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Monday, February 28, 2011

Where's The Fear? Licenses For Illegals Still On Books, Plus: No Oscar Party In Santa Fe; Film Money Trimmed, And: Is House Freshmen Class A Bust? 

Martinez Vs. O'Neill
Has Governor Martinez overreached when it comes to the top wedge issue of Legislative Session 2011? Despite her personal persistence and the bombastic banter over the issuance of driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, the move to repeal them has so far gone nowhere.

Martinez and her pollsters think they have a no-brainier here. They say over 70 percent of the public supports the repeal, but those numbers are not translating into Democrats cowering in fear (at least not yet).

If anyone should have cracked by now it would be Dem Rep. Bill O'Neill whose ABQ district is one of the few swing districts left in the 70 member House. But the Republican robocalls into his district urging his constituents to get on his case as well as radio ads in the metro area haven't moved him yet. He's voted to table three bills Martinez favors.

If there is a miscalculation by Martinez it is that this is going to be a defining issue in the 2012 election. That electorate will be more centrist and larger than the conservative electorate that dominated 2010. Also, the Dems have proposed other legislation to address the issue that they believe will give them cover.

On a scale of one to ten the bullying power of former Governor Big Bill during his first two legislative sessions was nearly 10. He campaigned on a variety of issues and received a mandate. Martinez did make driver's licenses a talking point in her campaign but it was not paramount and it was directed at an electorate seething with anger over Richardson and company. The anger has died down now that he is gone.

This Governor, like nearly all Republican Governors in the modern era, was elected to correct and prevent excesses by the Democratic majority. The public is not going to get off their seats and march on the capitol for her. She probably needs to be careful that they don't march against her and her Republican colleagues in a still very Democratic state.

Martinez's radio ads and robocalls are campaign tactics that might be more effective closer to an election, but in the end they may not be effective governing tools. The new Governor will have to develop a holistic agenda and master interpersonal skills if she hopes to leave a major legislative footprint. But that's usually what Democratic Governors do, not Republicans.

This chief executive and her small coterie of advisers seem most concerned with how they can use the emotional issues of the day in the next election, not whether there is any legislative resolutions. House Republicans are going along for the ride. They seem to think they have it own either way. If the licenses are repealed Martinez gets the credit and if they aren't, they can point their fingers at the Democrats.

Wedge issue warfare keeps the public entertained and maybe keeps them from focusing too much on high unemployment, economic opportunity and a generalized recessionary malaise. It works best in a four month political campaign. Sustaining that warfare over a four year gubernatorial term is an entirely different matter.

NO OSCAR PARTY UP THERE

They weren't celebrating Oscar weekend in Santa Fe. In fact, film buffs were rebuffed which they said could mean fewer calls of "quiet on the set" heard in our enchanted land. A House committee capped the tax rebate for film productions shot here at a total of $45 million a year. That compromise is expected to be the final legislative product. TV news reports that, in 2010, the film subsides totaled around $65 million. Leading film advocates were not pleased. One called the new limit a "job killer."

Rural legislators whose towns don't see a lot of movie action were particularly moved to vote to edit Hollywood. Martinez, elected by a tidal wave of support in the hinterlands, egged them on.
But, according to an automatic phone poll commissioned by the Motion Picture Association of New Mexico and conducted last Wednesday, support for the 25% rebate is rock solid.

The MPANM says it will not support the compromise legislation, arguing it will cost jobs.

Fifty-nine percent of the some 738 likely voters agreed with the statement that "the 25% rebate to the film production industry has been successful in attracting film production business to the state of New Mexico. Only 23% disagreed. The margin of error is about 3.5 percent.

You can see why Martinez went soft on trimming the rebate to 15%. And you can also see why House Speaker Ben Lujan is taking some hits for giving up too much to get a budget deal. session?

With literally dozens of other tax deductions for other industries that could have just as easily been targeted to raise cash to balance the state budget and not put any jobs at risk, the zealousness of the administration was especially notable. The Governor called the measure which would raise a paltry $25 million in a $5.4 billion budget a deal breaker.

Still, we repeat that Martinez wanted to reduce the rebate from 25% of a film's cost to 15%. On that score she lost big time, with even the ABQ Chamber of Commerce opposing her. If film shooting falters in the state, Susana is going to have a problem explaining it to job hungry voters.

