Imagine not being counted

by Jacob Vigil, MSW
April 5, 2018

If you’ve ever done much research on your family history, you’ve likely run across old census records. These yellowed documents—many hand-written with quill and ink by enumerators who went door-to-door to gather the information—were used to determine how many representatives each state had in Congress. Today’s Census is still incredibly important, but now it is much more high-tech. It involves cutting-edge technology, years of planning, extensive research, and thousands of Census workers across the country. Far from being a thing of the past, the decennial Census count that takes place every ten years determines crucial day-to-day realities for all residents in the U.S. It determines voting and school districts, political representation, and how billions in federal dollars are spent across the country—including $6.2 billion every year in New Mexico alone. But now, the Census—and everything that relies upon it—is under threat.

The recent decision to include a question on citizenship status in the 2020 decennial Census is certain to increase the number of people who won’t respond to the census. And that’s exactly the political motivation behind the decision to include a question that hasn’t been asked since 1950.

This change will be particularly bad for New Mexico.

The Constitution mandates a full count of everyone residing in the country every ten years. Aside from allowing for fair political representation in Congress, the census also determines how much of the money that we pay in federal taxes will come back to our state to help pay for schools and colleges, highways and health care, services for veterans, transportation, and other necessities. Businesses and entrepreneurs use census data to make critical decisions about hiring, consumer needs, and where to locate factories and stores. Additionally, hundreds of millions of dollars for programs serving Americans who have fallen on hard times—programs such as Medicaid, school lunches, and SNAP (food stamps)—are allocated based on census counts. Given New Mexico’s status as one of the poorest states, any impact to the allocation of those funds would hit our state especially hard. An undercount of just 1 percent could cost the state $600 million over the next ten years.

This policy is an act of erasure that will render certain populations invisible in terms of representation and public spending.

One thing is clear to the hundreds of civil and human rights organizations, local governments, and elected officials who have spoken out in opposition to the question: this is a move designed to scare already hard-to-count populations away from participating in the Census. New Mexico has historically been home to a large number of these hard-to-count populations: Latinos, Native Americans, immigrants, and people living in rural areas, in areas without internet access, and in poverty. In addition, New Mexico is one of 12 states with a population of undocumented immigrants that is higher than the national average. Adding the citizenship question, which is likely to dissuade some New Mexico residents from responding, will make this problem worse because many immigrants—regardless of their legal status—simply won’t be counted.

When immigrants aren’t counted, their children also aren’t counted—even though 80 percent of children with immigrant parents are, themselves, U.S. citizens.

The addition of a citizenship question is particularly troublesome given recent aggressive moves by ICE to target immigrants without documentation. People are afraid to go to work, take their kids to school, go to court to pay a traffic fine, even travel to another state because they know they could encounter an ICE agent at any point. Threatening certain groups or telling them they are not part of this country does not reflect our values as a nation.

While the implications of this sudden and unnecessary policy are bleak, there is much that can be done. State attorneys general—including New Mexico’s—have filed lawsuits asserting that the addition of the question is unconstitutional, and members of both houses of Congress are calling for hearings to consider legislation and hear testimony on the issue.

State and local government leaders need accurate information to make decisions regarding their constituents and communities. Your state and local elected leaders can help save the census. Tell them to join you in urging their congressional delegation to overturn this effort to undermine the census. Find who your state and local elected officials are and how to contact them online.

An accurate census is critical for our democracy and every New Mexican deserves to be counted and equally represented. The stakes are too high for an inaccurate 2020 Census, but we must all do our part to ensure that everybody in New Mexico counts.

Jacob Vigil, MSW, is a research and policy analyst for New Mexico Voices for Children.

Citizen’s Guide to Legislative Advocacy in New Mexico

Cover imageDownload this citizen’s guide (Updated March 2018; 20 pages; pdf)
Link to the Citizen’s Guide to the New Mexico State Budget
Link to the Advocate’s Guide to the New Mexico State Budget
Link to the Citizen’s Guide to New Mexico’s Tax System


Advocacy is a form of civic participation — much like voting. When you vote, you send a message about which candidates you want in office. Advocacy is taking your vote a step further. It’s telling your elected officials what issues you’d like them to act on and how. Advocacy can be as quick and easy as voting—sending a brief email, for example. Or it can be more involved, encompassing anything from chatting over coffee with your city councilor to meeting with your congressional representative on Capitol Hill.

While some people like to complain and be cynical about the political world, others are advocating for change, making life better, and bringing hope to their communities. If you’re one of the latter, this guide will give you some tools for working with your elected officials so that they work better for you.

Some Tips for Using This Guide

Words that appear in boldface are defined in the yellow Technical Terms and Advocacy Etiquette boxes. All of the acronyms used in this guide are written out below.


How Our State Government Works

Elections and Terms of Service

Like the U.S. president, New Mexico’s governor and lieutenant governor are elected every four years and may serve no more than two consecutive four–year terms. Unlike the president, the governor and lieutenant governor may serve more than two terms, as long as no more than two of their terms are consecutive.

Like the U.S. Congress, New Mexico’s Legislature is made up of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. In Congress, each House member represents a specific district within a state, while senators represent the whole state. In New Mexico’s Legislature, House and Senate members both represent districts within the state.

The 70 members of the state House of Representatives are elected to two-year terms, while the 42 members of the state Senate serve four-year terms. Like in Congress, the entire House is up for re-election every other year. Unlike in Congress, state Senate terms are not staggered, so every four years both the House and Senate come up for re–election. However, elections for the governor and the Senate are staggered—meaning they never occur in the same year.

