Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Speaker Playbook: Keeping A Lid On Things, Plus: Cutting The Labs; Do NM R's Support That? Plus: More On PIO's Gone Wild; This Time It's APS 

Speaker Lujan
The 33 state House Republicans may be only a few seats shy of a majority in the 70 member chamber, but they are still the minority. Faced with more R's, it's a bit trickier for Dem House Speaker Ben Lujan to euthanize legislation that if allowed to reach a floor vote could spell trouble for his members, but he is managing to get the job done. One of our Alligators weighs in with this example:

We were at the Roundhouse and witnessed the House Labor committee put the screws to the bill to repeal driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. The vote was on party lines, with the five Democratic members voting against. Those Dems are all from safe seats. You get one guess about which committee gets bills House Speaker Ben Lujan wants to kill...

Among the Dem members on House labor are Kenny Martinez, Rick Miera and Miguel Garcia. Those guys could vote against green chile as the state vegetable and still get elected in their friendly districts.


A reader writes from Santa Fe:

Joe, I sat in on the quarterly Tourism Commission meeting with Department of Cultural Affairs Secretary-designee Veronica Gonzales and the question of the proposed merger between cultural affairs and the tourism department came up. Gonzales replied that she didn’t think that one department “would be over” the other department.

Sounds like they are thinking of some type of lateral structure--"The New Mexico Department of Cultural Tourism Affairs?" How can both these cabinet designees (Monique Jacobson for Tourism and Veronica) be equals of a combined department? Someone must be without a chair when the music stops. Oh Joe, please, sort this out for inquiring minds.

We'd love to be able to sort it out but everyone involved in this thing, including the tourism industry, seem to be all over the map.

But here is the latest guessing from our informed email on what's going to happen here:

Analysts following this don't think that any of the restructuring options will be approved during this session. This seems to make the most sense. How could the Governor get Secretary Jacobson to quit a “real” job with Pepsi in Chicago, uproot her family and then schlep out here to be an underling?

The administration's foot-dragging on the the Spaceport, the beating up on the film industry and the confusion on how to approach tourism are all warning bells. This stuttering start makes it all the more important that Secretaries Jacobson and Gonzales have their acts together.

Heinrich & Gen. Petraeus
How is the eventual 2012 ABQ GOP congressional nominee going to reconcile his or views over federal funding for the state's national labs with those of House Republicans in D.C.? The R's would reduce the big budget increases sought for the labs by President Obama. Would an ABQ GOP US House hopeful agree and reject the increased funding which would provide an upside jolt to the city economy? Could he get elected if he did so?

ABQ Dem Congressman Martin Heinrich fully supports the increased funding. As he benefits politically from the Prez's lab proposal, he is questioning the House Republican budget.

So, what will the GOP US House nominee say? We'll just have to wait and see. There's no official candidate yet. ABQ GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis has formed an exploratory committee. But if he doesn't have the right answer for this question, his campaign could be over before it starts.

Don't say we didn't tell you.

Meanwhile, Obama has the veto option and he says he will use it against the House R's, if he has to.

And look at this:

The Boeing Co. and Fluor Corp. hope to replace Lockheed Martin Corp. as manager and operator of Sandia National Laboratories.Lockheed’s contract expires in September 2012. It has operated Sandia for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration since 1993. The lab has a $2.5 billion annual operating budget...

You have to believe these big publicly traded companies are confident that budget growth is indeed in store for Sandia. Why else would they be interested in running the place?

Oops. Almost forgot. What is NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce doing about that House budget plan that would chop the labs spending? Los Alamos and Sandia are not in his district, but he is the only R in the state congressional delegation. Can you step up, Steve, as you told us you would on Election Night?


In that recent poll by Democratic firm PPP we noted that Heinrich's approval rating was 39% and his disapproval rating was 34%. However, a Heinrich backer points out--rightly--that the survey was statewide and that 28% said they were "not sure" when asked for an opinion about the second term lawmaker.

The PPP poll did not provide numbers on Heinrich's approval rating in his own congressional district, but judging by the statewide numbers, he appears to be holding up well in the metro. We opined that the PPP numbers were a "bright spot" for the GOP, but that is obviously not the case when we put the numbers in perspective.

And one other note. We had the numbers flipped on GOP Congressman Steve Pearce's approval rating in our Feb. 9 post. Only 35% of voters approve of Pearce while 44% disapproved. Pearce is popular in his southern conservative district, but remains a polarizing figure statewide.

Somebody give us ten lashes with a wet noodle for our perplexing parsing of the PPP poll.


Governor Martinez broke the mold in her state of the state speech when she pinpointed specific spending abuse in the ABQ Public Schools--namely, the nearly $500,000 being spent there on PR flacks. Rarely do you see a Santa Fe politician target a specific line item in the education budget. The abuse continues because Santa Fe lawmakers say they are powerless to get specific and can only reduce overall budgets, leaving spending decisions to the school districts.

But you can see why the new Governor is fed up with that approach. The head of APS PR, who makes $107,000 compared to $75,000 for the head of PR at the city of ABQ, stiff-armed TV news when asked if APS really needed eight PR people to communicate the district's message:

(She) wouldn’t respond when Target 7 asked if APS Superintendent Winston Brooks really needed eight people to communicate with the public. “It’s hard to answer that without sounding defensive, or worse yet, arrogant..."

Hey, Joe citizen doesn't care how a PR flack thinks they sound. Do the job and answer the question. The fact is these PR departments are bloated across the country. They are an epitaph of the Late Great Bull Market that need to be downsized in order to protect the classroom.

TV news reports APS Superintendent Winston Brooks is giving no ground to the Governor on the bloated PR department, saying overall administrative expenses at APS are in for cuts, but not agreeing to cut the PR salaries or staff.

Brooks may be losing the moral high ground to Martinez by claiming the sky is falling at APS but refusing to eliminate the most obvious examples of waste. Is he betting that public fear of school cuts will protect him from the fallout? Now that could be seen as arrogance.


Brooks naturally doesn't want to take orders from the Governor, but he had a chance to meet her halfway by making administrative cuts before she took over. But if it is war he wants, maybe Martinez should give it to him. What's to stop her from conducting a line-by-line analysis of all administrative spending in APS, accompanied by specific recommendations for more cuts? She's already cracked the door open with the PR division. Why not open it all the way and see what's in there? Maybe she will.


The FMB stickers are verboten. That word from the ABQ fire chief who has ended the tempest over the stickers that some firefighters put on their helmets and which some of them said was shorthand for "Fuck Mayor Berry." Others said the initials meant union solidarity--"Forever My Brothers." Firefighters have been upset with pay cuts Berry enacted to balance the city budget. Whatever the initials stood for, the fire chief banned the stickers.

It's the right call. The "F" word and the city's amiable mayor are like oil and water--they just don't mix. But give him a couple of years. If he's like most mayors, everyone, including his own dog, will have their own favorite epithet for His Honor.


How reality changes things. A spokeswoman for the NM Oil and Gas Association opines:

"Industry doesn't want to...get rid of the pit rule...More than anything else they want a stable regulatory arena."

Well, that's not what Governor Martinez said during the campaign. She wanted the complete abolition of the environmental rule so despised by so many in the oil fields who claim it is inhibiting drilling and who so generously donated to Martinez's campaign coffers.

But the legislative session has made clear the Pit Rule is here to stay.

There's campaigning and there's governing. The two seem further apart than ever.


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