This past Thursday, March 9th, the UNTAPPED team and I took a brief trip to the New Mexico state capitol, the “Roundhouse” up in Santa Fe. While there, we wanted to touch base with the legislators who have supported our advocacy process for the UNTAPPED program. Our vision for expanding our ability to serve New Mexicans with diverseABILITIES began as a junior bill, evolved into House Bill 355 co-sponsored by state representatives Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson and Kathleen Cates, and then became an amendment in House Bill 2 sponsored by state senator Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales. We received confirmation from Sen. George Muñoz’s chief of staff that our amendment had made it into the list of amendments to be presented to the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) for House Bill 2. To our knowledge, when we arrived at the Roundhouse, the vote was imminent on House Bill 2 with our amendment included in it.
Unfortunately, the result of our visit was not what we hoped and fought for. We learned that some frustrating miscommunication had occurred somewhere, which led to our amendment being left out of the deliberations entirely and thus not being in the final language for House Bill 2, following a vote from the SFC. This was certainly disappointing news, especially when most of our conversations with legislators about the UNTAPPED initiative were overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. But this, of course, does not mean our journey towards true occupational justice is anywhere near finished.
As we forge ahead, there are two major kernels of optimism to hold onto. First, we have several opportunities to keep our channels of communication open with New Mexico legislators, and we absolutely intend to do so! Second, we have been invited to present the UNTAPPED initiative to several interim committees in the buildup for the next legislative session. You may remember, from my previous blog post, that I encouraged everyone involved in LSG and their colleagues to join us in our campaign however they are able. For this next year, the opportunity for securing the UNTAPPED mission is even riper, and again we call on you wholeheartedly.
In terms of the Roundhouse visit itself, I want to conclude on another positive note. I am very grateful to the UNTAPPED team for this experience of witnessing the legislative process firsthand and for reinforcing my spirit for pioneering advocacy for diverseABLED workers. Though the upshot of our trip was not what we wanted, I do not regret it in the least. It’s absolutely a puzzling political landscape that we navigate, but what is so crucial now is not to be intimidated by that complexity and to remain united towards UNTAPPED’s transformative model and philosophy.
Until the next story,
Aaron Kelly Anderson
a.k.a. “A PhD on the Spectrum”