Conservation is on the rise in the New Mexico legislature. Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) recently released the 2017-18 Conservation Scorecard and it demonstrates that our state’s legislators are paying attention to their constituents’ concerns about having access to a clean and healthy environment. CVNM connects people to their political power to protect our air, water and land. Our Conservation Scorecard is an important tool to inform New Mexicans how their legislators vote on key environmental issues so they can hold their elected officials accountable.
Both the House and the Senate improved in their overall performance on conservation issues in the 53rd Legislature. The average conservation score earned in the Senate in the 2017-18 Scorecard is 76 percent, an increase from 68 percent in 2017. The average conservation score earned in the House of Representatives in the 2017-18 Scorecard is 70 percent, an increase from 67 percent in 2017.
There are a few reasons for this improvement. New, younger New Mexicans have joined the legislature in recent years and earn high scores in the Scorecard, improving the overall conservation performance of the legislature. We’re seeing faster development of more champions than we are seeing improvement in lower performing legislators.
Another contributing factor is the stalwart championship of our air, land and water by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth and House Speaker Brian Egolf. When members of leadership hold strong values for conservation, good bills get further in to the legislative process, getting more votes and the thorough debate they deserve. We truly appreciate their leadership in advancing proactive legislation to protect communities and defend against attacks of key environmental protections.
The 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions also saw the advancement of some great legislation that could make New Mexico a leader in clean energy, such as reinstatement of the solar tax credits. Clean energy accounts for 11,700 jobs in New Mexico, and our wealth of sun and wind could make this an important source of employment for New Mexicans, particularly in rural areas. Unfortunately, Governor Susana Martinez again pocket vetoed this important legislation.
The upcoming November elections give New Mexicans a great opportunity to build upon this progress and create conservation majorities in both the state House and Senate. In addition, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is a true conservation leader and would make significant changes to make our state the leader it should be in clean energy and so many other important environmental issues.
I hope folks will check out the 2017-18 Conservation Scorecard and contact their elected officials to let them know their constituents are paying attention to how they vote when it comes to the conservation of the Land of Enchantment.
Ben Shelton of Santa Fe is the political and legislative director at Conservation Voters New Mexico.