Thursday, December 31, 2009

New White Peak Development - AG Asks Land Commissioner to Halt Swap

There's more news in the White Peak land swap case: the Attorney General has asked the Land Commissioner to immediately halt all proposed trades at White Peak due to "significant defects" in the appraisals and other "significant concerns" of the AG.

You may recall that the White Peak swap is the proposed transaction where the Land Office seeks to swap state trust lands in the White Peak area for lands around the state. This has upset hunters and others who have long valued having access to the lands being given away by the Land Office. The proposed transactions have also raised in my mind serious questions about how this deal came to be and what analysis was done ensure that this is a good deal for New Mexico.

Among the problems the AG has identified are:
1. Faulty assumption in the underlying appraisals
2. Use of incomparable sales to determine value of the Trust Lands being lost
3. Numerous technical and clerical errors in the appraisal
4. Characterizing a "sale" and a "swap," which avoids additional public process

This is a serious development that will hopefully lead not only to a cancellation of these swaps but to much-needed reform of the Land Office's policies and practices.

I've attached today's ABQ Journal article and the letter from the AG to the Land Commissioner below.

White Peak AG Says Halt - Text

Here is the Attorney General's letter to the Commissioner:

King Letter to SLO

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More coverage of the Land Commissioner's Bum Deal Land Trade

NMPolitics is covering my call for an investigation into the Land Commissioner's White Peak land swap. Hopefully we can get enough attention to stop this bad deal - trading hunting lands for scrub brush.

The article is HERE.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Journal Covers White Peak Land Swap

Yesterday, I sent letters to the New Mexico Attorney General and the State Auditor asking them to look into the "White Peak Exchange" being done by the Land Commissioner. It's a swap of state trust land for private land that will take thousands of acres of prime hunting land out of the trust and place it into private ownership. This means New Mexicans will no longer be able to hunt there - a real loss to northern New Mexico. In exchange, the trust is getting flat grassland along a remote highway.

Today's Journal North covered the story. You can find the article HERE. And here:
Abqjournal North_ Rep. Ques..

My concern is that the Land Office appears to have done no real analysis to support its argument that this is a good deal for the trust. Congress set aside these land to generate income for the School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind and the seventeen other beneficiaries of the trust. Any transaction undertaken by the Land Office must be done only after a decision is made that the transaction benefits the beneficiaries. When asked directly, the Commissioner was unable to say how this benefits the beneficiaries and was unable to describe the analysis he conducted.

I believe that New Mexicans deserve to know why this swap is being done and why it is a good decision to give up pristine hunting land.

The letters are here:

Letter to Auditor Balderas
Balderas Letter

Letter to Attorney General King

King Letter

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Special Session Wrap-Up: Balanced Budget, Education Funding Intact

The special session of the State Legislature that has just ended. On the important issue of education funding, I am happy to report that I maintained my commitment not to support a bill that reduces funding to our children, teachers, and classrooms. The final budget solvency package contains three key provisions that together mean our schools will not see a reduction in classroom funding.

The first component of the package is a novel provision that swaps state general fund money for unused capital money to reduce the strain on our state treasury while maintaining education levels. The net effect statewide will be a total reduction approximately .7 percent in education funding from the state, which will cause no perceptible change in the classroom. The package also provides an additional source of funding to districts to close the .7% gap to zero by opening up previously restricted funds at the district level. Finally, the package contains a $3 million fund to protect small districts from any unforeseen effects of this funding change. In short, we achieved my main goal of the special session: balance the budget without reducing education funding available to our schools.

In addition to the education funding package, the legislature passed bills that protect Medicaid funding while trimming 7.6% from the budgets of our state agencies and requiring the governor to reduce by 102 the number of exempt positions in the administration. These savings will be achievable without layoffs, furloughs or salary reductions for state workers. Taken together, the entire package achieves solvency for our state budget while reducing recurring expenditures by more than $200 million.

Finally, on the issue of new revenues, I led the fight in the House to have revenue bills considered. I introduced three revenue bills and argued strenuously that they should be considered. Unfortunately, because the governor’s proclamation failed to contain a call to pass new revenue bills, my proposals could not be heard. Though this restriction tied our hands and limited the options to balance the budget, we still found a solution. I will attempt during our next session to raise new revenue so that we can achieve long-term stability in our budget.

