Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dateline Santa Fe: Inside The Session; Our Insider Reports, Plus: Is Health Care "Who Cares?" Also: Big Bill's Position & A Rio Rancho Mayor Update 

Leader Sanchez
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The latest fitting example of that old adage is the thumb in the eye NM Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez gave proposed ethics legislation. The powerful lawmaker said he is willing to have several proposals heard--including establishing an ethics commission and a limitation on campaign contributions--but "this isn't saying these bills will get through." Sounds like 2007 all over again.

They kill all this stuff and we can't even attend the funeral, unless we trek up to the Roundhouse. A legislative panel has decided not to put up money to get the ball rolling on broadcasting the legislative sessions on the Web. Why are we not surprised?


Now we take you (exclusively, of course) deep inside the session--so deep that the cloak of anonymity of our legislative author is a must. They write:

"There is very little understanding or support for the health care initiative. The Gov’s plan is being criticized from both the right and the left. The liberal wing of the Democratic caucus is caught between the Gov. and vocal progressive constituencies lobbying for a single payer system.

I expect this session to go like the special session on tax reform years ago. Before that special session there was a year of task force work. The Gov. called us to Santa Fe with a specific reform package. In a matter of days it became clear it was going nowhere. To salvage the special session there was a bait and switch, and the session then became about (the transportation program) GRIP I, which we then passed and went home. Unfortunately GRIP I never received the scrutiny it deserved, and we are dealing with the problems and aftermath now."

Oh yeah. It doesn't get any more "inside" than that. Maybe we should have a special copyright on the anonymous stuff.


In golden oldie days a package of 60 bills--the number Bill will send down this year- would be considered a pretty hefty package from the Guv's office, but it was seen as extreme downsizing this year. In past sessions--you know, those where Billl was setting up for a presidential campaign--lawmakers were given triple the workload.

"It's health care stupid!" is Bill's '08 mantra, but the other occupants in the cathedral have yet to join the chant. Do you suppose that's because the amount of new money available to lawmakers (about $360 million) looks downright chintzy compared to the gold that spilled into the treasury in Bill's beginning years?

Also, there is a lot of "who cares?" surrounding the health care debate. The issue doesn't even poll among Republicans--most are insured. All the government workers in the state---tens of thousands--all have access to health care. Then there is the heavy HMO presence in the big ABQ market providing relatively cheap health plans to most comers. That leaves who? Well, children from poor families, poor adults, and young people who don't care to buy insurance. What do they all have in common? They don't vote. And that's why "universal" health care could be DOA at the Roundhouse.

Bill & Barb By Bralley
The Guv's "State of the State" address came off without a hitch, but Richardson was less intense than previous years. Maybe he was thinking about the pain in the ass it's going to be dealing with a state senate that long ago left the reservation and now doesn't even try to hide it.

The unusual period of gubernatorial domination of the Roundhouse is slowly coming to an end, which it does when a politician is a lame duck. It will be a test of Bill's political skills to get significant stuff passed. That is, if he cares enough to exercise those skills. Now that his presidential campaign has gone kaput, only he knows if the driven, goal oriented Richardson will show up for the annual food fight or is replaced by a mellower version, content to get a smaller piece of the pie.


I will speed up La Bajada today to speak before the annual meeting of the NM Association of Counties. I'll try to stop by the Roundhouse and aimlessly wander the hallways. If I do it for more than a hour, I will submit a bill to someone--just like a lobbyist. If I do it for two hours, I will raid Steve Terrell's hidden stash of free pecans and chile.


Tom Swisstack says he is all in for the race for Rio Rancho mayor. He told me again Monday that If he wins the March 4 election he will be a "full-time" mayor and give up his seat in the legislature. But a fit of pique by the former popular mayor has muddied the waters in the City of Vision. Democrat Swisstack has asked for an attorney general's opinion on whether it would be legal under the city charter for him to keep both jobs. What gives? If he is committed to giving up his seat if elected mayor, why ask for the opinion?

"There is incorrect information" circulating on what his legal options are, he replied. It is a matter of "public policy that I want cleared up." He said some of his foes are saying he definitely can't hold both offices, and that apparently set him off and asking for the AG opinion.

Swisstack is heavily favored to take the mayor's job again. Seven candidates are running. If no one goes over 50% there's a run-off. Swisstack should be able to take this one as long as he focuses on the politics and not the pique.


videoThe red meat is smothered with a mild sauce in the first TV ad in the battle for the GOP US Senate nomination. Rep. Steve Pearce uses soft music and a soothing narration as he is described as upholding "conservative values" and effective in fighting the war on"Islamic terrorism." It is a well-done spot for the primary in which conservative voters dominate, but it also tries not to alienate the Democrats and independents Pearce will need in the fall if he beats Rep. Heather Wilson for the nomination in June. It's a tricky act to pull off, but he has no choice. As we blogged Monday, this is the first TV spot of Campaign '08. Can the second one be far behind? (No, you are not seeing double. There are two shots of the TV ad showing up here. The one on the left works. No political opinion intended:)


We are not hearing that the ABQ Journal will do any polling in advance of the February 5th Dem caucus here. Given former President Clinton's ties to the state and his many old friends here, Hillary should be the frontrunner. If Obama is able to make a move, and absent any polling predicting it, he could label any victory here an upset. Both contenders will open offices here and insiders expect to see both of them make at least a brief NM stop prior to "Super Duper Tuesday" in which we join over 20 other states in the Dem primary voting.

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