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Friday, March 04, 2011

Driving It Home: R's Pound License Issue, Plus: Heather Preps Senate Entry, And: Viva Chupacabra! 

Why is everyone so worried about these illegal immigrants having driver's licenses? With the way the price of gas is going up, most of them aren't going to be able to drive much longer anyway. Of course, that could also be the case for the rest of us.

In Santa Fe, House Speaker Ben Lujan is in the driver's seat, but he's lost control of his back seat drivers--a couple of renegade Dems joined with the R's and he now finds himself facing a vote in which licenses for the illegals would be repealed--like Governor Martinez wants.

Roundhouse oldtimers say it may have been the first time in over 50 years that a bill was "blasted" out of committee so it could be voted on by the full House.

Maybe Ben should send some flowers and chocolate to Dem Rep. Sandra Jeff. She is voting against the Dem caucus position on every conceivable vote. And that's in a chamber that is divided between 33 R's, 36 Dems and one indy. Jeff, who represents Navajo country, has been a game-changer. Speaker Lujan's chief of staff chewed out Jeff for voting the "wrong way." She demanded an apology and stated that it is her vote not the speaker's.

R's are gradually achieving their version of political Nirvana--getting a recorded vote of Dems thwarting the repeal of the licenses and then using it against them in the 2012 election--but the Dems are not without ammunition of their own. They can argue effectively that the new Governor is throwing a nice circus, but she isn't throwing any bread to the hungry crowds--in this case the thousands of unemployed and underemployed New Mexicans as well as beleaguered businesses whose bottom lines are no laughing matter.

But Martinez will worry about that later. Or maybe not. The sense is growing stronger that she is driving toward a play for the 2012 GOP vice presidential nod and that these wedge issues are her way of getting her head into that big circus tent.

As for Speaker Lujan, we give this warning to his lovely wife, Carmen. If you see Ben in a cozy corner romancing Sandra Jeff, don't worry. It's only business.

HEATHER VS. SANCHEZ?

Former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson appears to be preparing to formally enter the 2012 race for the GOP US Senate in ABQ Monday, say several GOP insiders. The Politico is reporting similar news. If she goes, Lt. Governor John Sanchez may or may not be hot on her trail. Insiders don't expect word from him until after the legislative session later this month, but they say he is acting interested.

Wilson is hoping Sanchez doesn't go, clearing the field for her and avoiding a bloody primary battle like the one she endured and lost to Rep. Steve Pearce in 2008. Heather is still seen as too moderate for hard-core conservatives. Sanchez might be able to count on the conservative Club for Growth for financial support. They played a key role in the bid to beat Heather in '08.

VIVA CHUPACABRA!


KRQE-TV reestablished its long dominance in the 10 p.m. news race partly on the back of a very highly rated investigative report on the elusive and mysterious chupacabra.

The station scored an 11.2 rating in the February sweeps far surpassing rivals KOAT and KOB. CBS affiliate KRQE has been in the 10 p.m. ratings lead for several years. Media types say strong prime time programming continues to aid KRQE as well as effective enterprise news reporting and the anchor team of Dick Knipfing and Dianne Anderson.

IT'S A GAS

We mused here over why it appears the state's economists are once gain overestimating the price for natural gas--a key driver of tax revenue for the state. Economist Richard Anklam weighed in:

The reason the state’s economists have higher natural gas numbers plugged into the forecast than you might expect, is because of the premium we get on natural gas liquids produced in the process. Those prices thankfully tend to follow crude oil prices, so we can get a bump in “natural gas” revenues when the price of oil exceeds expectations. A while back there was actually some confusion when the spot and contract prices at our hubs weren’t capable of supporting the revenues we were actually receiving… it was the liquids.

You’re right to point out that oil and oil prices matter much less than natural gas (which you’re also right about… those prices will be very sluggish for quite a while), and I know the forecasters resisted fiscal optimism suggested by some, based on the common belief we’d see $4 pump prices soon.

The Legislature has in recent years overestimated how much natural gas and oil would fetch, leaving bigger budget holes than anticipated.

IN OUR TIME

A reader writes:

Two news stories bring to our attention the role that privilege plays in our culture today. One is about the APS superintendent using a school district plow to clear snow from his East Mountain driveway. The second is the story about the wealthy Maloof boys driving a hard deal to make Sacramento taxpayers build a basketball arena for them.

We are in a time when the privileged by wealth or rank expect the taxpayer to foot the bills for items middle class taxpayers do themselves. That is the case with the superintendent and his driveway. And, in the case of the Maloofs, we have the taxpayers being asked to pay for the privilege of watching them enjoy their lives of excess


HER STAMP

By insisting that no more state money be used to complete the Spaceport--if needed--Governor Martinez has put her stamp on the project. Which in a backhanded sort of way is kind of a good thing for those who support the project. She now has some ownership of the Spaceport and can begin calling it her own and get it out from under the shadow of Big Bill. On the other hand, if more state funds are needed to get the job done, that could be trouble.


THE BIG GAME

We have the exclusive play by play on the House-Senate basketball game which the House won Thursday night. Here from the broadcasting booth is ABQ Dem State Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas:

Bill O'Neill (D-ABQ) was a relentless defender against Senate standout John Sapien (D-Bernalillo) and made some key jump shots as the House defeated the Senate 33-26 in the annual charity Basketball game at Santa Fe High school gym.

The Senate had won the 2010 game ending a nine game House winning streak.

6'-5" House freshman Conrad James (R-ABQ) made his presence felt with some humiliating blocks and 6'2" Nate Gentry (R-ABQ) added athleticism as the House reestablished itself as the dominant hoops chamber.

Thomas Garcia (D-Ocate) had a rebound pout back and a deep 3-pointer to give the House a 26-21 lead with 4 minutes to go that it never relinquished.

Legendary Hall of Famer Lou Henson coached the House "Aggies" and Mike Locksley coached the Senate "Lobos." The game raised $20,000 for the UNM Cancer Center.

Republicans James and Gentry had a great game, but they look confused when someone yelled, "Win one for the Speaker."

THE BOTTOM LINES

For the record, in a first draft Thursday we said the film tax rebate had been reduced to 15% from 25%. The amount of the rebates has been capped at $45 million per year, but under the legislation approved by the House the percentage of a film's production costs that can be rebated remains at 25%.

Also on the film rebates, a column comes from liberal Michael Kinsley in which he criticizes former Governor Richardson's support of the rebates--as well as other supportive politicos.

Thanks for stopping by here this week.

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