On a personal note, I was surprised how difficult the session was. The decisions were heart-wrenching, but I am certain that the legislature did all it could to maintain its responsibility to run our government while minimizing the impact of the budget shortfall on our citizens. I am deeply honored to represent district 47 in the House, and appreciate all the message of support before and during the session. in January we will again have to face hard budget decisions, and I hope to have your input.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Santa Fe New Mexican Highlights Efforts to Increase State Revenues

The Santa Fe New Mexican today ran an article describing proposals from myself and Senator Wirth to raise new revenues in our state budget in order to avoid drastic cuts to education and health care. You can find the article HERE.

The paper also editorialized in support of our efforts. You can find it HERE.

The Special Session starts tomorrow. It is still a very fluid session as we attempt to fix a $650 million budget deficit. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 25, 2009

New York Passes Major Energy Efficiency Legislation - New Mexico Should Too

Recently the New York State Assembly passed outstanding legislation aimed at tackling one of the toughest problems we face in the energy arena: how to make buildings more efficient. According to the New York Times, "the bill would enable state energy regulators to loan out funds to cover the upfront costs of improving the energy efficiency of a home or business — as much as $13,000 for residential customers and as much as $26,000 for qualifying businesses. The loan would then be paid back through monthly deductions culled from the energy savings arising from the retrofit." The entire article can be found HERE.

After the last session of our New Mexico Legislature, I think we could get something similar done here. Renewable energy is popular in the legislature, and a measure like the one passed by New York would likely do well. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Coverage of Renewable Energy Fight

Last week, the New Mexico Business Weekly ran two great articles about the PRC fight over renewable energy and monopolization of new installations.

The first article can be found at this link: PNM Wants PRC To Protect Its Turf.

The second is here: PNM's rollback plan gets sunburned.

This issue is really picking up steam. As soon as we have a date for a hearing, I'll post it here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Terrific Coverage of Our Fight For Clean Energy

I want to share with you a few of the terrific articles and radio spots covering our fight to protect and encourage renewable energy in New Mexico.

The Santa Fe New Mexican ran a great article on Monday, August 17 by Staci Matlock. You can find it here: Legislators Push Case for Third-Party Power Producers.

This morning, Mark Bentley ran a "Dateline New Mexico" piece on 89.1 KANW on the the fight for renewables in New Mexico. You can hear it by clicking the play button below. It's about four minutes.



Also, an article by Michael Hartranft in the Albuquerque Journal from August 2 lays out very well PNM's plan to limit new residential renewable energy installation and REC payments. The article is a must-read. You can find it here: CLICK HERE. Michael did another good article on the third-party fight. You can find that article HERE.

The public support for renewables and the support of legislators and the Governor is incredible. Please join in the fight; send me an email if you'd like to know how to help out. CONTACT ME.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The President and I Have Something in Common


Our Birth Certificates!

This can be made here: Kenyan Birth Certificate Generator.

I wonder if I'm eligible to hold my office as State Representative?

Hopefully this humor of this generator will show the "birthers" how ridiculous their claims are.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More Legislators Join the Brief

Since filing our brief with the PRC, eight more legislators have signed on. They are:

The Honorable Eleanor Chavez
New Mexico Representative, District 13

The Honorable Joni Gutierrez
New Mexico Representative, District 33

The Honorable Clinton Harden
New Mexico Senator, District 7

The Honorable Sandra Jeff,
New Mexico Representative, District 5

The Honorable Patricia Lundstrom,
New Mexico Representative, District 9

The Honorable George Munoz
New Mexico Senator, District 4

The Honorable Cynthia Nava
New Mexico Senator, District 31

The Honorable John Sapien
New Mexico Senator, District 9

Friday, July 31, 2009

Eighteen Legislators Join Me in Critical Renewable Energy Filing

Today I, along with eighteen other legislators from both chambers, filed an important legal brief with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in support of renewable energy in New Mexico. You can view the brief here:

PRC Brief
In this brief, we argue that the renewable energy financing mechanism called a third-party arrangement is legal under New Mexico law. This is important because there is an effort underway to ban such arrangements, which would devastate the growing renewable energy industry in New Mexico and would severely hamper the ability of companies like Sun Edison to do business in New Mexico.

Third-party arrangements help cities, churches and non-profits (entities that cannot take advantage of tax incentive that support renewable energy because these entities do not have tax liabilities) deploy renewable energy generation. The arrangement allows a company to install solar systems at a customer's location while maintaining ownership of the system. In the arrangement, the third-party owner installs, owns, operates and maintains the PV system, charges the customer for the system based on kilowatt hours (kWhs) produced and receives the benefits of owning the system, including state and federal tax credits, depreciation, tax incentives and private investor-owned utility (IOU) cash incentives. The third-party ownership PPA model is fast becoming "the financing method of choice" in many states because of the low or no initial investment cost to the customer. (See Frantzis, L., "Photovoltaics Business Models", National Renewable Energy Laboratory Subcontract Report 581-42304, February 2008.).

