meeting following Council.

Membership Report and Official 2018 Numbers

Williams read the membership report for Lynn Jones, who couldn't be present.

Total members in LWVNM: 491

Members at Large: 3

CNM members:                                 190

LA members:                                     81

SFC members:                                   135

GLC members:                            82

We'd like to grow, both in size and diversity.

Treasurer's Report and Budget

We have a fair amount of cash in the bank, $24,684.13, due to a couple of good grants including Common Cause and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

At the last meeting we doubled the amount of money allocated for state Board delegates to the national convention, since Chicago is expensive.

Committee Reports

Action (Dick Mason)

The legislature didn't publish an analysis of what was actually passed in the Local Election Act, but Mason has distributed a summary from Rep. Bandy, one of the sponsors of the legislation. After the primaries we hope to get a better analysis.

Mason has mailed out a schedule of tentative interim committee meetings. There probably won't be many meetings until July when the legislature is on the new budget. They're having some organizational meetings this month and in June but nothing substantial.

The legislature won't support legislation for an independent redistricting commission, so we'll be advocating for the Iowa model, which might be more palatable to our legislature since it lets them keep more control. Taxes and revenue are going to be big issues this year: the legislature will be looking at tax reform proposals.

Williams asked about Courts and Corrections, which proposed an election reform task force in the last session. Mason asked Rep. Ely whether they're going to create their own subcommittee this year, but he hasn't gotten an answer yet.

Natural Resources (Barbara Calef):

Last year Secretary of the Interior Zinke said he would streamline oil and gas lease procedure. The result is that now public participation is optional: the public may no longer get a chance to comment.

At the end of April United States District Court Judge James Browning issued an opinion that federal land managers did not violate historic preservation laws since they had considered the effects of the wells on historical sites, such as the drilling around Chaco Canyon.

Education (Meredith Machen)

The LESC (Legislative Education Study Committee) meets for three days every month and is a wonderful example of bipartisan cooperation. You can get their work plan for the year online: start at nmlegis.gov, then click on LESC, then Committee, and you can get all sorts of useful reports.

The LESC has been examining relevant studies of model education practices from around the world, including early childhood education. There was a meeting with pushback against the public education secretary for his proposed rule to hold back children who aren't reading proficiently; the proposed rule doesn't come with funding to help those children who don't read well; all it does is hold them back. The legislature has pushed back successfully against PED’s proposed rule changes on science and social studies standards.

Advocacy: When these LESC meetings are happening around the state, they often don't have a quorum, so they can't vote on any action. Machen asked the committee staff and chair whether all the meetings might be webcast: colleges, universities and public schools often have adequate technology for web streaming, and they should make a point of meeting at places that allow that. Lots of decisions are made at these meetings and there should be more transparency. We should advocate for this. There are webcasts when the meetings are held in Santa Fe, and Machen strongly recommends watching those livestream or archived webcasts.

Mason pointed out that the LESC and Legislative Finance Committee both have considerable staff, which could make these meetings more available to the public.

Becky Shankland asked about the lawsuit that requires sufficient funding for education in NM. What is going to happen when the decision comes through, and is that something where the LWV should be advocating? Mason replied that there may be around $600 million per year required to address the ruling, which is expected soon. The legislature will have to come up with a plan. There probably won't be an immediate mandate because the state will undoubtedly appeal the ruling and will ask for some time period to come up with the extra funding. Machen said that nobody is sure where that money will come from, but it will probably have to come out of the Permanent Fund.

Studies

Transfer of Federal Public Lands (Barbara Calef)

The committee's first activity was to investigate the constitutional basis for the transfer of public lands; after that they examined history. They learned about opposition movements, like the Sagebrush Rebellion, and what's happened recently in Utah. Their findings have been published in La Palabra articles. They've met with various public officials to discuss the issue and to learn how lands are handled in the state. They're currently working on a summary of the hypothetical impacts of a large land transfer. They hope to bring a proposal to the July board meeting and have consensus meetings around the state throughout the fall.

Nuclear Waste Storage (Karen Douglas)

The Nuclear Waste Storage study is proceeding with the member education phase. The committee is planning to have consensus meetings in the fall and winter, leading to a position.

There have been several La Palabra articles already and more are coming.

Williams described the Primer project, which grew out of the desire to update a 1993 LWVUS Nuclear Waste Primer that the LWVUS wrote with funding from the Department of Energy. If we are able to secure another grant from DOE, LWVUS has agreed to be the fiscal agent and would let us use the copyright.

The upcoming La Palabra article should address study questions.

Health Care (Akkana Peck)

Peck echoed comments by Douglas about people not wanting to communicate electronically. The study ended up having only four active participants who have had a few discussions by email and one in-person meeting.

They concluded that a lot of the issues they wanted to address are already covered by our current position, especially the language about equitable funding and eliminating cost-shifting. The committee will fine-tune the wording a little to make our position clearer. They also want to insert language about transparency in pricing as a clarification to our existing “effective cost management” point: something like, "Cost and pricing data from private and government sources should be transparent."

Voter Guide, Election Calendar, and Candidate Forums (Diane Goldfarb)

Goldfarb has been working with Andrea Targhetta on Voter Guide issues. Bernalillo County is going to allow Voter Guides to be distributed at polling places, in contrast to past years.

Mason said that in 2016 the state league contacted the candidates for some of the major statewide races early on, but if local leagues wanted to take over, they could. Do local leagues want the state to make the initial contact now, or do they want to do everything themselves? Williams said she'd send out an inquiry to all the local leagues.

There was a discussion of working with local TV stations to cover candidate forums. Karen Wentworth says CNM has permission from KNME to cover some of the statewide races. There was a discussion of other stations around the state that have agreements or would release tapes. Everyone agreed this was a good thing to pursue.

Local League Reports--Sharing of Programs, Studies, Activities

GLC has had all sorts of great activities, forums for candidates and one on voting impediments that included an online survey, a history project, and even a tree-planting picnic. They also some great events planned, including forums on mental health issues, education issues, and on quality of life in the valley. The series will culminate with a banquet.

Meredith Machen urged everyone to save documents about activities like this, and especially photos, for the 100th anniversary project.

CNM is currently working on their website to provide more content. They've also been asked to present more biographical information on candidates because it's not presented in an unbiased way anywhere else. They have a fundraiser coming up where a fraction of the money spent on food at the restaurant goes to the League.

LWVLA's most successful program is Lunch with a Leader, and lots of non-members come. They also had two recruiting events to encourage new members to get involved, including a pre-League Day event. Locally they've been advocating for funding for the public health office and staff that is no longer being provided by the state; the county council has voted to fund the position. They're planning a forum on early childhood education, hopefully before the election.

They also have new members on the board. LWVLA registered high school students during a walk-out protest on gun violence; they registered 17 in half an hour! Two recent primary candidate forums were very well attended.

Santa Fe has several new members. They're not having primary candidate forums, but they published a Voter Guide for the primary thanks to Suzanne Ronneau. They'll be registering high school students at the public high schools and some independent schools in Santa Fe and are thinking about expanding to cover charter schools so they can cover even more students.

LWVNM Planning and Directions to the Board

George Richmond said he heard two main things during this meeting: the importance of getting new members and the importance of encouraging voter turnout.

No other comments were made, but Williams encouraged everyone to write their directions or comments on the form provided.

Meeting adjourned at 2:20.

Respectfully submitted by Akkana Peck, Secretary. Revised by Becky Shankland, Judy Williams, and Meredith Machen