Each senator represents about 40,000 people (or about 22,000 voters); each representative about 24,000 people (or about 13,000 voters). We have a “citizen legislature,” meaning state senators and representatives receive no salary for serving, only a per diem to cover their travel, accommodation and food expenses during the legislative session. They also work in between sessions (the “interim”) when the committees to which they belong hold hearings. You can find out who your senator and representative are by going to the Legislature’s website (the address is listed in the Resources section of this book).

The State Legislature

The New Mexico state Legislature meets for a 60-day regular session in odd-numbered years and for a 30-day regular session in even-numbered years. Regardless of the length of the session, it always begins on the third Tuesday of January. Sixty-day sessions consider any and all legislative matters, while 30-day sessions are limited to budgetary matters and those items placed on the governor’s agenda, or “call.”

The governor can call a special session to deal with emergency legislation that needs attention before the next regular session. The governor controls the agenda for special sessions. The Legislature may also call itself into an extraordinary session to consider their own attempt to override a governor’s veto. Extraordinary sessions require approval of two-thirds of the Legislature.


As with the U.S. Congress, each chamber of the state Legislature has a leader who is elected from the majority party (the political party that holds the most seats) by the members of that chamber. The leader of the Senate is called the Senate President Pro Tempore. In the house, the leader is the Speaker of the House. The leadership sets the agenda and appoints the chairs of committees. Under the Speaker and the President Pro Tem are the Majority Leader and the Majority Whip. The minority party is represented by the Minority Leader and the Minority Whip. The job of the Whip is to round up members for important votes. Just as the vice president presides over the U.S. Senate, the lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate, casting tie–breaking votes when necessary.


All legislators serve on committees both during the session and during the interim. Each committee is run by its chair or co–chairs and has a vice chair. Senate committees also have ranking members and some House committees have deputy chairs. Senate committee members are appointed by the Committee’s Committee, while House members are appointed by the Speaker. The committees that meet during the regular session are called standing committees, and each is comprised of either senators or representatives. Committees are very powerful bodies because they hear legislation before it is considered by the full House or Senate. (See the Appendix for a list of the committees.)

Interim committees of the Legislature meet between sessions (generally beginning in June) to hear reports on past actions, provide oversight to state agencies, discuss important issues, and prepare legislation for the regular session. Interim committees are comprised of members of both the House and Senate.

The Legislature is supported by full-time staff members and several agencies. The main agency is the Legislative Council Service (LCS), which drafts bills and supplies legal information, research, and technical support. The LCS also produces a variety of publications including the Daily Bill Finder and operates the legislative library, which is open for public use.

Citizen Input

Citizens can contact the offices of their legislators and governor at any time of the year and ask to speak with him or her personally about their concerns. For the most part they make themselves very accessible to their constituents, and are pleased that citizens take an active interest in issues. You can contact legislators about issues by phone, fax, email or by visiting with them in person.

Interim committee meetings and committee hearings during a regular session also provide good opportunities for citizens to express their views on specific proposed legislation. How to provide this input is discussed in more detail later in this guide.

Bills, Memorials and Resolutions

Legislation can be introduced in the form of a bill, memorial or resolution.

A bill is a change in law or an appropriation of funds for a specific purpose. Bills require passage in both chambers and the signature of the governor.

A memorial is a way of honoring or acknowledging a group or individual, petitioning Congress or other government agencies, or, most commonly, asking a state agency to study an issue. Memorials require passage in both chambers but do not require the governor’s signature.

A resolution is a proposal to amend the state constitution by taking the proposed amendment to the voters. Amending the state constitution requires passage of the resolution in both chambers and then approval by a majority of voters in the next general election. A resolution does not require action by the governor.


How a Bill Becomes Law

The idea for a bill can come from anyone. Often it is a citizen who identifies a need and makes a request of their legislator. If the legislator chooses to introduce the bill to the Legislature, he or she asks the LCS to draft the language for the bill.

A bill can be introduced in either the House or the Senate or both, but it must pass both chambers to become law. It can also have more than one sponsor or can be joint legislation, meaning identical bills with different sponsors are introduced in both the House and the Senate. No matter how many sponsors a bill has, only the first sponsor is credited as the bill’s sponsor.

Every bill must have a fiscal impact report (FIR) to determine how much its implementation will cost the state. These are created by the staff of the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) and are posted on the Legislature’s website.

Generally, a bill is introduced by the sponsor or sponsors and then assigned to one, two or three committee hearings. The committee hearings provide an opportunity for the supporters and opponents of the bill to speak for or against it. The committee can choose to pass the bill with or without amendments, defeat it, or table it. Tabling a bill can either mean setting it aside for later consideration (to be added as an amendment onto a larger bill, such as an appropriation bill), or it can be a way of defeating a bill without taking a vote. The committee chair determines whether or not the committee votes, sets aside or tables a bill.


When a bill passes the first committee, it goes to the next committee assignment or to the full House or Senate for a vote. Once it passes the House or Senate, the bill is reported (sent) to the other chamber for their action. That chamber will then assign it to one, two or three committees where the bill will have to pass before coming to the full chamber for a vote. A bill must pass both chambers in exactly the same form in order to go to the governor for his or her signature. If it is amended by one chamber it must go back to the other chamber for their concurrence.

A bill must have three readings in both the House and the Senate. A bill’s first reading is its introduction. Acceptance of a committee report is considered the second reading, and the floor debate and vote on the bill is considered the third reading. If a bill is favorably voted on by the full Senate and House, then it goes to the governor for his or her signature.

If the bill is passed before the last three days of the session, the governor has 72 hours to either sign or veto the bill. If the governor takes no action, then the bill is automatically enacted. If the bill is vetoed, the Legislature may override the veto with a vote of at least two-thirds of both chambers. If the bill is passed during the last three days of the session (which is usually the case), the governor has 20 days to sign or veto a bill. If the governor takes no action, then the bill is killed by what is called a “pocket veto.”

