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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Santa Fe's New Math: "Mr. Chairman, May I Go To The Bathroom?" Plus: Susana Could Mean Cash For Enviros, And: Movida Against Thaddeus Lucero Revealed 

Whips Bratton & Stapleton
Santa Fe's new math may cause some bladders to ache at the Roundhouse. So say the Alligators and wall-leaners who are aghast that the often leisurely pace of the innumerable state House committee hearings is about to vanish, replaced by constant tension over who is in the committee rooms and who isn't.

With the number of Republicans and Democrats nearly equal, if just one representative leaves the committee it could change the balance of power and alter the outcome of legislation. To keep their head counts straight, the committee chairmen may have to go as far as scheduling bathroom breaks for the solons.

The R's now have 33 House seats, the most in decades, only four fewer than the 37 Dems. That means when committee members are made public today by House Speaker Ben Lujan Dems and R's will be at near equal strength.

Wandering in and out of the hearing room will be a no-no when dealing with high-stakes issues. And the same on the House floor where only a couple of absent legislators could make all the difference on what passes and what fails. New Republican Whip Don Bratton will be a key player in rounding up his R's for votes. Ditto for Dem whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton.

All of this makes for quite a cultural change in the Legislature where for decades the Dems have had comfortable majorities. To borrow from our new Governor, this is "bold change."

OGLE EYED

Soon after the November election in which the R's picked up eight more House seats and nearly tied things up with the Dems, we had former ABQ GOP Rep. Rory Ogle blog about the implications on the daily routines of the lawmakers. We run it again as it is even more timely:

Think about this scenario. A nine member House committee with five Democrats and four Republicans. Two Dems are out of the committee room and a vote comes up on legislation. There is a motion to table it with the intent that when the two missing Ds return they could move the legislation back from the table. I believe that only requires a simple majority vote. However, if the four R's vote against the tabling that leaves three D's to vote for tabling and the motion fails. Then the Rs can move to defeat the legislation and they would have the majority. Now if I am right, one of the remaining D's would have to vote for the defeat so they could move for reconsideration when the two missing D's return. However, in a motion to reconsider they would have to win the motion by 3/5ths which means six votes--the motion and legislation would die.

By the way, Dona Ana County State Rep. Mary Helen Garcia is expected to be named chair of the House Voters and Elections Committee when Speaker Lujan announces committee assignments today. She was one of four Dem legislators who were publicly backing Rep. Joe Cervantes unsuccessful attempt to oust the Speaker. Garcia, an aunt of Cervantes, had previously been passed over for the chairmanship by Lujan. The committee will have added importance later this year when the Legislature meets in special session to redistrict legislative and congressional seats as it does every ten years.

Capitol veterans say with the ratio of Dems and R's so close there is not much room for Lujan to hand out punishment or make major changes in the aftermath of the aborted putsch against him.

LOBBYING THE LEGISLATURE

A reader writes:

The Governor's executive order banning state agencies from hiring lobbyists is not going to apply to the University of New Mexico. I heard that (former GOP state legislator) Joe Thompson is going to be working for the UNM Athletic Department again, and there are contract negotiations with two others who will represent UNM Hospital. Marc Saavedra, son of House Appropriations Committee Chair Kiki Saavedra, remains head of UNM Government Relations...

TEXAS IS BROKE

The Guv says we need to compete with Texas to bring jobs here, that they do better in attracting business. But Texas is a fiscal mess, running a budget deficit that ranges from $15 billion to over $25 billion. New Mexico is cutting about 3 percent from our budget while the Texans need to chop upwards of 15 percent. It's true they do everything big in the Lone Star State, but that doesn't mean New Mexico always wants to follow.

A DIATRIBE?


Reader David Lindsay of Las Vegas writes:

Joe, I haven't really noticed your left leaning slant until your diatribe about Susana's State of the State speech. Obviously, you concur with many others that business should just go on as usual up at the Roundhouse. But there are many of us that want to see NM become financially solvent again and not continue as the laughing stock of the political sleaze arena.


Thanks for the critique, David, but the dictionary defines a diatribe as "a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation..." Having been the recipient of more than a few of those over the years, we are quite confident our analysis of the State of the State does not come close to meeting that definition.

FACT CHECKING SUSANA

One of the more sensational sentences of Susana's State-of-the-State has had a hole poked in it. She cited a movie star chartering a private jet at a cost of $100,000. Under the state's tax rebate program for the film industry, that cost taxpayers $25,000. But what Susana did not say is that the loophole has since been closed. KOB-TV came with the fact check:

The...director of the Motion Picture Association in New Mexico, Eric Witt, says that...loophole was identified and closed years ago. “It was immediately rectified in the next legislative session...We want to make (the film program) tight, as accountable, as transparent to New Mexicans as we can,” said Witt.

Okay, glad to know that. Hey, maybe Susana doesn't have to sell the state jet after all. Maybe she can have the movie stars coming in here use it as a charter. At a $100,000 a pop for a short hop, we'll have the state budget shortfall under control in no time at all.

ENVIRO BOOST

Major environmental groups have been more or less in hibernation the past eight years. Governor Big Bill was in their camp most of the time. But with Governor Martinez it's a whole new story. And guess what? That's good news for the enviros. At least if you look at it through the lens of potential fund-raising. he new Guv is already in court clashing with the enviros over her early efforts to thwart certain rules and regulations. Here's an example of the national press that Susan's early environmental actions has drawn

There promise to be plenty more pitched battles between the two sides in the years ahead. While Susana raked in oil and gs contributions to get her to the Guv's chair, the environmental groups now get their turn at the fund-raising trough as membership is set to grow increasingly alarmed over the sudden turn of events in Santa Fe.

LUCERO MOVIDA
Lucero
Republicans are looking to use their new political muscle on longtime Bernalillo County Manager Thaddeus Luceroand they want Republican Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener to step up and help engineer his ouster. But so far he is bucking their wishes.

Bernalillo County has been mired in controversy after controversy over the past year or two. Lucero has had the support of the Democratic dominated five member county commission, but even Dems are now nervous now about the seven year reign of Thaddeus as a new Governor pounds the ethics podium.

The talk of ousting Lucero surfaced at this past weekend's GOP county convention with talk of putting pressure on Wiener to join with new GOP Commissioner Wayne Johnson to dump Thaddeus. They would then need only one of the three Dems to join them. New Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham is a possible, but the heat is on Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, the new commission chairwoman, who has been trying to fashion herself as an ethics watchdog at the troubled county, but has yet to deliver a solid punch. In a TV news interview this week, Wiener was sticking by Democrat Lucero. The Commission is set to discuss Lucero's fate at a closed door Friday meeting.

And the plot thickens. That's because it is know that Wiener, a longtime and avid collector of license plates, would love nothing more than to have GOP Governor Martinez appoint him as the new director of the Motor Vehicle Department.

If the movida talk against Thaddeus gains momentum, Susana might want to give Michael a call to talk things over. Being Governor can sometimes be real fun.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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