New Mexico First Blog

2020 Legislative Priorities

Stakeholders Issues Legislative Requests Consensus
Participants in NMF Town Halls
Policy Domains- Healthcare;
Education;

Natural Resources;

Economic Development;

Good Governance

Learn more about the New Mexico First Town Hall 38-42 Recommendations Summaries by clicking on the link.
Town Hall Reports
Alzheimer Association
Center for Health Innovation

Center for Law and Policy

Farm to Table

Feeding Santa Fe

Food Depot

Food and Agriculture Policy

Health Action New Mexico

Hunger Caucus

Interfaith Hunger Coalition

Meals on Wheels

National Center for Frontier Communities

New Mexico Farmers' Marketing Association

New Mexico First

New Mexico Nutrition and Dietetics

New Mexico Thrives

North Central New Mexico Economic Development

Roadrunner Food Bank

University of New Mexico, Honors College

Voices for Children

Hunger Task Force

HB 75- Rep Stansbury

 

HM 6- Rep Stansbury

Priority 1 Data-Informed Decision-Making
$200K in HB 75 in the Human Services Department budget to develop a State-of-the-State Report analyzing the connections between hunger, malnutrition, agriculture, food distribution, and storage.

HM 6 a Fight Hunger Memorial empowering a taskforce to work cross-sector to identify the state’s assets, gaps and barriers related to the goal of ensuring that all New Mexico residents are able to have a nutritious and sufficient diet.

Priority 2 Local Food Systems and Resilient Local Agriculture

$100K in the Department of Health budget to expand the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program providing seniors with vouchers to be able to purchase NM-grown fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets. 97,000 low-income seniors are eligible for this program, but current federal and state funds only provide enough funds for 16,000 seniors to participate.

 

$100K in the Aging and Long-Term Service budget to Purchase NM Grown Fruits and Vegetables for Senior Meals Programs. Allows city, county and tribal run senior centers to purchase NM grown fruits and vegetables. New in 2019, this program aims to serve seniors across the state and create a new economic market for farmers.

 

$500K recurring in the Public Education Nutrition and Wellness Department to expand the NM Grown Produce for School Meals. This incentive helps school districts learn how to purchase local produce and build it into this budget. In 2018-19 schools purchased $1.15+ million.

 

$150K in the Department of Agriculture to expand resources for developing New Mexico local food and farming systems including value chain coordination and food safety systems that Support the SNAP Double Up Food Bucks program and local producer sales to retail and institutional outlets.

 

Priority 3 Increase Emergency Food Assistance to Hungry New Mexicans and the Monthly Food Budget for Low-Income Families

$1.5M in HB2 in the Public Education Department to Eliminate Reduced-price Copays for breakfast and lunch for approximately 12,463 students at 185% of the FPL.

$500K recurring in the Human Services Department budget for food banks to Procure Food with a Stable Shelf Life for all 33 counties.

$100K  in the Higher Education budget to pilot a Fight College Hunger initiative.

$1.485M in HB 2 for Human Service Department budget to create a state funded energy assistance program "Heat and Eat" for 68,000 families eligible for SNAP benefits. This will increase SNAP benefits by $90 per month for each of those families.

$3.7M for Human Service Department budget to Upgrade Employment and Training program for SNAP recipients who are Able-bodied Adults without Dependents. This will prevent 27,000 New Mexicans from losing SNAP benefits.

$1.8M for the Human Services Department TANF Transitional Bonus Program.  This provides an additional $200 a month in cash assistance for up to 18 months for TANF participants that maintain 30 hours or more a month in paid employment.

$3M in the Children Youth and Families Department budget to Expand Coverage for Child Care Assistance by eliminating co-pays for families with incomes below 100% of the FPL and $27 M for capping co-payments for families at 7% of income.

$200 K for Tax Help New Mexico to restore funding for tax preparation help for people of low income.  This would return 13-22% of the tax rebates for EITC and WFTC to New Mexico families in poverty and the economy.

