Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, recently was named New Mexico’s single most effective legislator – indeed, one of the most effective lawmakers in any state – by FiscalNote. The national, nonpartisan organization knows what it is talking about, representing many of the most successful Fortune 500 corporations. Most recipients of the award were Republicans. The award was given on how successful a legislator is at sponsoring and steering legislation through the legislative process to enactment. This complex process requires strong bipartisan skills and often goes unnoticed by the public. I can attest, however, that in all my years in the Roundhouse, no legislator has ever deserved this honor more, nor worked harder to receive it, than Stewart.
Stewart is the author of so much important legislation to improve the lives of New Mexicans. A champion for children and our public school classrooms, the environment, good government and women’s rights: All are part of her record of accomplishment in the House and the Senate. Her years of experience as an educator have been invaluable to legislative deliberations on state education policy and budget priorities. As vice chair of the Senate Education Committee she fights to get teachers the additional skills and resources needed to teach children who need extra help. It is important work in a state with so much childhood poverty.
The award reflects the passion Stewart holds for a large range of political issues. She sponsored the original legislation that created the K-3 Plus summer learning program for thousands of children from low-income families. It provides kindergarten through third-grade students 25 extra instructional days. Recognized nationally, Stewart’s K-3 Plus narrows the achievement gap between at-risk students and other students, improves cognitive skills and produces higher test scores for all participants. Its enactment was a bipartisan milestone.
Legislation she authored in 2003 created our state’s three-tiered licensure model that implements a professional salary schedule for public school teachers. It helps New Mexico attract and retain dedicated, qualified teachers and has become a nationally recognized model.
Year after year, and in the face of stiff executive headwinds, she has been a tireless advocate for extending the state’s consumer solar tax credit. That law alone has made it possible and affordable for many thousands of middle-class New Mexican families to install solar panels on their homes. It also created big savings on their electricity bills, delivered a nonpolluting source of energy, helped to lower air and water pollution overall in New Mexico, and improved public health. She built overwhelming support for solar energy from both parties, even though she is an unapologetic Democrat.
Stewart is a special kind of legislator who has successfully enacted key laws to meet many of our state’s pressing challenges, including a statewide water conservation plan and grey-water system regulations. Over the years she authored summer youth gang intervention legislation, domestic violence interventions, prohibitions on insurance companies that discriminate against victims of domestic abuse, emergency contraception for rape victims and stronger homeowner rights – all of which became law. The list goes on. She has been a bridge-builder for positive change.
Some of our state’s most important legislation during the last almost 25 years came about thanks to Stewart, on education, renewable energy and health care. She has been successful because of her constructive and collaborative approach to government. Stewart sets the standard for effective lawmaking.