Friday, May. 24, 2019

NM Office of Peacebuilding Not Giving Up

By Nancy Merritt · April 24, 2019

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“We’re not giving up!  The students deserve our best effort statewide,” said Virginia Miller, New Mexico Department of Peace Initiative (NM DPI), at the close of the 2019 New Mexico legislature where the bill to Create an Office of Peacebuilding (SB 276) passed in the State Senate Rules Committee and died in the Senate Finance Committee when that committee failed to act prior to the end of the legislative session.

In New Mexico, the legislative session is extremely short.  Virginia said because the  2019 ‘long session’ is only 60 days, the legislature has to do too much and many good bills fail to get heard.  “If we don’t make it, it won’t be for lack of trying.”

Since 2003, the NM DPI has worked to create a Department or Office of Peace(building) in the State of New Mexico. In 2003, the New Mexico House and the New Mexico Senate passed a Department of Peace memorial, which, in New Mexico, lays the groundwork for a bill.  The House passed related legislation in 2005.  Since that time, the NM DPI has returned again and again to the State legislature with Office of Peace(building) bills. During the 2015 legislative session, Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino sponsored this legislation which passed from the Senate Rules Committee to the Senate Finance Committee.  

In 2019,SB 276 to Create Office of Peacebuilding was introduced by Senator Nancy Rodriguez. Virginia Miller and the NM DPI worked tirelessly to promote this bill, including monthly planning meetings, researching restorative practices and related issues, and strategizing on how to move the bill through the legislature. They wrote letters to legislators, attended  and testified at the Senate Rules Committee hearing, connected with the Lt. Governor and oversaw efforts asking supporters to contact members of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.  

On 2/10/19 and 2/24/19, CA Department of Peacebuilding supporters called upon national Peace Alliance/ DoP advocates and New Mexico supporters to contact New Mexico legislators, with supporters making calls and sending emails.

Going forward, the NM DPI is exploring various options, including working to include this legislation in the House Budget bill prior to its consideration in the Senate Finance Committee and working through administrative avenues. 

Letter to NM Legislators

In a letter to New Mexico legislators at the beginning of the 2019 session, Virginia Miller  wrote, “You have the opportunity now to help establish a state level Office of Peacebuilding by co-sponsoring the Office of Peacebuilding Act (the Act)sponsored by Senator Nancy Rodriguez in the 2019 Session.  The House passed the Act in 2005.  The Act would lead the way to less violence in New Mexico and provide a model for our nation.  The Office of Peacebuilding would foster a culture of peaceful relationships that would be part of the solution to preventing gun violence in New Mexico and helping reduce domestic violence.  It is essential that we prepare ourselves and our children for nonviolent living.

The Act is needed because violence is rampant in our homes, schools and communities.  For women in New Mexico, the lifetime chance of domestic violence is 1 in 3 and of rape is 1 in 4.  Bullying is a serious problem in many public schools.  The number of total referrals for child abuse and neglect per child in NM in 2011 was 34% greater than the national average.    

Reduced violence in New Mexico would save time and money, promote safety and quality of life in our homes, schools and communities and provide all of us, especially our children, a safer future.  It is time to pursue the vision of a peaceful New Mexico more effectively.

The Office of Peacebuilding would foster:

  • Therapy services to preschool aged children in domestic violence situations
  • Less depictions of violence on TV and other media to which children are exposed
  • Development and implementation of school curricula on peaceful relationships 
  • Dialogue, mediation and restorative justice for dispute resolution in schools statewide
  • Court and prison practices that reduce recidivism by perpetrators of violence
  • Expanded mediation and restorative justice services for adults
  • A sustainable peace economy
  • Access to more treatment services for veterans suffering from PTSD

The Act includes an appropriation of $500,000 from the general fund to help operate the Office of Peacebuilding.  That expense is expected to be more than made up by eventual reduced costs for police, prisons, and health, counseling and therapy services.  The office would include a Citizen Peace Advisory Council.” 

Mission of the NM DPI

The mission of the NM DPIis to promote the high benefits of peacemaking; to create a climate of respect, cooperation, and safety for our citizens, our children, and future generations; to inspire inner peace, hope and compassion; and to educate in the process, skills, and awareness of peaceful solutions. (www.thedepartmentofpeacenm.org)  

Thank you New Mexico for your pioneering efforts to create a state-level Office of Peacebuilding and for your inspiring perseverance.

Nancy Merritt
CA and National Department of Peacebuilding Campaign

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