In the ongoing effort to support and extend the reach of solar, this case will me a major milestone. Please stay tuned.

The legislators who signed on to my brief are:

The Honorable Ben R. Lujan
Speaker of the House, District 46

The Honorable Mary Jane Garcia
Senate Majority Whip, District 36

The Honorable Sheryl Williams-Stapleton
House Majority Whip, District 19

The Honorable Carlos Cisneros
New Mexico Senator, District 6

The Honorable Nathan Cote
New Mexico Representative, District 53

The Honorable Dede Feldman
New Mexico Senator, District 13

The Honorable Steven Fischmann
New Mexico Senator, District 37

The Honorable Timothy Keller
New Mexico Senator, District 17

The Honorable Lynda Lovejoy
New Mexico Senator, District 22

The Honorable Antonio Lujan
New Mexico Representative, District 35

The Honorable Roger Madalena
New Mexico Representative, District 65

The Honorable Antonio Maestas
New Mexico Representative, District 16

The Honorable Cisco McSorley
New Mexico Senator, District 16

The Honorable Jerry Ortiz y Pino
New Mexico Senator, District 12

The Honorable Benjamin Rodefer
New Mexico Representative, District 23

The Honorable Sander Rue
New Mexico Senator, District 23

The Honorable Jeff Steinborn
New Mexico Representative, District 37

The Honorable Mimi Stewart
New Mexico Representative, District 21

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Governor Signs HB 572 - Solar Financing Bill Becomes Law!

Today, at the Santa Fe Community College's Biomass-powered heating facility, Governor Richardson signed HB 572, my solar financing bill. It was a terrific event at which the Governor also signed a broad range of clean energy bills that encourage development of new renewable energy technologies, incentivize the hiring of new employees for green-collar jobs, and allow counties to issue bonds to pay for new training programs in the renewable energy industry.

Here is the Governor signing the bill:


Here the Governor gives me the pen he used to sign the bill:


Now, the effort moves to the county governments, who must use these new tools to implement solar financing programs.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Discussing the Solar Revolution on KNME

On Friday, I appeared on KNME Channel 5 (our NM PBS station) to discuss solar energy and the big changes our legislative session made to the solar landscape. I spoke about my solar finance bill, HB 572, and about solar gaining wider adopting and recognition as a cost-effective means of generating electricity.

You may find the video by clicking HERE. If you would like to skip to the segment where I appear, click the progress bar at the bottom of the viewer to 16:25.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Solar Financing Bill Passes Senate Unanimously!

Great news! Just a few minutes ago, the New Mexico Senate passed HB 572, my solar financing bill, unanimously on a vote of 35-0. The bill can be found HERE.

The bill now goes to the Governor.

Thanks to all of you who have supported me in this effort!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Solar Financing Bill Advances in the Senate

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-0 to send House Bill 572 to the Senate Finance Committee. With less than a week to go, the bill has to clear one more committee and pass the Senate floor. It may not seem like much time, but in the Round House, a lot can happen in only six days.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Winding Up or Winding Down?

We have two weeks to go and a great deal of work left to do but here are a few of the things that happened this past week.


How the Process Alters a Bill

HB 572 “Solar Energy Improvement Special Assessments Act” was passed by of the House on Thursday on a vote of 55-7. We now wait for its first Senate hearing to be scheduled in the Judiciary Committee.

There were a few subtle changes to the bill during its progress through the House. The Business and Industry Committee submitted a substitute for the original bill, which added a stipulation to limit the bill to counties with populations between 135,000 and 450,000. It also specified a 10% maximum amount to be attached to the assessment to cover the county’s administrative costs. Language was added in the committee substitute to make it explicit that the county did not become liable in any way for the debt of the property owner.

Then the Taxation and Revenue Committee also amended the bill to strike the language limiting the eligibility to residential property owners and instead opening eligibility to all private landowners. They further amended the bill by adding a provision to limit the lien amount to no more than the amount of the Solar Energy Improvement Special Assessment.

When HB 572 came to the House floor on Thursday, I introduced an amendment, which effectively removed the county-size specification, opening participation to all counties. The amendment was adopted and the bill passed with minimal debate.

My thanks to all of you who attended hearings and showed your support on behalf of this important bill. I will try to keep you informed about committee hearings in the Senate as we try to move this bill as quickly as possible.


Childhood Cancer Therapy

While HB 365, the Insurance for Cancer Therapy for Children Bill, passed the Health & Government Affairs Committee a few weeks ago, it was unfortunately tabled in Business & Industry Committee over the weekend. I will continue to advocate for our children in the future and find ways to support the healthcare coverage for our most vulnerable populations, especially for children fighting cancer.


