New Mexico First Blog

Letter to the NM House and Senate Leadership on the 2020 Special Session of the NM Legislature

On behalf of a broad coalition of individuals, businesses, and NGOs, New Mexico First is pleased to present a Letter to the NM House and Senate Leadership on the 2020 Special Session of the NM Legislature. The intention of the letter is to promote sound democratic processes and outcomes during the special legislative session. With gratitude to our legislative leadership, this broad coalition is offering suggestions to ensure community voices in policy decision-making are heard. 

If you are an organization that is interested in signing on to the letter below, please email Melanie Sanchez Eastwood at


  • Letter to the NM House and Senate Leadership-2020 Special Session of the NM Legislature Letter to the NM House and Senate Leadership-2020 Special Session of the NM Legislature

    Read the Letter Below

    May 8, 2020

    To: President Pro Tempore Papen, Honorable Speaker Egolf, and Floor Leaders Williams Stapleton, Townsend, Wirth, Ingle and Whips Gallegos, Montoya, Stewart, and Payne

    CC: Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, LFC Chair Smith, LFC Vice-chair Lundstrom and Director Abbey, NM State Legislature

    RE:  2020 Special Session of the New Mexico Legislature

    Dear Honorable President Pro Tempore Papen, Speaker Egolf, and House and Senate Leadership,

    On behalf of a broad coalition of individuals, businesses, and NGOs, we’d like to thank you for your leadership and service in forging ahead to call a special session of the New Mexico Legislature.  The gravity of the commitment you and your colleagues on both sides of the aisle are making during the public health, economic, and civic crisis that New Mexicans must face is appreciated with deep gratitude.  The need to conduct a special session in a manner that keeps legislators, staff, and the public safe while maintaining confidence in democratic institutions, processes, and outcomes is evident and unenviable. 

    During pre-COVID times, New Mexico First has been committed to meaningfully engaging New Mexicans in public policy and systems change efforts.  We are firmly committed to non-partisan deliberative democratic processes at all levels of decision- making as a building block of a healthy democracy.  While this commitment is founded in deeply held American values, it is also informed by a historical and pragmatic lens.  Quite simply, policymaking is better when it is authentically informed by the people who are most likely to endure both the triumphs and failures of public policy. Our diverse wisdom, lived experiences, and areas of expertise allow us to work together to the greatest extent possible to consider the implications of policy decisions before they are enacted and implemented.

    In times of uncertainty, when new ways of living and dying together are emerging and the learning curve is steep and costly both in terms of the humanitarian burden and the economic cost, our ability to move forward with any level of success requires that confidence is maintained and strengthened in civic institutions. Decisions about resource allocations and other time-sensitive public policy have and are impacted by both values and morals. They should be made with the greatest transparency and engagement with and from New Mexicans.  Decisions should also be guided by a commitment to human rights, treaty rights with our tribal and pueblo nations, and human dignity. Work to coordinate policy and resource priorities on a state to nation level in ways that respect sovereignty is critical to good policy outcomes.  This requires each of us to consider those who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 as a vital part of decision-making.  Some of the most impacted communities in New Mexico are tribal, pueblo, rural and frontier parts of the state who also have limited internet access and broadband capacity.  Steps should be taken to ensure these communities have a voice in the budget process.

    We offer the following suggestions to ensure community voices in policy decision-making. New Mexicans reasonably expect clear and predictable ways to participate in hearings and deliberations and offer the following recommendations:

    1. All hearings and deliberations should remain public and abide by the US Constitution, New Mexico Constitution, Open Meetings Act, and House and Senate Rules.
    2. We also ask that communication options are inclusive and entail analog and digital options to provide the greatest access possible to the legislative process.
    3. All hearings and deliberation schedules should be announced at least 24 hours in advance and cannot be changed without 24-hour notice, since unexpected changes suppress opportunities for transparency and meaningful public participation.
    4. All hearings and deliberations should continue to be broadcast and allow remote opportunities for public comment with clear and complete written guidance, published public engagement processes, ADA accessible options, and technical assistance capacity to navigate remote session and or social distancing requirements at least 1 month before the Special Session is convened.
    5. We request that all hearings, deliberations, and votes are made between 8am and 8pm to avoid real or perceived suppression of transparency and public engagement.
    6. We suggest avoiding a caucus of either party during scheduled hearings or deliberations to avoid creating issues with quorum, interfering with transparent and inclusive involvement from communities.
    7. All hearings and deliberations must maintain quorum and the reason(s) for loss of quorum must be posted on the website for public review.

    With respect,

    Lilly Irvin-Vitela, MCRP
    President and Executive Director, New Mexico First
    (505) 225-2140

    Vanessa Roanhorse
    CEO, Roanhorse Consulting


    McKinley Collaborative for Health Equity 

    Partner organizations include:

    • McKinley Community Health Alliance
    • Red Water Pond Road Community Association
    • McKinley County Public Health Office
    • Navajo Birth Cohort Study
    • Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining
    • Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment; Conservation Voters of New Mexico Education Fund


    Anna Rondon
    Executive Director, New Mexico Social Justice and Equity Institute


    New Mexico Thrives
    Executive Director, Tsiporah Nephesh


    Roy Montibon
    President, The Montibon Company
    San Miguel County


    Matthew Denetclaw
    Navajo Nation Intertribal Agricultural Council


    Ellen Buelow, Advocacy Chair
    Interfaith Hunger Coalition, Bernalillo County


    Carlos Navarro
    Interfaith Hunger Coalition, Convener  


    Judith Williams
    Past President, League of Women Voters New Mexico


    The New Mexico Association of Food Banks


    Percy Byron Anderson
    Community Land Use Planning Committee Vice-Chair for Manuelito Navajo Chapter


    Christina T. Morris
    Health Promotion Specialist, NMDOH/PHD
    San Juan County and Navajo Nation Tribe


    Brie Sillery
    Communications Strategist, NM Coalition to End Homelessness (in Albuquerque)


    Hank Hughes
    Executive Director, NM Coalition to End Homelessness (in Santa Fe)



    Isabelle Jenniches
    NM Healthy Soil Working Group



    Susan Wilger, Chair
    New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council


    Donald T. Lopez, P.E., CMO, Mayor
    Village of Los Ranchos


    Pam Roy
    Executive Director, Farm to Table


    Heather Ferguson
    Executive Director, Common Cause New Mexico


    Kathleen Sabo
    Executive Director, New Mexico Ethics Watch

    Krystal Curley, Navajo Indigenous Lifeways, Executive Director


    Eugene Pickett, Owner Operator
    Black Farmers and Ranchers New Mexico, Pueblitos


    Duane Yazzie, Chapter President
    Shiprock Chapter, Navajo Nation


    New Mexico Appleseed
    Jennifer Ramo, Executive Director


    Daniel Valverde
    Healthy Soil Workgroup

    Erin Garrison, Executive Director
    Food is Free Albuquerque (FIFABQ)


    Sharon Finarelli
    Executive Director
    New Mexico Alliance of Health Councils


    Leave a Comment:

    Captcha Image


    Anonymous Commented on 08-May-2020 05:27 PM

    This is a great letter! Thank you to all the organizations that care!

    Anonymous Commented on 09-May-2020 05:48 AM

    I fully support the intent of this letter to the leadership of New Mexico

    Some of Our Sponsors