Advocacy Basics

Why Advocate

Elected officials do pay attention to their constituents. They want to know what matters to you and they want to serve the interests of the voters in their district. Because our state has a relatively small population, our senators and representatives each serve a relatively small number of voters. That makes them more accessible to you, the constituent.

When you contact your elected officials, they know you care. Most will appreciate the knowledge that you bring to the subject and your interest in making life better for New Mexicans. Because our elected officials are ordinary citizens, most of whom work full-time jobs just like you, they need the input and expertise of others. They can’t be experts on every issue. Remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Since they are going to rely on the expertise of others, you want to make sure that your voice is being heard.

When to Advocate

Perhaps the best time to begin to advocate is during the election campaign when you can help influence a candidate’s position on an issue or even influence the agenda of a campaign. After the campaign, you can try to influence the priorities of your newly elected (or re-elected) senators and representatives. Certainly, you’ll want to meet with legislators as early as possible before the legislative session begins. Once they get to Santa Fe, they are busy with hundreds of bills and cannot be expected to give you the time and attention you might like. Oftentimes, the most you can hope for during a busy session is to remind them of your prior conversations and their commitment to the cause.

After the legislative session, be sure to thank them for their support. It’s also a good idea to write to those who voted against the bill to express your disappointment. This should be done carefully and courteously, with an invitation to discuss the issue further. You never want to be too critical of a lawmaker whose vote you may need next time. Understand that they deal with numerous competing priorities and often must make compromises.

Whom to Target

Certainly, you will have the most sway with your own Senate and House representatives—they rely on voters like you to put and keep them in office. But you’ll also want to talk to legislators who sit on committees that will likely hear the legislation, the chairs of those committees, and the legislative leadership. An aggressive advocate would also meet with legislative staff and analysts, as well as officials from the department that will be affected by the legislation.

Before meeting with elected officials, find out what their particular interests and passions are. Most seek office because they care deeply about something and want to make a difference. Members of Congress all have websites that generally include this kind of information. Past issues of the local newspaper may be your best resource to find out more about your state officials—reporters usually seek out the bill’s sponsor (or big supporter) as well as the main opponent for comment when covering the session.

Don’t be afraid to meet with legislators who may not agree with you on the issue, because you still may find common ground. You need to educate your supporters as well as opponents about the issue if you’re to sway their actions and votes on it.

How to Advocate


The best way to educate or influence a lawmaker is to meet with them personally. You can do this individually or with a group. Simply call or write to them and ask them to meet with you about a particular issue. This provides the best format for educating them and gaining their support.

You may also use a personal meeting as an opportunity to invite the lawmaker to visit a site—a school, community centers, etc.—that is relative to legislation you’re supporting. If they accept, you’ll want to work to make sure the site visit will be an experience that supports your position. Consider what you want the visitor to see, whom you want them to meet, and what message you want them to take away. Having someone there who can share a personal story can be very effective. Also find out how much time the lawmaker has to devote to the visit so you can plan accordingly.

Phone Calls

You may also call their home or work before or after the legislative session. Phone calls during the session are usually taken by staff members who will relay your message. When legislators get phone calls by a large number of constituents during the legislative session they know that the issue is important to voters back home.

Letters and Email

Personal letters to lawmakers are also effective, but they should always be brief, to the point, and courteous. Because a mailed letter may take a few days to reach your legislator, it is probably best to avoid sending them during the session, unless you personally deliver it to your legislator’s office at the Capitol. Email communication with legislators can be effective because many use it as a way to communicate frequently with advocates and constituents. However, be warned: not all of New Mexico’s legislators use email even though the service is provided.

Making Your Case

You want to be prepared when you meet with, call or write your legislator. Be clear about which issue you want to discuss, and whether you are representing yourself, an organization or a group.

Research your issue thoroughly and make sure that your proposal is based on the evidence. An effective case combines both data or evidence and personal stories from real life. Any proposal that is argued solely on an emotional basis will have trouble passing legislative scrutiny. Any proposal that is rooted in accurate data, but lacks a connection to real life could be considered irrelevant. Choose only two or three main points and always include a statement about what action you want the legislator to take.


Develop one-page position papers or fact sheets to leave with legislators after your meeting. This strengthens your argument and gives them something to refer back to for more information. Always include contact information for you or the group you are representing, and cite your data sources.

If you are working in opposition to specific legislation, always offer an alternative when possible, such as a program that has worked well in another state. This way you’re working to solve the problem, not just block the legislation.

Some Simple But Important Do’s and Don’ts

Do make an appointment whenever possible and call if you are running late to a meeting.
Do be flexible and understanding if your meeting is cancelled, delayed, or ends up being with a staff member instead of your legislator.
Do identify yourself and which organization you are with, if applicable, each time you call or meet with your legislator.
Do be courteous, respectful, quick with gratitude, and slow to criticize.
Do be well organized, prepared, and if you’re working in coalition, be united.
Do refer to specific legislation by the bill number and know the status of the bill.
Do use both data and personal stories but be concise and to the point.
Do give them short, easy–to–read literature like fact sheets.
Do ask for what you want.
Do allow the legislator to ask questions or express their opinion (do follow–up with the answer if you don’t know it off hand).
Do understand and be able to address the other side of the argument.
Do keep the door open for further discussion.
Do report back to the lead person or organization if you’re working in coalition.

Don’t be late.
Don’t be argumentative, arrogant, condescending or threatening.
Don’t exaggerate the case.
Don’t overwhelm them with too much data.
Don’t make up answers. Say you don’t know and get back later with the correct information.
Don’t take more time than you were offered.
Don’t burn bridges. Leave the door open for further discussion, on this or other issues.

