There’s been much talk about how the New Mexico State Legislature is truly an inaccessible place for many residents who don’t have the time, the money or the practical knowledge of how business is conducted in the Roundhouse.
I’ve written about how perplexed and cynical I was after my first up-close look at the session.
But I wanted to also share the frustration of someone who was deeply involved in a particular piece of legislation that could have affected the civil rights of thousands of young people in Albuquerque.
Emma Sandoval, 22, is the youth coordinator at the Southwest Organizing Project, a social justice organization based in Albuquerque.
As one of SWOP’s registered lobbyists for this year’s session, it was Sandoval’s job to organize opposition to SB 525 and HB 379 – identical bills introduced in both houses that would allow Albuquerque Public Schools to create their own police force.
APS said they wanted their own force so they’d have access to the National Crime Information Center, a computerized criminal database.
But SWOP opposed the bill saying it would lead to unfair criminalization of young people and to a greater drop-out rate, especially among low-income teens and students of color.
To fight the bills, Sandoval had to wage a complicated campaign. She needed to track the progress of the bills though the maze of committees in both houses and attend key hearings. She needed to speak to legislators to know which ones supported the measure and which ones opposed it. She needed to be on top of attempts to amend both bills. And she needed to be able to inform and mobilize the people back in Albuquerque who stood to be deeply affected by the creation of an APS police department for specific events in and around the Roundhouse