Priority 1: 2016-Present NMF Town Hall 41, Recommendation 2- Fund Innovation, Quality, and Alignment; and

Recommendation 7- Build a Results-Driven Government; and

 

Recommendation 9- Advance Family-Friendly Policies

 

Priority 2:2016-Present

Ag Plan-over 600 diverse agriculture stakeholders who continue to engage to support resilient agriculture in NM ; and

 

Town Hall 39 Centennial Recommendation 6- Economic Base Industries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priority 3-

2016-Present NMF Town Hall 41, Recommendation 9- Advance Family-Friendly Policies

 

Efforts of the Food, Ag, Policy Council (Multi-group organization)

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Efforts of NMF and NMSU to convene over 600 stakeholders throughout NM ranging from farmers, ranchers, producers, soil and water conservationists, researchers, agriculture activists, and more to develop the guiding recommendations in the Ag Plan

New Mexico Food Agriculture Program Omnibus Appropriations to Support K-12 Ag Education, Workforce Development, Value-chain, Land and Water Health, and Economic Vitality Efforts
One hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the board of regents of New Mexico state university for expenditure in fiscal year 2021 for the New Mexico department of agriculture to develop and promote market opportunities for farmers, ranchers and agribusiness in New Mexico;

One hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the board of regents of New Mexico state university for expenditure in fiscal year 2021 for the New Mexico department of agriculture to carry out the New Mexico agriculture workforce development program pursuant to the Agriculture Workforce Act;

 

Three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the board of regents of New Mexico state university for expenditure in fiscal year 2021 for the New Mexico department of agriculture to carry out the 4-H, food and agriculture experiential learning programs;

 

Two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the board of regents of New Mexico state university for expenditure in fiscal year 2021 for the New Mexico department of agriculture for soil and water conservation districts to carry out the provisions of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts Act;

 

Three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the board of regents of New Mexico state university for expenditure in fiscal year 2021 for the New Mexico department of agriculture to carry out the healthy soil program pursuant to the Healthy Soil Act. This appropriation is in addition to funding in the General Appropriations Act of 2020.

 

Five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the board of regents of New Mexico state university for expenditure in fiscal year 2021 to carry out the New Mexico state university’s center of excellence in sustainable agricultural systems program;

 

Two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the board of regents of New Mexico state university for expenditure in fiscal year 2021 to carry out the New Mexico state university to maintain agricultural experimental station research facilities statewide;

 

Four hundred fifty thousand dollars ($450,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the board of regents of New Mexico state university for expenditure in fiscal year 2021 for eight 4-H program staff positions;

 

One hundred twenty-seven thousand dollars ($127,000) for the college of agricultural, consumer, and environmental sciences’ farmer and rancher resource center;

 

Fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) for the strategic doing program to hire a strategic planning facilitator and a project coordinator and fund other operating costs of the program.

 

2016-Present
Ag Plan-over 600 diverse agriculture stakeholders who continue to engage to support resilient agriculture in NM and November 2019 Ag Resilience Convening Report
The New Mexicans for Ethics Coalition includes:
New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI)

New Mexico Common Cause

New Mexico Ethics Watch

New Mexico First

New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (NMFOG)

New Mexico League of Women Voters

New Mexico Press Association

Good Governance and Full-funding for the New Mexico Ethics Commission

 

HB 2 $1,244,000 FY 2021 for the NM Ethics Commission to fulfill statutory authority related to processing, investigating, and adjudicating complaints filed against public officials, public employees, candidates, government contractors, lobbyists/lobbyist employers. There is enforcement and advisory responsibility for over 59,000 individuals. Additionally, the NM Ethics Commission is responsible for developing a model code and educating people and agencies within its jurisdiction on ethics.