Committee Meetings and Hearings

Speaking during committee meetings and hearings can also be a very effective way of educating and lobbying legislators. All committee hearings are open to the public for observation. Some meetings allow time for public comment, in which case you simply show up. Some require that you ask the chair of the committee if you may make a formal presentation to the committee about a specific issue.

To make your committee testimony most successful, it’s a good idea to both familiarize yourself with the committee membership and to attend a hearing by that committee on a different matter to get an idea of how the committee is run.


Be prepared for questions. Never make up an answer you don’t know. Tell the committee that you don’t have the requested information and will get back to them. And then make sure you do get the relevant information to the committee.

Know the Opposition

There is nothing worse than being blind–sided by the opposition and their arguments. It is critical to know who will oppose your issue and the arguments they will use. It’s good, too, to know if the opposition is organized and likely to present a unified front. Learn as much as you can about them and how they intend to oppose your issue. Writing out your responses to opposition arguments is a worthwhile exercise, so that you are prepared with the right answers. Sometimes you can even derail the opposition arguments by addressing them in advance with your own testimony that includes compelling data. When the opposition is likely to be organized, meet with opponents if possible and get to know the issue from their perspective. You may even find that you have some common ground.

Advocacy and the Media

Press releases, press conferences, op–ed pieces (guest editorials), letters to the editor, blog entries, and appearances on radio talk shows and TV should all be considered as possible means to get your message to legislators and to activate the public around an issue. Your media strategy should be developed as part of an overall campaign to promote the issue. Remember that the news media have limited time/space in which to present the news, and that your issue will be competing with other issues and the events of the day for the media’s attention. The news media has no obligation to cover your story, so the best approach is to let them know why your story is one they will want to cover.

A well-written op-ed is fairly easy to place, especially with smaller newspapers. Before you sit down with your computer, sit down with your local paper and read its editorial pages. This will give you an idea of what sorts of op-eds they run and how their editorial board leans politically. You can call the op-ed editor to pitch an idea before you write it or simply to find out what their word count and submission criteria are.

Staying on Message

When working with the media it is critically important to develop your message and then stay on message. Frame the issue the way that you want it framed. Take control of the debate and define it in your terms. Tell the story the way you want it told. If possible, hook the issue to a story that is current and local, so that news outlets will want to pick it up. When responding to reporter questions, remember to make the point that you think is most important even if it means not necessarily answering the direct question. Always be aware of what you do not want to say to the media, and be disciplined about your message.


Keep the same things about framing in mind when you write an op-ed or letter to the editor. Address the opposition’s issues without restating their message. Your argument is strongest when you use both data and a personal story.

Be particularly cautious about letting your emotions get the best of you when posting on a blog. Because it is an immediate medium, it’s easy to get carried away in the heat of an argument. Take a deep breath before you post anything.

Coalition Building

One of the most effective means of promoting an issue is to have many messengers and advocates. Building a large and effective coalition strengthens your message and broadens your reach. Where some messengers can’t reach a legislator, another messenger can. The coalition should be united around the same goals and always carry the same message.

Showing grassroots voter support for an issue is invaluable. Polling data is helpful, but the ability to mobilize supporters is even more important. Having a network of organizations that can get their members to visit, call or write their legislators is perhaps the best way to win key legislative support. Email alerts can be used effectively when the email list is reliable and known to produce results. Otherwise, it’s best to just get on the phone and make calls to allies and get them to call legislators.

Lobbying Rules for Non-profits

Many organizations have paid lobbyists to do their advocacy work. Most Americans don’t react with enthusiasm to the term ‘lobbyist.’ We think of lobbyists as representatives of big–money special interests groups, who make deals with politicians in smoky, back–room meetings. While there’s some truth to that cliché, it would not be an accurate description for every lobbyist. You may be surprised to know that many churches lobby on behalf of their congregations, non-profits lobby on behalf of their chosen cause, and even governmental departments lobby each other. That’s right—every January when New Mexico’s Legislature is in session you can bet that professional lobbyists are working on behalf of several cities, counties, universities, and other public institutions—even our public school system.

Nonprofit organizations can and should lobby, but it is also important for those organizations to know their lobbying limitations. There are two kinds of lobbying: direct and indirect. Nonprofit organizations are legally able to use a small portion of their budget for both direct and indirect lobbying. Government funds are never to be used for lobbying, and some foundation funders also require that their grants not be used for lobbying purposes. To be safe, most non-profits that lobby use only private donations to pay for their lobbying efforts and are careful not to surpass the amount that the Internal Revenue Service will allow. (See the Resources section.)

Direct lobbying is communication between a lobbyist and a legislator or his/her staff members about specific legislation that expresses a view or makes a specific ask of that legislator. If the visit is to share information about a particular issue, but does not address specific legislation or make a request of that legislator for their support, then it is not lobbying.


Indirect lobbying is communication with the general public about a specific issue that asks them to contact their elected officials about specific legislation. The rules about mass emails, Listservs, and the use of websites to activate the public about an issue can get very complex. These are important tools, however, so nonprofits are encouraged to use them… just know the legal limits of what you can do. (See the Resources section for more.)

There are many activities that are NOT considered lobbying. Any report that is a nonpartisan analysis, provides a fair discussion of the issue, and includes only an indirect call to action is not lobbying. If the organization is asked in writing by a committee chair to provide technical assistance to that legislative committee, then that is expert testimony, not lobbying.

Any staff time or lobbying activity should be well documented as such and expensed toward either direct or indirect lobbying funds. Any activity that does not cost the organization money is not considered lobbying.