We've been hearing much about limits from the administration when it comes to economic development--limits on the Spaceport and limits on the film industry. But we are going to need expansive thinking to work our way out of our economic mess. We're waiting.

THE BERRY PATCH

The film rebates have their most bang for the buck in the ABQ metro which is still suffering under an unemployment rate that remains stubbornly near a high for the post WWII period. GOP Mayor Richard Berry refused to weigh in on whether he agreed with Martinez's call to trim the film rebates. Going forward, if the film industry tanks here--for any reason--the mayor could easily be portrayed as a villain.

Why did Berry not break with Martinez to fight for ABQ and use for cover the Chamber of Commerce position in support of the industry?

Conspiracy theorists point out that political consultant Jay McCleskey has both Berry and Governor Martinez as clients. If that is among the reasons Berry stayed on the fence, he may want to look up the saying about "serving two masters." In this case that would be the political consultants versus the people of Albuquerque.

LETTING GO

Comments coming from Martinez may bode well if they are part of the process of her shedding the deep emotional disdain the administration has shown for her predecessor and most things associated with him. Of his "You Drink, You Drive, You Lose" media campaign, she says:

There's been so much investment and it seems to be something that people understand, and there's just no reason to change it because we have a new governor.

The template for the successful assault on DWI--changing the drinking culture and attitudes--may also work in the battle for educational reform. Perhaps that's why the administration's push to grade the public schools and end social promotion is being greeted with an open mind outside the confines of the education lobby.

AND ON THE EDUCATION FRONT

No wonder Martinez's assault on "bureaucratic waste" resonates. They just keep giving her ammo to shoot:

UNM's lobbyists over the past year billed nearly $27,000 to university credit cards to cover meals with lawmakers, in addition to hotel stays for staff around the state and other Santa Fe conveniences

Like PIO's gone wild, the lobbyists for public institutions have been on a rampage to go along with the late Great Bull Market. But that market was a dream that's been over for years.

One of Martinez's lasting contributions could be to change the cushy culture exemplified by the UNM overspending.

She has the ammo to put this horse down. Someone give her the gun, while we all look the other way.

THE ABSENT FRESHMEN


You would think the 11 new GOP state representatives in Santa Fe might be taking a page from the playbook of their counterparts in DC and be all over obvious examples of government waste, like the aforementioned PIO's and UNM lobbying. But there's been hardly a peep from this group since the beginning of the session when they opposed forming a coalition with Dems to make State Rep Joe Cervantes House speaker.

The new members tout themselves as conservatives but they are letting the big budget bill slide past them like it was on a souped up assembly line. Where are their questions? Where's the new energy? Where are their economic plans? Are they being kept on a short leash by the leadership? Or are they simply not what they were marketed to be? Wedge issues like voter ID are not what we are talking about, but jobs, taxes, spending and economic progress. Where's the beef?

For taking too long to find out where the bathrooms are and for being unwilling or unable to throw red meat across the Roundhouse Rotunda, the New Mexico state House freshman conservative class of 2011 gets a D.

THE ARAGON ANGLE


Well, there were chuckles in the parlors of La Politica when they received the news that Robert Aragon was named by Governor Martinez as a member of the State Board of Finance. Robert's cousin, former Senate powerhouse Manny Aragon who is now serving time in federal prison on corruption charges, has been demonized for decades by Martinez allies and used as a foil to get their candidates elected.

So how could Manny's cousin end up on the prestigious board? Well, Robert, a longtime ABQ attorney and a member of the state House in the early 80's, was an early and ardent supporter of Martinez and ABQ GOP congressional candidate Jon Barela. He calls himself a Democrat, but he strayed so far that the party stripped him of his ward chairmanship.

Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows--no matter who is in power. Hey, maybe Robert and Susana can send Manny a copy of "Government Finance Today." He might have some ideas for them...

ROUNDHOUSE MUSINGS


From one of our Senior Alligators making the rounds at the Roundhouse:

The new parking structure on the west side of the capital has 4 floors. Certain sections are reserved for the Governor's staff. Those sections are loaded with Texas, DC and out of state license plates....

The Governor resembles the change that Sarah Palin went through--from simple jackets to a designer look....

Democratic Legislators are being filmed in committee when discussing the Governor's legislative bills. Dems are not in an offensive or defensive mode. It could have a major impact on their political campaigns. Dems in Senate are leaderless....


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