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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Santa Fe Lament: "I Wanna Go Home," Plus: Dem Vote Count Update; Hill Still Positioned, And: Jeff Bingaman's Silver Anniversary 

Santa Fe wall-leaners make some important points--legislators are not feeling heat from back home to pass Big Bill's major health insurance overhaul, they want to go home to start their re-election campaigns without major controversy and they want to start raising money for those campaigns which they can't do until the 30 day legislative session ends.

A watered down version of the Guv's health bill remains alive, prompting conjecture that they give him that measure, he claims a partial victory and everyone goes home at noon Thursday.

The Guv has been setting up a move to use the big capital outlay bill as a veto threat to get what he wants from lawmakers. But AG King dealt that movida a blow last night:

“My attorneys...have found nothing in state law...that would prohibit the Lieutenant Governor from accepting legislation on behalf of the Governor and starting the clock on the time that the Governor has to consider it."

If King's opinion stands it means the capital outlay bill delivered to Denish Saturday night when Big Bill had his office closed down will have to be acted on by the Governor before the legislature adjourns. That means they would have a chance to override any vetoes of it before they headed for the exits.

Tuesday afternoon the Governor said he is going to ignore the Wednesday deadline and act on the capital outlay bill on Thursday, the day he says action is due. We'll see if this provokes further infighting.

Clearly it is time to end this legislative session which has accomplished its primary job--passing a state budget and the capital outlay bill. Threats to hold a special session have not worked in years past and they won't this year---especially not when the public seems in no mood to remake the world in 30 days. At least that's how it looks from this peanut gallery.

Here's a good piece on Big Bill's position with the Legislature after being out on the Prez trail for a year.

GETTING CLOSER (UPDATED)

The count goes on. Late Tuesday afternoon the NM Democratic Party said it has now examined the over 17,000 provisional ballots cast in NM's Democratic Presidential Caucus last week. They say about 8,000 of the provisionals examined have been found to be valid and will be counted. This means about 46% of the votes examined thus far have been qualified. Barack Obama still has a steep hill to climb to catch Hillary Clinton.

The party says it is re-checking the provisionals against a statewide data base to see if it can qualify more.

Hillary now has a lead of 1,074---68,084--67,010 votes. Obama would have to capture about 56.6% of them to catch Hillary. As our experts told us last week, that is improbable. It appears at the rate the party is proceeding it will meet its self-imposed February 15th deadline to certify the election. The next step is to count the provisional ballots found valid.

BINGAMAN GETS THE SILVER

A little noticed NM political milestone was reached in January--Democratic US Senator Jeff Bingaman marked 25 years in the US Senate, making him the third longest serving senator in state history and closing in on being the second longest serving. Bingaman was elected in 1982 when he sacked astronaut and GOP Senator Harrison "Jack" Schmitt. He has been easily re-elected every six years since. At his last re-election, in 2006, he won with over 70% of the vote. Only GOP Senator Pete Domenici, who will retire next January, and the late Dem US Senator Dennis Chavez have served longer than Bingaman, and Jeff is set to eclipse Chavez's tenure in mid-2010.

The 64 year old, who grew up in Silver City, NM, did not wax nostalgic when asked to comment recently on his Silver Anniversary, but he did say a quarter of century of service has caused him to "develop more of an appreciation for the complexity of the issues." The Republicans have given him plenty of peace and quiet to do so. They have never been able to put him on the ropes. He has voted his liberalism on the major national issues, but has taken a more conservative tone when it comes to NM's rural interests, including the oil and gas industry.

What do NM voters like best? His low-key style and the respect he shows all people and their points of view. What do they not like? Not much. Perhaps there is a yearning that he be even more of a national player given the investment they have made in him.

In year 25 Bingaman has a heap of responsibility. He is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, a member of the powerful tax writing Senate Finance Committee and will become the state's senior senator when Domenici next January ends his record setting stint of 36 years. Every other member of the NM congressional delegation--the new US Senator and three US House members will be freshmen--putting pressure on Bingaman to make sure federally-dependent NM is not ignored. He says the pressure is "more psychological" than anything else. Domenici is a world heavyweight when it comes to bringing home the bacon, but the Democrats and Bingaman are now in the majority. That should serve to ease the transition.

In 25 years Bingaman has probably turned over his staff several times, but personal assistant Virginia White who was there at the beginning is still with him. Deputy Chief of Staff David Pike has also been aboard since '83, and Lynn Ditto of his Roswell office has also spent most of her working life with the senator. While Bingaman says of his career, "We've done some good and continue to do some good," he dryly adds, "I don't plan to serve another 25 years."

HILLARY IN THE HOUSE

At least in El Paso. She campaigns there today for the March 4 Texas primary at 6:30 p.m. She will get into NM via El Paso TV which serves Dona Ana county.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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