The Role of the Lobbyist

Some organizations have their own lobbyist on staff or will hire a lobbyist on contract. The lobbyist plays an important role in tracking legislation, must know the legislative process and the players, and should constantly be tracking legislation. Even so, getting legislation passed (or defeated) takes a coordinated effort on the part of many people.
The lobbyist enlists legislators to sponsor a bill who will be aggressive, knowledgeable, and willing to make the bill a priority. The lobbyist then checks to make sure the bill is drafted according to the wishes of the backers and the sponsor. He or she then tracks the bill daily—from its being drafted by the Legislative Council Services, to introduction, committee hearings, committee reports, floor votes, and action taken by the governor. The lobbyist visits with legislators to gain support for the bill and activates the media and grassroots campaigns as necessary to assure success. When a bill is scheduled for a committee hearing the lobbyist should know when it is important to call for expert testimony, crowds of supporters, phone calls to legislators and/or media coverage, or when it is better to let the bill move along the process quietly, saving the mobilization efforts for when they are needed.


Lobbying Rules
The IRS:
The Alliance for Justice:

Tracking Legislation
You can track legislation during the session on the Legislature’s website

Bill Finder:
My Roundhouse (to sign up for emails regarding specific bills):

New Mexico Government Contact Info
Chief Clerk of the House: 505-986-4751
Chief Clerk of the Senate: 505-986-4714
Governor’s Office: 505-476-2200;
Legislative Council Services: 505-986-4600;
Legislative Publications:
Legislature: 505-986-4300; (To find your legislator:

Library: 505-986-4667
Lt. Governor’s Office: 505-476-2250;
New Mexico state website:
State Capitol switchboard: 505-986-4300

Congressional Contact Info
U.S. Capitol switchboard 202-224-3121
U.S. House of Representatives:
U.S. Senate:


Standing Legislative Committees
Committees that meet during the legislative session

House Committees

Agriculture & Water Resources (HACG)
Appropriations & Finance (HAFC)
Business & Industry (HBIC)
Consumer & Public Affairs (HCPAC)
Education (HEC)
Energy, Environment & Natural Resources
Health & Human Services
Judiciary (HJC)
Labor & Economic Development
Local Government, Elections, Land Grants & Cultural Affairs
Rules & Order Of Business (HRC)
State Government, Indian & Veterans Affairs
Taxation & Revenue (HTRC)
Transportation, Public Works & Capital Improvements

Senate Committees

Committees’ Committee (SCC)
Corporations & Transportation (SCORC)
Education (SEC)
Finance (SFC)
Indian & Cultural Affairs (SIAC)
Judiciary (SJC)
Public Affairs (SPAC)
Rules (SRC)

Interim Committees
Committees that meet when the Legislature is not in session

Behavioral Health Subcommittee
Capitol Buildings Planning Commission (CBPC)
Courts, Corrections & Justice (CCJC)
Criminal Justice Reform Subcommittee
Disabilities Concerns Subcommittee
Economic & Rural Development (ERDC)
Indian Affairs (IAC)
Interim Legislative Ethics (ILEC)
Investments & Pensions Oversight (IPOC)
Land Grant (LGC)
Legislative Council (LC)
Legislative Education Study (LESC)
Legislative Finance (LFC)
Legislative Health & Human Services (LHHSC)
Military & Veterans’ Affairs
Mortgage Finance Authority Act Oversight (MFAAOC)
New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight (NMFAOC)
Public School Capital Outlay Oversight Task Force (PSCOTF)
Radioactive & Hazardous Materials (RHMC)
Revenue Stabilization & Tax Policy (RSTPC)
Science, Technology & Telecommunications
Tobacco Settlement Revenue Oversight (TSROC)
Transportation Infrastructure Revenue Subcommittee
Water & Natural Resources (WNRC)

Abbreviations for Actions on Legislation

* Emergency clause. Bills become effective as soon as they are signed by the governor. (If a bill passes by less than the required two-third’s vote, this symbol is deleted.)
[30] Legislative day (as opposed to a calendar day).
API Action postponed indefinitely.
CC Conference committee. This entry follows when the Senate and House fail to agree on amendments to a bill.
CS Committee substitute. (This entry, following a DNP report, indicates the committee’s substitute bill. Succeeding entries will record the action on the committee substitute.)
CS/H 18 Committee substitute for House Bill 18.
DNP DO NOT PASS committee report adopted.
DNP nt adptd DO NOT PASS committee report NOT adopted.
DOA Died on adjournment.
DP DO PASS committee report adopted.
DP/a DO PASS, as amended, committee report adopted.
FAILED/H (or/S) Failed passage in House (sometimes followed by announced vote: FAILED/H (22 48)).
FL/ Floor substitute. (Succeeding entries will record the action on the floor substitute.)
fl/a Floor amendment adopted. (Fl/aaa = three floor amendments adopted.)
germane Bills that fall within the purview of a 30 day session.
h/fld cncr House has failed to concur in Senate amendments on a House bill.
HPREF House Pre-file
PASSED/S (or/H) Passed Senate (always followed by announced vote: PASSED/S (39 0)).
rcld frm/h Bill recalled from the House for further consideration by the Senate.
re ref Re referred to committee for subsequent action.
s/cncrd Senate has concurred in House amendments on a Senate bill.
SCS/H 18 Senate committee substitute for House Bill 18. (CS, preceded by the initial of the opposite house, indicates a substitute for a bill made by the other house. The listing, however will continue under the original bill entry.)
s/fld recede This procedure could follow if the Senate refuses to recede from its amendments.
SGND(C.A.2) Constitutional amendment and its number.
SGND Signed by one or both houses (for legislation not requiring governor’s signature).
SGND(Mar.4)Ch.9 Signed by the governor, date and chapter number.
SPREF Senate Pre-file
s/rcnsrd Previous action reconsidered by the Senate.
STB or CPB or STBR In the title of the bill, indicates funding by Severance Tax Bonds or Capital Project Bonds or Severance Tax Bonds Reauthorization.
T On the House speaker’s table by rule (temporary calendar).
tbld Tabled temporarily by motion.
TBLD INDEF Tabled indefinitely.
w/drn Withdrawn from committee for subsequent action.
w/drn h/cal Withdrawn from house calendar for subsequent action.
w/o rec WITHOUT RECOMMENDATION committee report adopted.
VETO(Mar.7) Vetoed by the governor and date.

