Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Of Honeymoons And Impeachment; The Special Session Gives Us Surprises Aplenty; The Blog Round-Up From Our In-The-Know Sources
One of New Mexico's longest ever political honeymoons came crashing to an end over the weekend as the State Senate went into full rebellion, radically altering Big Bill's tax relief package and firmly defending the power of their branch of government. It was a dramatic turnabout from two years of kowtowing to the Fourth Floor and the whims of the state's most powerful modern-era governor.
"Sometimes the simple explanation is the right one. And that's the case here, Joe. The governor failed to consult with the senate prior to the Special Session and it ignited spontaneous combustion. There was no conspiracy or backroom movida, it was just that they had had enough," informed one state senator speaking from the scene of the action.
Specifically, the Guv's fellow Democrats had had enough of him using House Speaker Ben Lujan as his messenger boy and basically ignoring the senators. With Manny Aragon and Richard Romero gone, there is no obvious go-to guy for the Guv and he ended up going to no one.
"The senate is advocating that more surplus money be given back to citizens. The Governor blasting them for it is not going to win him friends in the senate or with the public. The surplus (from high gas and oil royalties) is huge. Why the Governor lashed out at handing out a little extra dough to taxpayers is strange," analyzed yet another veteran politico.
But the behavior was not strange to some close to the situation. "I think it was ego. It was not his idea and he lashed out. Now, he needs to calm down, forge a compromise and get out of Dodge. It's the Governor who is up for re-election next year,” our informed source pointed out, noting that none of the 42 member senate faces voters next year.
Still others urged the Guv to fight and demand the senate back down lest lawmakers get the idea that there are chinks in the armor. "His choices are not pleasent, but they are choices he created," lamented one Dem.
OF BARE KNUCKES AND BRUCE
There was no shortage of bare-knuckles brawling from either side. Santa Fe Senator Grubesic scolded Big Bill saying: “The problem is that we have a presidential candidate pretending to run our state.” And the Guv, not exactly watching his temper either, accused lawmakers of "backroom" dealing and threatened a veto of any senate measure that did not xerox his own.
"(Former Guv) Bruce King used to say of Special Sessions: 'It's easy to call em' in, but you don't know when they will go home.' The Governor simply did not have the deal lined up before the session. That is a grave political mistake and a surprise from someone who plays at his level," explained yet another Wall-Leaner.
Others blamed the Big Bill staff, or lack of it, for not fully realizing the disaster that was brewing. "We are back to Bill knows best and no one on staff can say otherwise," offered another Santa Fe observer.
So what amounts to a return to normalcy--a Governor publicly sparring with the Legislature--looks like a sea change because of the lack of balance of power in the last two years. "Individual Governors come and go. The Legislature is for always," explained a longtime practiconer of La Politica. And, I might add, honeymoons are not.
IMPEACHMENT WITH A TWIST
Meanwhile, back in the House they got it just about right on impeachment. They will not let us linger and will have an impeachment vote at the end of the month on indicted State Treasurer Robert Vigil who refuses to resign. That's the good news. The bad news is that the lawyer they hired to oversee the impeachment process, well-respected Republican Paul Kennedy, is now talking about having some of the process closed to the public because he fears it could interfere with the criminal case against Vigil being handled by the U.S. Attorney. The questionable legality of doing anything closed when conducting the people's business could slow down the process, especially if the courts get involved. And that means the Vigil matter could end up lingering.
Kennedy, a former State Supreme Court justice, talks of 'attorney-client privilege' with the legislators. But it is the people of this state who are his ultimate clients. Everything needs to be on the table and out in the open. Save the legalese for private practice. Impeachment is a political process. Let Mr. Federal Prosecutor worry about his job. Meanwhile, let Legislators do their job--and in the full light of day.
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
Not for reproduction without permission of the author