$385,000 FY 2020 Supplemental

Statewide Focus Groups- Establishing a New Mexico Ethics Commission: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Alternatives 2016
New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council
Resilient Agriculture
 
Alignment with the 2016 Ag Plan
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New Mexico First Releases Report on Cliff Effects and Churn in Public Benefits

Download a copy of the report: Cliff Effects and Churning in Public Benefits Policy Brief

New Mexico First, a nonpartisan organization committed to engaging New Mexicans in public policy and civic life, has released a policy brief on Cliff Effects and Churning in Public Benefits. The staff and board of New Mexico First believe that sound public policy and a healthy democracy are strengthened by civic engagement, public deliberation, and principled non-partisan research. This report expands on concerns raised at the May 2016 New Mexico First Town Hall on Economic Security and Vitality for New Mexico. A bipartisan consensus recommendation was advanced and adopted related to cliff effects. Recommendation #9 from the final report is to “Advance Family-Friendly Policies.” A specific strategy identified related to this recommendation is to “eliminate disincentives to earning more income for people in poverty, such as cliff effects in work support programs.” In 2018, SJM18 was passed by both houses of the New Mexico State Legislature with unanimous support. New Mexico First developed SJM18: Family Support Services Info. The memorial addresses how families transition from poverty. The memorial was the first step in researching how New Mexico can smooth out the benefits “cliffs” that families face as their earned incomes increase.

The policy brief addresses key issues, including definitions of the cliff effect and churning in public benefits; an overview of some core public benefits available in New Mexico; policy options and department level quality improvement efforts that are working in other states to prevent the needless interruption of services; and policy tools and opportunities that hold promise in NM.

Secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department, Dr. David Scrase, explains, “Both Federal and the NM State government provide significant help to people in difficult life circumstances by providing food, clothing, utility bill assistance, and health insurance. Unfortunately, as New Mexicans are able to find a job and begin to make their way back to independence, these benefits often are removed too soon, leaving our neighbors worse off than before they sought employment. Solving this “cliff effect” is of critical importance in our state, where we have the third-highest poverty rate and the highest food insecurity rate.”

Lilly Irvin-Vitela, report co-author and New Mexico First President, describes the issue. “Many working families in New Mexico and their children live in poverty. This impacts access to food, housing, quality early care and education, afterschool care, healthcare, and other basic needs. Slight fluctuations in earned income can impact eligibility for benefits, leaving a family in a worse financial situation than the one they were in before a raise or promotion was earned. Furthermore, challenges navigating benefits eligibility and re-verification can create a cascading downward spiral that intensifies the crisis a family is experiencing. Fortunately, there are a host of family-friendly policies and administrative changes that other states are using with some success and that NM has begun to implement.”

Allan Oliver, Executive Director of the Thornburg Foundation, which funded the study, spoke about the importance of strengthening understanding about the poverty trap presented by cliff effects. “Eliminating the “cliff effect” in our safety-net programs gives working families a clear path out of poverty. When working families can’t afford to take the better paying job or pay raise, because they will lose medical coverage or childcare reimbursement—our whole state loses. We lose from an underemployed workforce, lost revenue for the state and a failure to help our own neighbors. This report lays out how the cliff effects and churning of public benefits creates real barriers for families seeking to better their own condition and provides some clear options for policymakers to reduce or eliminate those barriers.”

The development of this report was made possible with a grant from the Thornburg Foundation, a funder of New Mexico First.

Download a copy of the report: Cliff Effects and Churning in Public Benefits Policy Brief


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New Mexico First Releases Report on Ranked Choice Voting as Early Voting Starts

Read the report: Ranked Choice Voting Policy Brief ..

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Government Ethics and Transparency Key Focus, 2019 Legislative Session

Good Government Tops 2019 Session Agenda  ..

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New Mexico First Announces Award Recipients in Bipartisan Collaboration, Journalistic Excellence, Civic Leadership and Lifetime Achievement

Spirit Awardees to be recognized at June “First Forum.”  ..

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Heather Balas Leaving New Mexico First for Foundation

After more than a dozen years leading nonpartisan public-policy nonprofit New Mexico First, Heather Balas announced she is leaving her post.

