Thursday, August 16, 2007
Senate Leader Sanchez Nixes Special Session On Ethics, But Not Campaign Money Limits, Plus: Pains For NM Pot Program, And: A Romero Is Not A Gonzales
Chances of having a special session of the NM Legislature as requested by the Governor's Ethics Task Force went from slim to nearly none Wednesday as Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez told me: "We've gone that route. I truly believe we can get it done in the regular 30 day session."
Sanchez's first public statement on the matter is tantamount to a death knell for a special as it reflects the sentiment of many legislators, not to mention pragmatic political observers who, like Sanchez, point to the chaos of the special session earlier this year at which ethics reform, among other things, bit the dust. Also, Governor Richardson is unlikely to again force lawmakers into a special session against their will.
Sanchez, speaking to me from his Belen law offices as the thermometer flirted with the century mark, did indicate agreement with a proposal from task force chair and ex-Governor Carruthers that if a special were needed it should be held immediately upon the conclusion of the regular 30 day 2008 session. But the Senator is determined to have no special and to finish all business in the allotted month.
While ethics advocates will be disappointed to hear of Sanchez's nixing of a special, they may be heartened to hear what seems to be a new flexibility on the issue of limiting campaign contributions in NM, just one of a handful of states that fails to do so.
"I suspect I can go along with a limit. I am not sure what it should be. We need to look around at what other states are doing and also look at the federal limits."
That appears to be new territory for the leader who was on vacation last week when the ethics panel proposed the special session and its latest round of proposed reforms.
PUSHING FOR A LIMIT
The feds cap individual donations at $2300 per candidate per election, and that's what the ethics eagles are pushing for here. Sanchez did not sound put off by that figure. Is this the prelude to landmark legislation on campaign money? If proponents play it right, perhaps so.
As for that proposal for an independent Ethics Commission which failed in the special this year and is back again from the Guv's task force, you can pretty much call that dead on arrival. Sanchez feels the present ethics committee structure is adequate. Separation of powers looms large on this. The Legislature (particularly the Senate) is not about to give up authority on ethics or anythign else to an outside force, especially since not a few Senators believe they have already ceded too much ground to the current governor.
The most significant pending reform is limiting those campaign contributions. Right now the sky is the limit. With Sanchez appearing agreeable to some kind of deal (the House is already on board), now is the time to strike, but if the Governor and his task force insist on what they call comprehensive reform and a special session to get it, we risk continuing the standstill.
A piecemeal approach in which firepower and public opinion is concentrated on one or two major reforms in each of the next several sessions looks like a path to success in light of the majority leader's remarks. If that route had been followed the past three sessions, we might already have some reforms in place. The bottom line? Better to have a bite out of the apple than no apple at all.
A RARE TV MOMENT
The late NM U.S. Senator Dennis Chavez made a rare NM TV appearance as a result of our report this week on a burglary at the home of one of his relatives in the ABQ NE Heights. KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson interviewed Chavez's grandson about the silver trays and other political items of Chavez that were stolen. The station ran some cool decades-old video of Chavez who served 27 years in the Senate and died in '62.. There was even a sound bite of the Demcoratic legend.
Dyson's tenure as a New Mexico news reporter dates back 33 years. Only anchor legend Dick Knipfing has been at it longer.
POT PROGRAM PAINS
Will Democratic liberals following every tick of Camapaign '08 sieze on the latest news about New Mexicos's medical majrijauna program to put the heat on Big Bill? That question arose Wednesday when the state health secretary. Dr. Alfredo Vigil, announed NM will not grow medical marijuana for seriously ill patients for fear that the feds could prosecute state workers. But couldn't the Governor make a statement to Democratic primary voters by ordering the pot program, approved by the 2007 Legislature, to move forward anyway? He could. Come on Doc Vigil, you would probably look good in those prison stripes. At the least, expect some lawsuts to be filed over this one.
A ROMERO IS NOT A GONZALES
ABQ City Council President Debbie O'Malley is not a Gonzales, although we're sure she has nothing against them. She is a Romero, however. And she informed us accordingly after we erred Wednesday in blogging her heritage. "My Mom, Lydia Romero is from Veguita. Her dad, Juan Nemecio Romero, was a member of the NM Legislature. My dad, a self-described “coyote," is a member of the longtime Montoya and Werner families from the ABQ Sawmill/Old Town area. "
That's explained so well that even a gringo from Pennsylvania can understand it.
Breaking the big political stories and having fun doing it, this is the home of New Mexico politics--www.joemonahan.com. Send your email via the link at the top of the page.
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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