In 2002, inspired by the idea of Congressman Dennis Kucinich to establish a United States Department of Peace, co-founders Mary Lou Cook and Chris Griscom organized a gathering of grassroots citizens from the Santa Fe area who established the New Mexico Department of Peace Initiative with the goal of creating the NM Department of Peace to provide a foundation for peace in our state and in our nation from the ground up. We are pleased other states have begun similar work, as the U.S. Department of Peace campaign moves forward and is supporting similar campaigns in other nations. We are honored to be part of this growing worldwide movement.
In 2003 Memorials were introduced by Representative Max Coll and Senator Cisco McSorley and passed in both houses of the NM Legislature supporting the idea of a NM Department of Peace. The legislation was written and the decision was made to create an OFFICE rather than a DEPARTMENT, as the office would require less funding and funding is always a key issue in the NM Legislature. The office can still get the job done.
In 2004 The Office of Peace bill was introduced by Rep. Max Coll and Senator Cisco McSorley in the NM Legislature where it reached the Senate floor before the 30 day session adjourned. This was a good beginning and good exposure in preparation for the 60 day session in 2005. After revising the wording, the bill was presented before the Legislative Finance Committee and the interim Education Committee. Support for the NM Office of Peace is being cultivated throughout the state and among the legislators. A summary of the bill, a brochure and buttons are being distributed, and a petition and endorsement letter are being circulated.
In 2005 House Majority Leader W. Ken Martinez and senator Cisco McSorley, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsored the NM Office of Peace bill in the legislative session. The bill was passed on the House floor by a vote of 37-22. Committee hearings were well attended with strong testimony being presented on behalf of the NM Office of Peace bill. However, the Senate Public Affairs Committee tabled the bill. We must help the senators understand how the Office of Peace will benefit the people of New Mexico. Revisions are, once again, being made to clarify and strengthen the bill. Statewide support continues growing and is impressive. During sessions people are mobilized to call their legislators and the Governor’s office in support of the bill.
In 2006 after a brief meeting with Governor Bill Richardson during his open office hours in January, he declared his support for the NM Office of Peace bill and said he would sign the bill when it reaches his desk. This is significant progress. We will follow up by asking the Governor how he can help us fund the Office of Peace and ask him to state his support in public before the legislature, perhaps in his State of the State address. We continue growing support for the Office of Peace talking with people, organizations and legislators around the state. The Office of Peace was a presence at Peace Day at the Legislature and during the Legislature itself, even though the bill was not introduced during this short session. The NM Office of Peace is becoming an election issue in election years.
In 2007 we worked again to pass the NM Office of Peace legislation in both the House and the Senate and send the bill to the Governor for his signature. The bill passed out of the Senate Public Affairs Committee on a 6-2 vote without recommendation and remained in the Senate Finance Committee unfunded when the legislature adjourned.
In 2008 funding was the major issue to be addressed. We will continue to educate and build support among the people statewide and their legislators.
In 2009 the NM Office of Peace legislation was introduced in the NM Legislature and passed in the Senate Rules Committee 5-0. Student testimony regarding their use of Restorative Justice was excellent. The Senate Finance Committee refused to put the bill on the agenda and it died in committee when the session adjourned.
In 2010 the Office of Peace bill did not receive the Governor’s call. The short session was dominated by severe budget issues and needs.
In 2011 the Office of Peace bill was introduced in the senate without an appropriation. We are seeking outside funding and hope to begin the work of the office ASAP. Outside funding is not forthcoming without some state funding for a state office. Once again the bill was stuck in the Senate Finance Committee.
In 2012 we continued our education and support work during the short session.
In 2013 Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino introduced the Office of Peace bill in the Senate where the vote in the Senate Rules Committee ended in a tie when some of the supporters were unavailable during the vote. No one on the committee was able to move the bill forward by bringing it up for another vote. We had a productive meeting with Angela in the Governor’s office regarding the bill and will build on that for the 2015 session. An Aid for Lt. Governor John Sanchez was also present.
In 2014 we changed the name for the office from Peace to Peacebuilding, a more proactive name, and prepared for the 2015 session by updating all our literature and our web site which should be finished by the time the 2015 Session begins.
In 2015 Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino will introduce the Office of Peacebuilding bill at the beginning of the session. We plan to work closely with new legislators and new House and Senate leaders, the Governor’s office and members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. The bill makes a $500,000 appropriation for the operation of the Office of Peacebuilding. You can view the current version of the bill here.
Peace is Possible. Thank you for helping it happen!
Prepared by Virginia J. Miller, Legislative Coordinator
NM Department of Peace Initiative, Santa Fe NM 505-986-8676