Balas will begin work this month with the Santa Fe-based Thornburg Foundation to lead reform efforts in good government. As part of selecting Balas’ successor, board chair Valerie Romero-Leggott said the organization’s volunteer board members are already coordinating a national executive search. Former state Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish chairs the executive search committee.

“One of the many legacies that Heather leaves with the organization is a strong team that will continue the arc of progress that New Mexico First was founded to pursue,” Romero-Leggott said. “The board and I are confident there will be a smooth transition in leadership, in large part due to Heather’s fidelity to the organization from her first day to her last.”

Balas joined New Mexico First as its deputy in 2005, upon returning to the state after a dozen years working in the nation’s capital and California on public policy and voter education. By 2006, the Portales native was named New Mexico First’s president and executive director.

“It’s been one of my greatest honors to serve alongside dedicated New Mexicans who put the state’s well-being ahead of their own personal or partisan interests,” Balas said. “When we come together, and when we are reminded that we are not as different as we sometimes believe, New Mexico is the better for it every time.”

New Mexico First is known for its statewide town halls, where hundreds of New Mexicans from around the state gather to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the state, as well as develop policy proposals to address them. During Balas’ tenure, the organization influenced dozens of laws and appropriations in education, the economy, natural resources, good government and healthcare.

Balas said examples of those reforms of which she’s most proud include expansion of scholarships for nontraditional college students, statewide reductions in student testing time, expanded watershed restoration and state water planning, passage of the constitutional amendment to create a state ethics commission, loan repayment incentives to keep medical school students in New Mexico, as well as multiple conventional and renewable-energy reforms. All policies were advanced on behalf of the people of New Mexico, prioritized through nonpartisan public deliberations, she said.

“Engaging New Mexicans in the public policy process – giving their ideas and their voices access to the halls of the Roundhouse and beyond – is really our core competency,” Balas said. “Every day, New Mexico First sees proof that Democrats, Republicans and independents can and dowork together for the common good.”

New Mexico First’s senior policy director, Pamela Blackwell, will fill in as the interim executive director over the coming months while the executive search and selection processes are conducted. Romero-Leggott said the staff and board are grateful to Blackwell for her valuable experience and leadership during this time.

During the interim, New Mexico First will host its biennial First Forum Lecture Series, the theme of which this year is “Sustainable Journalism: Preserving the Fourth Estate.” The June 6 fundraiser will feature a panel of veteran New Mexico journalists discussing the need to sustain and grow New Mexico’s reliable news sources. New Mexico First will also present its Spirit Awards, which honor public officials, civic leaders and journalists who make positive impacts in New Mexico and put good policy or fair coverage above partisan politics.

Romero-Leggott said that the event will also recognize Balas’ tenure of service to the state.

“New Mexicans who have seen firsthand the impact that the organization has had under Heather’s leadership are encouraged to attend this year’s First Forum,” Romero-Leggott said, “which will be both important in its own right and an opportunity — a golden opportunity — to thank Heather for her tireless efforts, which we know will continue in her new role, as well.”

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2019 Legislative Outcomes: New Mexico First Successfully Advances Consensus-Driven Legislative Priorities

Higher education, workforce development, agriculture bills led the list ..

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Meeting Voters’ Expectations for Good Government

Legislation that would establish a state ethics commission is under intense scrutiny by the media and public as two legislative proposals churn through the legislative process being considered by New Mexico legislators HB 4 (Ely/Steinborn) and SB 619 (Lopez) both entitled State Ethics Commission Act. ..

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Ethics commission research update

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Legislation to increase need-based scholarships passes the Senate Education Committee unanimously

NM SB81 - Increase Certain Scholarship Amounts (sponsored by Sen. Gay Kernan) passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously. This bill would begin to replenish New Mexico’s College Affordability Endowment Fund, helping to ensure that older, nontraditional and tribal students receive modest tuition relief when pursuing a degree or certificate program. ..

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