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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pro Tem Battle: Lt. Gov Can't Vote But Mary Kay Says She Won't Need His Vote; Campos Says Fight Goes On, Plus: Martinez And Medicaid; No Bow To The Right 

Lt. Gov. Sanchez
The battle between Senators Pete Campos and Mary Kay Papen for Senate President Pro Tem has been so tight that wall-leaners have been wondering what happens if the Senate vote ended up a tie. Could Republican Lt. Governor John Sanchez then cast his vote for Democrat Mary Kay Papen--who is supported by the Republicans--and break the tie?

The answer is no. Sanchez cannot vote.

But Papen says no need to worry. She claims she has the necessary Dem votes to form a conservative coalition with the Republicans. She says enough conservative Dems to give here the 22 votes she needs in the 42 member body--as long as all 17 R's vote with her as expected.

Of course, votes of this sort can be volatile. Mary Kay could be bluffing and looking to pry loose more Dem votes. Campos says he fight to the end. His team sees the race as tied.

We recalled in a recent blog that there was a State Supreme Court ruling back in the 80's that blocked the Light Guv from voting on pro tem. But to make sure, we had our Legal Beagles go back to the archives and dig out that ruling. It rules definitively that the lieutenant governor--who presides over the Senate--can't vote in the pro tem battle.

Here are the money lines from that high court ruling that came in 1987 when the contest for pro tem ended in a tie and then-GOP Lt. Governor Jack Stahl voted to break it:

As Lieutenant Governor and President of the Senate of the state of New Mexico...the Honroable Jack Stahl is not a member of the Senate nor a member of the Legislative Department. But instead by constitutional dictate a member of the Executive Department of the State of New Mexico. As a member of the Executive Department (Stahl) is prohibited by...the New Mexico Constitution from participating in the adoption of rules of procedure of the New Mexico Senate and in the election of president pro tempore of the New Mexico Senate or in the selection of officers by the Legislative Department...

We've posted the entire 1987 court ruling here.

It was a crazy year 1987. ABQ Dem Senator Manny Aragon formed an alliance with ABQ GOP Senator Les Houston. They wanted to oust Pro Tem Ike Smalley and become "co-pro tems." The tie vote that resulted was broken by Stahl in favor of Aragon and Houston, but overturned by the Supreme Court and Smalley was reinstated.

SIDEBAR

Manny Aragon
We cracked a joke back in the day about that bizarre alliance between Aragon and Houston. We called it "Manny Houston."

Houston, an attorney, who also served as a Bernalillo County commissioner, went on to become a lobbyist. He is mostly retired these days. Aragon went on to accumulate even more power in the Senate, becoming one of its most legendary leaders in history, but his run ended badly. Today he is serving prison time in Colorado on corruption charges related to the construction of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court building.

As for the current pro tem battle, it is important because the pro tem has great influence over the committee assignments for state Senators. For example, Papen has pledged to keep conservative Dem John Arthur Smith as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Campos has not.

The vote for pro tem will take place Tuesday--the opening day of the 60 day legislative session. All 42 Senators vote, but in the past some have voted "present," making perilous any firm predictions on who has the votes to win the Campos-Papen race. 

NORTHERN BANK TROUBLE

Isn't the banking crisis supposed to be over? Not in New Mexico--and especially not in the north where layoffs and budget cuts at Los Alamos Labs are no doubt playing a major role in news like this:

Los Alamos National Bank faces the new year under supervision of a federal agency that found “unsafe or unsound banking practices relating to management and board supervision, credit underwriting, credit administration and deficiencies in internal controls.” Bank President Steve Wells said the problems reflect Northern New Mexico’s lagging commercial real estate market and the fact that Los Alamos National Bank has been one of its largest lenders...

A TAXING THOUGHT

Reader Steve Dick writes:

 Joe, About cutting corporate taxes. If the Governor really wants to help stimulate things, she should deal with the Gross Receipts Tax fiasco that is probably more hurtful than anything. Very few states charge sales tax on services and that is essentially what happens with the GRT. Working in engineering in NM, we were constantly at a disadvantage against firms from other states when our pricing was part of the evaluation process because we were automatically 5-6 percent higher because of that tax.  While it was something that was passed on to the consumer and didn't directly effect corporate profits, sometimes we would eat the tax in order to try to win projects.  That hurt and it hurt a lot at times. It is a stimulus that would help substantially, especially considering the brain drain that happens in New Mexico.

We're with you, Steve, and have long urged that lawmakers look to reduce the gross receipts tax which can impact job creation as you described. The corporate income tax that Susana wants to cut? Not so much.

MARTINEZ AND MEDICAID

The Guv did take a solid step toward putting the state on better economic footing when she rejected pleas from the far right wing of her party and agreed to the expansion of Medicaid in the state.

The lion's share of the expansion will be paid for by Washington.

Some of her conservative gubernatorial colleagues around the USA have rejected the expansion which will bring millions of matching funds into the state as the Medicaid rolls are increased. It was a pragmatic decision from the Governor, smart both economically and politically. The state has one of the largest percentage of uninsured citizens in the USA.

And the decision showed her to be flexible, not a character trait she has been known for. The expansion of the federally-funded Medicaid health insurance program for low-income New Mexicans--part of Obama's health care reforms--will kick in with force in 2014--the year Martinez seeks re-election. But the real pay-off is going to be how this decision opens the health care doors to a large swath of New Mexico's under served population, invigorates the health care industry and in turn stimulates the beleaguered economy here.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013
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