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Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Legislative Session Gamed Out As Lawmakers Prep For Tuesday Opener, And: What Are The Top 5 Sports Stories Since Statehood? 

It's Martin Luther King Day and just about everything is shut down in observance of the holiday, but it's a working day for many of New Mexico's 112 legislators. They are scurrying to make final arrangements for the 30 day legislative session that kicks off tomorrow at the storied Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

(New Mexican preview here, ABQ Journal preview (subscription) here and the AP preview here.)

There's a little more money for lawmakers to divvy up than in most recent sessions but not much (around $250 million). The budget battle since Gov. Martinez took power has been more like a sparring than a boxing match between her and the Dem-controlled Legislature. There will be mostly soft punches thrown again between the two as they hammer out what appears to be pretty like-minded budgets, says this AP analysis:

Lawmakers and Martinez will work out a budget deal without too much difficulty. But the governor's tax cuts face problems because many Democrats want to use available revenues to shore up programs that were cut when the state recently faced budget shortfalls. Modest tax relief for veterans could have the best chance of success. One option for lawmakers is to scale back existing tax breaks and use the money to offer new economic development incentives sought by the governor.

It may be tame going when it comes to hammering out a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 but it could get wild again when Gov. Martinez tries for the third time to push through a measure to repeal the law that allows an undocumented immigrant to get a state driver's license. Again, the AP analysis:

The governor's license proposal should pass the House, as it did last year, but it will be a close vote in the Senate if the measure makes it that far. The governor's measure failed in the Senate last year when only two Democrats joined Republicans in support of the legislation. But election-year pressures on lawmakers could improve the governor's chances of picking up Democratic support.

The wire service take is tinged with a bit more optimism than other observers who see Martinez getting her third strike on her repeal effort.

STILL A HOT BUTTON

Let's flash back to the 2010 NM GOP Guv nomination battle because it is still relevant today. Remember when Susana Martinez
busted foe Allen Weh for being soft on illegal immigration and his polling numbers began to collapse? Well, immigration is still a hot button issue in a very conservative Republican Party. From the national stage:

Mitt Romney plans to hammer Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry on immigration in a bid to win over conservative voters in South Carolina, where the GOP front-runner has a narrow lead in polls...Appeals on immigration could be a winning formula in South Carolina, where the Legislature earlier this year passed a strict anti-illegal immigration law modeled on Arizona’s measure, which the Justice Department has sought to block.


An operating principle for Martinez and her pollsters ever since she assumed office is that the R's can take over the state House this year by using the driver's license repeal--the ultimate wedge issue--as the stake through Democratic hearts that go against her. But the R's are not taking back the Senate so she is still going to be confronted with divided government--no matter what happens with the House elections--for the rest of her term.

For not a few New Mexicans the Martinez-Legislature gridlock has been welcome. They don't want state government to do much of anything. Others see lost opportunity and a state that continues to founder.

THE SPORTS BEAT
Donisthorpe
He's not only a political junkie, he's a sports junkie. So it was no surprise to see Bruce Donisthorpe's come with his five top sports stories of the first 100 years of our statehood. See if you agree with him:


1. 1970, New Mexico State Aggies Men's Basketball team advances to NCAA Final Four in College Park Maryland, losing to -- you guessed it -- UCLA in the semifinals. NMSU won their ticket to the event by defeating Drake in the Midwest Regionals.

2. 1966 completion of construction and dedication of "The Pit" at the University of New Mexico. One of Sports Illustrated's Top 20 National Sports Venues of the 20th Century!

3. 1971 establishment of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, our State's top tourist event which features several balloon competitions and exhibitions.

4. 1983 NCAA Final Four at The Pit in Albuquerque. North Carolina State upsets Houston in the championship game.

5. Unser family dominance of the Indy 500 events throughout the 1970s and beyond.

Republican Donisthorpe is a veteran federal lobbyist who is a former staffer to GOP Gov. Garrey Carruthers and GOP Congressman Joe Skeen. Bruce is also the son of former Farmington area State Senator Christine Donisthorpe, another student of New Mexico history. Wonder if she helped out with that sports list?

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