Surface Owners Notice Bill

While I am unhappy that the Free Market in Energy Restoration Act (HB 219) died in the House Judiciary Committee this week, I feel that we did a great deal to further the issue this session. We fought hard for surface owners and I view this as a temporary setback. I will continue to work with community organizations to address the split estate problem both here in New Mexico and across the West. I also plan to reintroduce this legislation at a future legislative session.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Solar Financing Bill Passes the House 55-7

This morning, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed HB 572, my solar financing bill, on a vote of 55-7.

The vote was bipartisan.

Now, we are off to the Senate.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Solar Financing Bill Headed to the Floor

Great News! On Monday, the House Taxation and Revenue Committee unanimously passed HB 572, my solar financing bill. In passing the bill the committee added an amendment to expand the bill from residential properties to commercial properties as well.

Now, the bill heads to the House floor for final passage.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Session So Far - Solar Financing & Childhood Cancer Bills Advance

As we enter these last three weeks of the session, I’d like to keep you posted weekly on the work I am doing in the New Mexico House of Representatives. Below, please find brief updates on four pieces of legislation I have introduced and am working hard to pass this session. You can see all of my proposed legislation at:

LIST OF LEGISLATION

Many of you have contacted me about legislation important to you and I hope you will continue to do so. I truly appreciate hearing from you and I will continue trying to respond in a timely fashion.

Sincerely,
Brian Egolf
New Mexico Representative, District 47


HB 367 TO LIMIT PRINTING OF LEGISLATIVE PAPER PASSED UNANIMOUSLY OUT OF THE HOUSE

On Friday, February 27, the “Limit Electronic Records Act” (HB 367) passed out of the House of Representatives with a vote of 64-0. It will be heard next in the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

This bill will greatly reduce the amount of paper printed by all sections the New Mexico state government for the Legislature. The volume of paper distributed to each legislator is staggering and unwarranted. By the end of the session it is likely each legislator could have a dozen printed documents pertaining to each of 943 house bills. With HB 367, even the bills introduced will not be automatically printed and distributed if they exceed five pages. All reports by state entities would be available electronically and also made available as a hard copy upon request. This bill will potentially save a tremendous amount of paper, toner, equipment wear, storage space, and recycling process, not to mention millions of tax-payer dollars.


SURFACE OWNER NOTICE BILL SCHEDULED FOR HOUSE JUDICIARY

The “Free Market in Energy Restoration Act” (HB 219) is first on the House Judiciary Committee schedule for Monday, March 2 in room 309 beginning half hour after the House Floor Session ends.

This bill gives surface landowners the right to know about the lease or sale of mineral rights below their property PRIOR to the completion of the transaction. There are millions of acres of land in New Mexico where the surface owner does not also hold title to the sub-surface mineral rights.


HELP TO HARNESS THE SUN IS IN THE WORKS FOR NM HOMEOWNERS

The “Solar Energy Improvement Special Assessments Act” (HB 572) will assist New Mexican homeowners to install solar systems on their homes for heating and electricity generation. The cost to install these systems has been prohibitive to many homeowners. This bill will create a means to finance solar systems up front and repay loans through property tax payments, rather than to a bank or other financial institution.

HB 572 will be heard Monday, March 2 in the House Taxation and Revenue Committee, starting at 1:30 pm in Room 315. It passed out of the House Business and Industry Committee on Thursday as substituted by HBIC.


HB 365 SEEKS COMPREHENSIVE CANCER THERAPY FOR NM CHILDREN

HB 365 “Insurance for Cancer Therapy for Children” will ensure that all New Mexico children fighting cancer receive the best care their doctor can prescribe. Many insurance formularies do not cover the medical costs associated with clinical trials, which save lives and cure children every year. Regardless of insurance formulary, HB 365 will provide coverage of all prescribed cancer therapies for children to 19 years old, including all of the other associated medical costs, like medicine to combat side-effects of chemotherapy, CAT scans, lab work, and hospitalization.

This bill was passed out of the House Health and Government Affairs Committee on February 12 as substituted by HHGAC. HB 365 currently is awaiting a hearing in the House Business and Industry Committee.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

First Major Victory!

Today in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we passed HB 219, my surface owner notice bill.

This is the bill that gives surface owners notice before the minerals beneath them are leased by an oil company, notice of who owns the minerals, and an opportunity to use a thirty day period to buy the minerals from the mineral owner.

From here, the bill moves to the House Judiciary Committee.