OPINION EDITORIAL in the Santa Fe New Mexican
Mimi Stewart – New Mexico’s Most Effective Legislator
By Senate Pro Tem, Senator Mary Kay Papen – August 8, 2017
Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque recently was named New Mexico’s single most effective legislator — indeed, one of the most effective lawmakers in any state — by FiscalNote.
The national, nonpartisan organization knows what it is talking about, representing many of the most successful Fortune 500 corporations. Most recipients of the award were Republicans. It was given based on how successful a legislator is at sponsoring and steering legislation through each crucial step of the legislative process, all the way through enactment. This complex process requires strong bipartisan skills and often goes completely unnoticed by the general public. I can attest, however, that in all my years in the Roundhouse, no legislator has ever deserved this honor more nor worked harder to receive it than Mimi Stewart.
Sen. Stewart is the author of so much important legislation to improve the lives of New Mexicans, it is difficult to know where to begin. A champion for children and our public school classrooms, the environment, good government and women’s rights: All are part of her record of accomplishment in the House and the Senate. Her years of experience as an educator have been invaluable to legislative deliberations on state education policy and budget priorities. Now as vice chair of the Senate Education Committee, she fights to get teachers the additional skills and resources they need to teach children who need additional help. It is important work in a state with so much childhood poverty.
The FiscalNote award reflects the passion Sen. Stewart holds for a large range of political issues. She sponsored the original legislation that created the K-3 Plus summer learning program for thousands of children from low-income families. It provides kindergarten through third-grade students 25 extra instructional days. Recognized nationally, Stewart’s K-3 Plus narrows the achievement gap between at-risk students and other students, improves cognitive skills and produces higher test scores for all participants. Its enactment was a bipartisan milestone.
Legislation she authored in 2003 created our state’s three-tiered licensure model that implements a professional salary schedule for public school teachers. It helps New Mexico attract and retain dedicated, qualified teachers and has become a nationally recognized model. Without it, it is hard to see how our teachers would have received any salary increases in the last several lean budgets.
Year after year, and in the face of stiff executive headwinds, she has been a tireless advocate for extending the state’s consumer solar tax credit. That law alone has made it possible and affordable for many thousands of middle-class New Mexican families to install solar panels on their homes. It also created big savings on their electricity bills, delivered a nonpolluting source of energy, helped to lower air and water pollution overall in New Mexico, and improved the public health. Sen. Stewart was able to build overwhelming support for solar energy from both parties, even though she is an unapologetic Democrat.
Sen. Stewart is a special kind of legislator who has successfully enacted key laws to meet many of our state’s pressing challenges, including a statewide water conservation plan and gray-water system regulations. Over the years, she authored summer youth gang-intervention legislation, domestic violence interventions, prohibitions on insurance companies who discriminate against victims of domestic abuse, emergency contraception for rape victims and stronger homeowner rights — all of which became law. And the list goes on. She has been a bridge builder for positive change in New Mexico.
Some of our state’s most important legislation during the last almost 25 years came about thanks to Mimi Stewart, whether on education, renewable energy or health care. She has been successful because of her constructive and collaborative approach to government. A team player in the Senate, she has worked hard to pass bipartisan legislation for the good of New Mexico. This is the real Mimi Stewart. She sets the standard for effective lawmaking. We applaud her well-earned national recognition.
Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Doña Ana, is the president pro tem of the New Mexico Senate. She represents District 38.