Legislative Publications
Available from the Legislative Council Services

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Information Bulletins
Interim Committee Reports
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Legislative Rules and Handbooks

Download this citizen’s guide (Updated March 2018; 20 pages; pdf)
Link to the Citizen’s Guide to the New Mexico State Budget
Link to the Advocate’s Guide to the New Mexico State Budget
Link to the Citizen’s Guide to New Mexico’s Tax System

The Fiscal Policy Project, a program of New Mexico Voices for Children, is made possible by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

NM KIDS are COUNTing on Us

A Campaign for a Better New Mexico

Policy Agenda logo

Download this executive summary (June 2016; 8 pages; pdf)
Download the full campaign (updated June 2016; 24 pages; pdf)
Note: The full campaign includes information on how our poor child outcomes hurt New Mexico and how each policy solution helps New Mexico.

This campaign is based on the 4 domains and 16 indicators in the national KIDS COUNT Data Book.

The domains are: Economic Well-being, Education, Health, and Family and Community.

All Domains

Overarching Policy Solutions

Because the 16 indicators of child well-being are inter-related—as are the policies that would improve them—many of the recommendations address multiple indicators. We have placed these overarching policies separate from the policies that address the indicators more specifically.

  • Ensure that enough tax revenue is collected so that the state budget can fund programs that improve and support the well-being of New Mexico’s children, families, and communities
  • Enact a more progressive income tax so those with the highest incomes pay their fair share.
  • Mandate a tax expenditure budget (TEB) and require accountability measures for tax breaks that are intended to create jobs.
  • Enact economic development initiatives that create high-wage jobs, increase revenue, and invest in our workforce.
  • Ensure that children receive the financial and emotional supports they need during and after a parent’s incarceration.

Domain: Economic Well-Being

Overarching Policy Solutions

  • Support programs that take a two-generation approach to improving family economic security.
  • Prioritize a two-generation approach within the TANF program so the primary focus is to provide opportunities to strengthen families through high-leverage education/job training, parenting supports, and early childhood care and education services.
  • Ensure that all workers can earn at least one week of paid sick leave.
  • Enact policies to end wage theft.
  • Enact a rate cap of 36% APR (including fees) on all predatory lending products.
  • Enact policies to end food insecurity.

Indicator: Children in Poverty

Extent of the Problem

  • 30% of New Mexico children live at or below the poverty level. Native-American and Hispanic children, however, suffer from disproportionately high poverty rates of 44% and 34%, respectively. The poverty level is an annual income of less than $25,000 for a family of four.

Policy Solutions: Children in Poverty

  • Raise the statewide minimum wage, index it to rise with inflation, and raise the tipped wage to 60% of the minimum.
  • Increase the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), Low Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate (LICTR), and Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
  • Support and promote the availability of resources and assistance for grandparents helping to raise their grandchildren, including access to financial resources, legal services, food and housing assistance, medical care, and transportation.
  • Fund navigators to ensure that kinship foster care families have access to benefits for which they are eligible (including TANF, SNAP, Social Security, Medicaid, CHIP, child care and housing assistance, and foster care subsidies).

Indicator: Children Whose Parents Lack Secure Employment

Extent of the Problem

  • 36% of New Mexico children have parents who lack full-time, year-round employment. The rate is 55% for Native-American children.

Policy Solutions: Children Whose Parents Lack Secure Employment

  • Protect the unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund and reinstate benefits for child dependents.
  • Restore eligibility for child care assistance to twice the poverty level.
  • Expand access to high school equivalency, adult basic education (ABE), job training, and career pathways programs.

Indicator: Children Living in Households with a High Housing Cost Burden

Extent of the Problem

  • 31% of New Mexico children live in households that spend 30% or more of their income on housing. The rate is 38% for Hispanic children.

Policy Solutions: Children in Households with a High Housing Cost Burden

  • Safeguard the Home Loan Protection Act from repeal or weakening.
  • Increase funding for individual development accounts (IDAs) for parents and children.
  • Increase funding for the state’s Housing Trust Fund and increase federal HUD funding.

Indicator: Teens Not in School and Not Working

Extent of the Problem

  • 9% of New Mexico teens ages 16 to 19 are neither enrolled in school nor working.

Policy Solutions: Teens Not in School and Not Working

  • Enact initiatives to lower the cost of college such as: making lottery scholarships need-based; restoring the College Affordability Fund; lowering interest rates for student loans; and ending the predatory practices of private, for-profit colleges.

Domain: Education

Overarching Policy Solutions

  • Increase spending on high-quality home visiting/parent coaching.
  • Increase funding for child care to incentivize and adequately compensate for quality.
  • Increase training, technical assistance, compensation, and retention incentives for pre-K and other early learning providers.
  • Pass a constitutional amendment to support early care and education with a small percentage of the Land Grant Permanent Fund.
  • Increase funding for the Family Infant Toddler (FIT) program.
  • Sufficiently fund K-12 education, starting with restoring per-pupil, inflation-adjusted funding to pre-recession levels.
  • Ensure support for community schools that offer school-based health care, after-school and mentor services, English as a second language classes, etc.
  • Raise compensation for teachers, principals, and other student support staff.
  • Revisit zero-tolerance policies and penalties in order to keep more students in school.
  • Expand programs that increase school attendance.
  • Reduce class sizes for children in high-poverty areas.

