Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Urge the State Legislature to Consider Bills Addressing Human Needs

This is the year when the New Mexico State Legislature meets for the short 30-day session (as opposed to the 60-day session every other year).  So there is a little more sense of urgency to push through some important human needs.  Some of the legislation is already in motion, and I'd like to share this update from the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-New Mexico, courtesy of director Ruth Hoffman.

Family-Sustaining Income
Families living in poverty need quality child care assistance to be able to work without worrying about their children. New Mexico needs quality earlychildhood education programs that will help give our children a good start. The Invest in Kids Now! campaign is working to increase the amount our state spends on early childhood education. HJR15 (Rep. Rick Miera) and SJR9 (Sen. Michael Sanchez) would place a constitutional amendment on the 2012 general election ballot asking voters to approve an increase in the distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to provide more funding for early childhood programs throughout New Mexico. HJR15 is now in the House Education Committee & SJR9 is in the Senate Rules Committee.

Alleviating hunger is a core issue for Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-NM. New Mexico's food banks bring much-needed food to many, many people living in poverty around our state. Since about 2002, the food banks have received funding to purchase and distribute produce statewide. That funding has been cut in the last 4 state budgets. HB71 (Rep. Ed Sandoval) & SB102 (Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort) would appropriate an additional $100,000 for use by the food banks. HB71 is in the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and SB102 is in the Senate Committee on Committees.

Affordable Housing & Homelessness:
We are advocating for programs that assist children and adults experiencing homelessness. In 2005, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-NM helped to create the state Housing Trust Fund which was initially funded with $10 million. Only an additional $5 million has been appropriated to the Trust Fund since then. This fund provides a much-needed flexible source of funding for projects designed to meet affordable housing needs for low-income people throughout our state. Since the Trust Fund was created, because loans awarded by the Trust Fund have been paid back, over $20 million has been available for the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing projects. That $20 million has leveraged about $200 million in other housing funding and over 1,300 units of low-income housing have been or are being built or rehabilitated. SB78 (Sen. Nancy Rodriguez) asks that $5 million be appropriated to the state Housing Trust Fund. SB78 was heard in the Senate Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-NM opposes the repeal of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. The current law was enacted in 2003 and has worked to improve public safety as licensed immigrants are more likely to stay at the scene of an accident and exchange information. Local, state and federal law enforcement are able to track outstanding warrants, repeat offenders and citations when all drivers are a part of NM's MVD records. The uninsured motorist rate has decreased from 21% to 9% since 2003. Revisiting this issue is a distraction from other very important issues. HB103 (Rep. Andy Nunez) would repeal driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. HB103 is now in the House Labor Committee. 

How to Contact Your Legislators
Go to the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry NM website and enter your zip code in the "Contact Your Legislators" box on the left of the home page. Your legislators' contact information can be found by clicking on their names when your legislators are identified. If you know who your legislators are, you can also go to the Legislature's website to find their contact information. You can call them, send an email or even better----write them a note and mail it to: State Capitol, Santa Fe, NM 87501.) 

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