May 5, 2021
New Mexico –New Mexico’s broadband network lags behind most of its peer states – 1 in 5 residents lack adequate broadband connectivity. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the state’s internet access and speed deficiencies as children learned online and remote work grew. This issue was of no surprise to state lawmakers as evidence of their broadband activity can be found dating back nearly ten years. But there has been limited broadband improvement made during the past decade, resulting in New Mexico ranking 42nd in the country for connectivity. This is why Viante New Mexico singularly focused on public awareness and advocacy to pass significant broadband legislation for the 2021 Legislative session.
Viante evaluated all 2021 broadband bills using the same common ground criteria: does it fund staff to facilitate and coordinate broadband requests, measure success, and forecast future needs and opportunities. Recent broadband reports from the State Department of Information and Technology and the Legislative Finance Council found deficiencies and opportunities within the current network and a path forward to address this growing crisis. Both reports cite that New Mexico has fewer state employees than other states who are solely responsible for broadband implementation and coordination. The studies estimate total broadband deployment cost between $2-5 billion. Federal grants could be utilized to cover costs if better coordination existed between various projects and leveraged the existing network.
Viante identified two broadband bills that would have significant impact: HB10, the Connect New Mexico Act and SB93, the Office of Broadband Access and Expansion. These bipartisan bills set New Mexico on a positive path toward a brighter broadband future.
Viante developed a scorecard to highlight broadband behavior in the legislature. Viante’s 2021 scoring methodology centers on both sponsorship of and votes for SB93 and HB10: sponsorship is 25% of overall score and voting record is the remaining 75%. The resulting score reflects which lawmakers voted for improving New Mexico’s broadband connectivity. Viante’s commitment to bipartisanship and impartiality is evidenced by Republicans and Democrats appearing throughout the grading scale. Here are the grading categories:
Turquoise – Voted for both bills, and sponsored one of them.
- Green – Voted for both bills.
- Yellow – Voted for one of the bills.
- Red – Did not vote for both bills.
“Broadband is an important issue for every New Mexican,” commented Viante’s Co-Chair, Dale Armstrong. “We know that access to broadband means more than just casually surfing the web. Broadband grants access to education, healthcare, and job opportunities. Although this past session presented some challenges and several pressing issues for lawmakers to consider, we are grateful that broadband was prioritized and passed.”
In an additional transparency initiative, Viante has published legislator’s attendance record for floor votes. The average legislative attendance score in 2021 was 93.3%. Out of 112 legislators, one had perfect attendance: Representative Meredith Dixon. The lowest attendance rate was 66.2% with 91 missed votes. Viante considers every bill, memorial, and resolution in calculating the attendance score and notes whether the legislator casts a yes or no vote. Each vote missed counts as an absence. More information on legislator attendance can be found at VianteNM.org.
“A legislator’s attendance is not a reflection of their effectiveness or their overall performance. However, it is an additional transparency measure,” Rhiannon Samuel, Executive Director of Viante stated. “By providing our members with attendance information, they can ask more questions of their elected officials and chamber leadership. Our hope is that New Mexicans will use it to cast more informed votes in the future.”
For more information on the 2021 Scorecard, please visit VianteNM.org.