Indicator: Children Not Attending Preschool

Extent of the Problem

  • 59% of New Mexico children ages 3 and 4 are not attending a preschool program such as pre-kindergarten or Head Start. Rates are actually best for Native American kids, at 53%. The rate for non-Hispanic white kids is 59% and 64% for Hispanic kids.

Policy Solutions: Children Not Attending Preschool

  • Increase spending on high-quality pre-K so it is available to all 4-year-olds.
  • Pass President Obama’s Preschool for All proposal.

Indicator: 4th Graders Not Proficient in Reading

Extent of the Problem

  • 77% of New Mexico 4th graders are not proficient in reading. The rates are a staggering 93% for Native-American 4th graders and 83% for Hispanic 4th graders.

Policy Solutions: 4th Graders Not Proficient in Reading

  • Increase learning opportunities by expanding the school day and year, and expand K-3 Plus to 8th grade for low-income students.
  • Increase the availability of reading coaches and support evidence-based reading initiatives.

Indicator: 8th Graders Not Proficient in Math

Extent of the Problem

  • 79% of New Mexico 8th graders are not proficient in math. The rates are 89% for Native-American 8th graders, 88% for Blacks, and 83% for Hispanics.

Policy Solutions: 8th Graders Not Proficient in Math

  • Expand after-school, mentorship, and tutoring programs.
  • Provide math coaches and professional development for math teachers.

Indicator: High School Students Not Graduating on Time

Extent of the Problem

  • 28% of New Mexico high school students do not graduate on time. Rates are highest among Blacks (35%) and Native Americans (28%).

Policy Solutions: High School Students Not Graduating on Time

  • Provide more school counselors.
  • Identify students in 9th grade who require additional learning time and provide free summer school, after-school, and online learning opportunities.
  • Provide relevant learning opportunities through service learning and dual credit parity to better prepare students for career or college.
  • Provide professional development for teachers on the use of technology.
  • Support dropout recovery programs.
  • Provide support for vulnerable students (those experiencing homelessness, who are incarcerated, need special education, are English language learners, etc.) who are at risk for dropping out.
  • Increase funding for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs.

Domain: Health

Overarching Policy Solutions

  • Support early childhood services committees within county and tribal health councils in order to integrate health care with social, emotional/behavioral, and cognitive development for young children.
  • Require and fund child screening for adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
  • Expand and adequately fund school-based health centers (SBHCs).
  • Pass and fund legislation to license dental therapists to provide limited dental care under the supervision of a dentist, especially in rural, tribal, and other under-served communities.
  • Ensure that all workers can earn at least one week of paid sick leave.

Indicator: Low Birth-Weight Babies

Extent of the Problem

  • 8.8% of New Mexico babies are born weighing less than 5.5 pounds. Rates are highest among Blacks (14%).

Policy Solutions: Low Birth-Weight Babies

  • Expand outreach to pregnant women to enroll them in Medicaid early in their pregnancies.
  • Expand and fully fund health and nutrition programs for pregnant teens.
  • Fund home visiting under a Medicaid waiver to draw down federal funding.

Indicator: Children without Health Insurance

Extent of the Problem

  • 7% of New Mexico children lack health insurance. The rate of uninsurance for Native-American children is 11%.

Policy Solutions: Children without Health Insurance

  • Restore outreach and enrollment assistance for Medicaid for kids.
  • Simplify the enrollment and re-certification process for Medicaid and enact express-lane enrollment.
  • Integrate the health insurance marketplace with Medicaid so that there is “no wrong door” for enrollment.

Indicator: Child and Teen Death Rate

Extent of the Problem

  • New Mexico’s child and teen death rate is 31 deaths per 100,000 children aged 1 to 19. The rate is 38 per 100,000 Native-American children and teens.

Policy Solutions: Child and Teen Death Rate

  • Enact gun safety laws to limit unauthorized child access to guns.
  • Adequately fund evidence-based child abuse prevention programs and strengthen CYFD’s role in child abuse prevention.
  • Increase funding for child protective services to expand staff levels and reduce case loads.
  • Create a citizen oversight or review board for all CYFD child abuse cases that result in death.
  • Increase funding for suicide prevention programs.

Indicator: Teens Who Abuse Alcohol or Drugs

Extent of the Problem

  • 5% of New Mexico teens ages 12 to 17 had abused or were dependent on alcohol or drugs during the year prior to taking the survey.

Policy Solutions: Teens Who Abuse Alcohol or Drugs

  • Expand mental health programs for children, youth and families.
  • Allow treatment instead of incarceration for drug and alcohol offenses.

Domain: Family and Community

Indicator: Children in Single-Parent Families

Extent of the Problem

  • 41% of New Mexico children live with an unmarried parent. Rates are highest among Native-American children, 65% of whom live in single-parent families.

Policy Solutions: Children in Single-Parent Families

  • Expand funding for mentorship services.
  • Maintain current Medicaid eligibility for family planning services.
  • Restore eligibility for child care assistance to twice the poverty level so single parents can work.

Indicator: Children in Families where Household Head Lacks High School Diploma

Extent of the Problem

  • 18% of NM children live in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma. The rate is highest for Hispanic children at 24%.

Policy Solutions: Children in Families where Household Head Lacks High School Diploma

  • Provide additional need-based financial assistance for low-income and low-skilled adults seeking access to post-secondary education, job training, and career pathway programs.
  • Expand access to high school equivalency, adult basic education (ABE), job training, and the career pathways pilot program I-BEST.

