Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Session '13: The Midway Point Of A 60 Day Run, Plus; Kenny The Compromiser; Too Much Olive Branch And Not Enough Paddle? And: ABQ Special Election Debate 

The 2013 New Mexico legislative session hasn't exactly grabbed Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico by their collars and screamed: "Look at us!" No, it's pretty much more of the same what is coming out of Santa Fe.

The narrative driven by the conservative coalition in the state Senate and embodied by its leader--State Senator John Arthur Smith--says we have little money and there's not a whole lot we can do about the systemic problems facing this enchanted land. He has the money line--literally--on this 60 day session:

God only knows, I know about the need out there. … (But) somebody’s got to try and watch the purse strings.”

For many of us in the bleacher seats, the legislative session effectively ended on its first day. That's when the battle for Senate leadership was won by the conservative coalition of Republicans and nominal Democrat Smith and his handful of allies, including Mary Kay Papen who was chosen Senate President Pro Tem over Pete Campos. Campos was the choice of the Dem caucus which is supposedly the majority party in the 42 member Senate.,

Ever since it has been baby steps. A little bit of gun control, a little bit of driver's licenses and that's about it. To use a well-worn phrase where's the "bold change"in the face of the economic retrenchment and ongoing (and apparently worsening) social conditions crisis the state faces?

Our "majority-minority" state is each year rapidly adding more and more minorities. Are our politics at this 60 day legislative session seriously addressing why they are failing to advance educationally and economically?

God only knows, we know about the need out there.


Speaker Martinez
When you are the state's majority party but have been couped by the conservatives in your own party in the state Senate, here's the kind of stuff you say to try to explain why you can't get any major legislation passed. From the House Democrats:

Democrats are committed to compromise, and will continue to work across the aisle to find solutions to the serious challenges facing New Mexico. New Mexicans do not want to see their legislators in Santa Fe act like those in Washington D.C., only focused on scoring political points. They want to see their elected officials come together and get things done. 

Hey, sending the Governor legislation that she doesn't agree with is not just "scoring political points." It is laying down important differences in policy on the future direction of this state. Isn't that what the Dems are supposed to be doing since they claim to so urgently disagree with the Republican Governor?

Note to Speaker Kenny Martinez whose instincts for compromise are honorable and if he can get something tangible, sign us up. But the Governor just got done trying to beat the snot out of you and your brethern in the November election. You won. Remember? She needs to look like the agent of compromise to get re-elected. You don't. What is your candidate for Governor supposed to campaign on? How about your own Democratic representatives? What do they say they stand for? All the stuff that they are not going to vote on? 

Let's be blunt. If the Democratic Party in Santa Fe wants to lay down unifying principles and seriously pursue legislation that codifies those principles, it needs to do so. Then it needs to slap the back sides of Democratic Blue Dog Senators John Arthur Smith, John Sapien, George Munoz, Clemente Sanchez and Mary Kay Papen when they don't go along. That's how you build power, a party and enthusiasm for change.

There was an election in which Obama, Heinrich and Lujan Grisham won here by landslide margins and you picked up seats in the state House. That's a mandate. You need forceful, aggressive leadership to carry it out in the face of a small, but disciplined Republican Party and a handful of Senate renegades.

Speaker Martinez is between that proverbial rock and a hard place. He wants to show progress in moving the state forward, but he has to be careful not to give away the store in the process.

He has to keep in mind that for two years the Fourth Floor has treated compromise like leprosy. If they want it now, he deserves to get some compromise from them on legislation that matters to him and his party. As one of our Alligators wrote in frustration here recently, so far all the talk of compromise has been on legislation that the Governor wants. 

Go ahead and work for the deal but be careful, Kenny. Jay and the boys could "compromise" you right out of your Speaker's chair in 2014.


Newsman Steve Terrell comes with what has to be an annual lament about Santa Fe:

The Legislature should drastically restrict the number of memorials and resolutions, which take up way too much time in both the Senate and the House.

And newsman John Robertson comes with the nuts and bolts update:

Here is a rough breakdown of bill subjects as the Legislature plods toward its usual frantic finish. (All counts are approximate): Alcohol and drugs: roughly 61 bills; children and families, 50; crime and penalties, 75; economic development and tourism, 29; elections, 35; energy and natural resources, 30; environment, 20; licensure, 27; mental health and disabilities; 20; motor vehicles, nearly 100; Native American affairs, 37; water and water rights, 50.


A sign of the times:

On Monday ABQ Route 66 Malt Shop owner Eric Szeman was featured in a front-pager on how the city is working to change zoning rules so he can put up a neon sign at his Nob Hill restaurant that he previously used to attract business at his former location. At the same time, TV news was carrying a report of how Szeman is refusing to comply with the new minimum wage for restaurant workers that was approved by 66% of the voters in the November election. The city says the employees will have to sue if they want the wages they are entitled to under the law. The change in the neon sign regulations will have to be approved by the City Council.


Reader Alex Curtas writes of the Republican opposition heard here to the proposal to change the percentage of votes a candidate for Mayor of ABQ must achieve to avoid a run-off election:

It's interesting to note that the Bernalillo County GOP doesn't actually want to engage with the issue at hand--i.e. changing the City Charter to better reflect the will of ABQ residents in municipal elections.

Only in passing (in their email) do they mention what the election is actually about. Presumably this is because they don't want people thinking too hard about whether 50% of the vote should be required in order to win an election. That's the issue at hand: Should public officials continue to be elected with 40% of the vote or should it be raised to 50%? Most people are likely to say (and of course the  GOP knows this): "I think whoever wins in a municipal election should actually be elected by a majority of the people." Thus, the BernCo GOP are actually the ones who want "a select few...to control who wins city elections in Albuquerque" (though the irony of this is not something they're likely to recognize).

The whole point of changing the City Charter in this manner is that a select few should not be the ones deciding elections--a majority of the voting population should be the ones doing that. It's called democracy.

It's hard to see how requiring 50% of the vote be achieved in order to win an election is "an obvious ploy by AFSCME and their liberal allies to take over city government." Changing the charter in this way will be more reflective of the will of the people, not less.

The city is conducting a mail-in election on the measure. The results will be announced March 11.


In a first draft Monday, we blogged that Adam Feldman had managed the 2009 campaign of Mayor Berry. Actually, it was Feldman's wife--Dana Feldman--who was Berry's campaign manager.

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