Monday, August 22, 2011
Tackling Block; Can They Get The Speaker Off The Bench? Plus: Special Analysis Of The Special, And: BernCo Manager Post Gamed
Lujan & Block
Will NM House Speaker Ben Lujan have to be pushed off the bench and into the game and forced to tackle wayward Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr.? It seems that way.
The Speaker is under increasing pressure to press forward with impeachment proceedings against the embattled Block in the upcoming special legislative redistricting session. But the sound of that screeching rubber is Ben's heels digging in as he is dragged across the pavement:
House Speaker Ben Ray Luján, D-Nambé, said he thought it was premature to empanel a committee of lawmakers to look into Block Jr.'s alleged misuse of a state gasoline accounts.
That seems a risky strategy as you can bet Governor Martinez--who has called on Block to resign-- will raise the Roundhouse temperature on the matter if Block isn't gone by the start of the September 6 special.
As for Speaker Ben, didn't some guy named Trujillo nearly knock him off in the 2010 Dem primary for his Santa Fe House seat? And isn't he preparing to take on the speaker again? And isn't his congressman son--Ben Ray Lujan--getting a bit worried that dad's foot-dragging on Jerome could slow him down in his own re-elect?
Sure, Ben Sr. doesn't want to inflame the la plebe of the north who might get upset if they see perceive Block is getting railroaded, even though the guy would apparently hijack the Rail Runner if given the chance. But aren't the times a changin' or is that still just an old Bob Dylan song?
If the House leadership can't get its act together and get Block to wave adios before the session, they are going to hand the R's a silver platter full of political opportunity.
SENIOR ALLIGATOR ANALYSIS
With all that as a backdrop, we call on a trusty Senior Alligator of many years experience with all things Santa Fe to give us a reading on the Ben Vs. Block outlook:
Ben will eventually be compelled to act once he reads the writing on the wall. This could happen next Saturday when House Dems caucus in Albuquerque. Enough of them will pressure Ben to discuss Block, and make clear that if (GOP State Rep. Nate) Gentry or other Republicans move to impeach, there will be enough Dems to make that a reality. The close divide in the House (36 Dems, 33 R's and 1 indy) will force Ben’s hand...
There are no constitutional procedures which prescribe how an impeachment is to be prosecuted...Because there are none, the pace of any impeachment can be set entirely by the House. I believe any impeachment could be handled very expeditiously and efficiently. A trial in the Senate is likely to be more cumbersome...
...If we had bold leadership in the House and Senate who had a commitment to ethics, any impeachment could be handled very quickly. Because there are no rules or procedures, the House can set its own and either establish procedures to slow things down, or to complete the task efficiently.
Ben is going to realize he cannot stop an impeachment. Instead. I suspect, he will try to develop enough progress to appear responsive, but in reality cumbersome enough to bog things down. If a House subcommittee can be appointed and convened, and assuming an impeachment vote was imminent, I think Block would resign.
Pretty persuasive and in contrast with Dem Santa Fe State Rep. Brian Egolf who has been raising red flags about how expensive it could be to impeach Block and about how long it could take. But would it, really?
The state Constitution says if the House impeaches a public official, he can keep his salary and benefits but he can't exercise the powers of his office while he awaits a Senate trial. That means a House impeachment of Block could stop him dead in his tracks in terms of exercising power. He loses the job and salary if and when the Senate convicts him.
All of this is plenty of reason for the House to move expeditiously if Jerome Jr. continues to cling to the curtains.
SPECIALIZING IN THE SPECIAL
That September 6 special redistricting session of the Legislature is fast approaching and the Santa Fe wall-leaners are starting to game the action. Here's the first take from one of our senior sources at the Roundhouse:
Legislators will find out who their legislative friends are during a special session for redistricting. This session should be especially interesting. Adding or subtracting a precinct can turn a district from Republican to Democrat, Hispanic to Anglo and so on. Considering the temperament of the present Legislature, it should be politically bloody.
Rural New Mexico takes a major hit with so many people leaving these areas for economic and drought reasons. Legislative districts will be expanded in terms of land mass to bring forward more populations. Bernalillo and Sandoval Counties will be major beneficiaries. Trial lawyers are "licking their chops" over the prospect of litigation, It could be $4 million or more in retainers that will be paid by the taxpayers.
Litigation will result if lawmakers deadlock over the new districts for the legislature and the three congressional seats and/or if Governor Martinez vetoes a plan sent up to her.
The continued speculation about Governor Susana Martinez becoming the 2012 GOP VP candidate has got to be leaving a lot of New Mexicans with indigestion as the state wrestles with an eternal recession and as they recall--without fondness--the 2008 presidential run of Governor Richardson.
The speculation is solely rooted in Martinez's standing as the nation's first female Hispanic Governor and has nothing to do with any accomplishments in the realm of public service. But symbolism goes a long way in politics.
Martinez is on a steep learning curve as Governor. She has dismissed the veep speculation but questions linger about what her operatives are doing with the national media. Oh, those operatives....
The final four is out--that being the final four applicants who will be considered for the powerful post of Bernalillo County Manager. Among those on the list are two out-of-towners, Ed Adams, a former top administrator under former Mayor Chavez and Tom Zdunek, the current manager.
Giving an out-of-towner a job that pays over $150,000 isn't going to sell well in this economy. Adams is a quick gun, but loaded up with prior political baggage. That leaves Zdunek who just might get an extension of his contract if the five member commission can't find three votes for Adams or the out-of-towners.
THE BOTTOM LINES
ABQ GOP State Senator Kent Cravens is expected to soon announce his resignation from the Senate now that he has taken on the job of legislative director for the NM Oil and Gas Association. Cravens' replacement will be appointed by Governor Martinez because he represents part of two counties--Bernalillo and Sandoval. Their county commissions will forward names to her for consideration.....
It's getting close:
The first phase of construction of Spaceport America, New Mexico's $209 million commercial spaceflight launch complex, is 90 percent complete. Virgin Galactic, the spaceport's anchor tenant, plans to dedicate the terminal-hangar sometime in October.
And from Fox News:
The construction of a modern space center unexpectedly turned into an archaeological dig. Anderson said they have uncovered 23 archaeological sites dating back 10,000 years. Some of the findings include old tools and pieces of pottery.
“It really goes from the old frontier to the new frontier,” said Christine Anderson, executive director of the NM Spaceport Authority.
That reference to a "new frontier" reminds us of the Jack Kennedy years and its trademark optimism. That can come in handy right about now....
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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