Indicator: Children Living in High-Poverty Areas

Extent of the Problem

  • 26% of New Mexico children live in areas where the overall poverty rate is 30% or higher. Rates are more than double that for Native-American children, 59% of whom live in high-poverty areas.

Policy Solutions: Children Living in High-Poverty Areas

  • Create or expand incentives for developers to build mixed-income housing developments.
  • Increase funding for individual development accounts (IDAs) for parents and children.
  • Reduce class sizes for children in high-poverty areas.

Indicator: Teen Birth Rate

Extent of the Problem

  • New Mexico’s teen birth rate is 38 births per 1,000 female teens ages 15 to 19. Rates are 56 per 1,000 for both Hispanic and Native-American teens.

Policy Solutions: Teen Birth Rate

  • Provide relevant learning opportunities through service learning.
  • Increase funding for evidence-based programs (such as home visiting) that prevent or delay second births by teen mothers.
  • Expand school-based health centers (SBHCs).
  • Increase funding for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs.
  • Expand evidence-based and age-appropriate sex education; defund abstinence-only programs.

Download this executive summary (June 2016; 8 pages; pdf)
Download the full campaign (updated June 2016; 24 pages; pdf)
Note: The full campaign includes information on how our poor child outcomes hurt New Mexico and how each policy solution helps New Mexico.

NM KIDS COUNT is a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Analysis: Voter Photo ID Laws are Costly

New Mexico Could Spend $3.5 Million Over Three Years

Download this policy brief (updated* April 2012; 4 pages; pdf)

by Gerry Bradley, M.A.
An analysis of studies from other states shows that the voter photo ID legislation under consideration by the New Mexico Legislature during the 2012 session was unnecessary and would likely have cost taxpayers more than $1.2 million per year or $3.5 million over the following three years. This added expenditure would have been imposed just as the state was emerging from four years of deep budget cuts. Though the measures failed this year, voter ID legislation is likely to be introduced in the 2013 legislative session.

This analysis of the cost is drawn from studies by several other states. The annual cost of $1.2 million is considerably more than the amount estimated by the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office in response to a similar bill in 2011.

New Mexico, with 936,8281 registered voters, already has a voter ID requirement. Identification is required at registration, although a variety of forms are allowable under current state law. It is a felony to impersonate another voter to cast a ballot at the polls and voter fraud is extremely rare.

The voter ID bills that were introduced in the 2012 legislative session would have required voters to produce a photo ID at the polls in order to cast their ballot. As voter photo ID laws have the effect of posing unnecessary barriers to participation for many voters, they are most often looked at as attempts at voter suppression.

This notion is reinforced when one considers the groups likely to be most affected by photo ID laws. The Brennan Center for Justice has found that veterans, the elderly, and persons with disabilities are the groups most likely to be prohibited from voting because they have no photo ID. Low-income voters and those in rural areas would also be especially affected. Native Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans are less likely to have photo identification than whites. Voting is a civic duty and a constitutional right, and New Mexico voters should be encouraged to participate in elections—not discouraged by burdensome and unnecessary requirements.

The cost of implementing a voter photo ID law can be broken down into three categories: the cost of voter education campaigns, the cost of the actual ID, and the administrative expenses.

Voter Education

Voter photo ID laws require aggressive publicity efforts to inform voters and ensure that they aren’t turned away at the polls. New Mexico’s educational cost would be $750,000 annually or 80 cents per voter. Over three years the cost would be $2.2 million. In North Carolina the cost of publicity was estimated at 80 cents per registered voter. Elsewhere, per-voter costs range from 15 cents in Texas and $1.37 in Missouri.

Cost of Photo IDs

One of the problems with a voter photo ID act is that it can amount to a poll tax if the voter is expected to pay for an ID they would otherwise not require. Poll taxes—or making people pay for the right to vote—are a violation of civil rights laws. Studies show that between 7 and 11 percent of citizens don’t have a photo ID. New Mexico residents can apply for a non-driver photo ID from the state’s Motor Vehicle Division at a cost of $10 or $18, depending on how many years it is valid. Passports are another form of government-issued photo ID, but they are significantly more expensive and can take months to process.

Were a voter photo ID law implemented in New Mexico, the state should bear the cost of issuing the ID in order to avoid almost certain lawsuits. Whether the state pays for the IDs or not, demands on New Mexico’s already overburdened MVD personnel and computer system will most certainly go up. New Mexico’s cost would be $187,000 annually or 20 cents per voter. This would amount to $562,000 over three years. North Carolina estimated the cost at 20 cents per voter per year. Elsewhere, per-voter costs range from 3 cents in South Carolina to 28 cents in Missouri.


Voter photo ID laws add dozens of new administrative costs for state and local officials, from updating forms and websites to hiring and training staff to inspect photo IDs and handle the inevitable increase in provisional ballots on Election Day. New Mexico’s cost to implement voter photo ID cards would be $234,000 annually or 25 cents per voter per year. Over three years the cost would be $702,000. North Carolina estimated this cost at 25 cents per voter and Minnesota estimated the cost at 15 cents per voter.



Adding the costs for educating voters, providing ID cards, and additional administration results in an estimated total cost of $1.2 million annually or $3.5 million over three years in New Mexico. A voter photo ID law is a superfluous and expensive solution to a nonexistent problem. The state should be making exercising the constitutional right to vote easier, not more difficult.


1. US Census Bureau Statistical Abstract 2011, Table 417
2. Fiscal notes for Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin legislatures, and Institute for Southern Studies, February 2011 (

Download this policy brief (updated* April 2012; 4 pages; pdf)

*Calculations in the previous iteration of this report were based on the state’s total population of residents who were of voting age. Calculations for this version are based on the number of residents who are registered to vote in New Mexico.

The Fiscal Policy Project, a program of New Mexico Voices for Children, is made possible by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.