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Monday, February 04, 2013

Speaker Martinez: Two Weeks In So How's He Doing? Plus: The Conservative Coalition Lives (And Rules) State Senate, Also: Private On-Line School Plan Draws Scrutiny  

Speaker Ken Martinez
After two weeks of wielding the gavel new state House Speaker Ken Martinez has established "firm control" report a number of wall-leaners, Alligators and other assorted characters that populate the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. One of them colorfully says:

You might call him "The Stopper." Major elements of the Governor's agenda are already being put in a shallow grave with full burial not far away."

The speakership of Ben Lujan--who preceded Martinez--was weakened in its final years. Republicans had enough membership to threaten Lujan with a coalition of R's and conservative Dems. But Dems picked up two seats in the November election. That and more new faces in the House has strengthened Martinez's hand.

Still, there are always questions when the mantle of power shifts. Would Martinez establish command and control early and without wavering? It appears he has.

Martinez has also proven adept at taking advantage of opportunities that come his way. For example, when a Carlsbad GOP representative proposed an off-the-wall abortion bill that seemed to outlaw abortions for a woman who was raped, Martinez's operatives were pretty much all over it. The R's were hurt.

We're also told by our legislative experts that the committee assignments of wayward Dem Rep. Sandra Jeff are notable. They aren't good and they are a result of Martinez enforcing discipline in his party's caucus.  Jeff was the most prominent Dem thorn in the side of Speaker Lujan, refusing to support him or key Dem legislation. She apparently has some amends to make before getting out of the Martinez dog house.

SPEAKER'S HEADACHE

 While Martinez may be the stopper in chief, his headache remains getting a Dem agenda through the Senate and up to the Governor. In the Senate, a coalition of R's and conservative Dems hold sway, putting the kibosh on any liberal legislation that Martinez could usher out of his House with relative ease.

Any spin that says the Democrats in the Senate are somehow united after their bruising battle over selecting a president pro tem is just that--spin. Our Alligators are on the big story, even as it plays out under the media radar and on somewhat obscure legislation. From just outside the Senate chamber, we get our report:  

Joe, I was surprised to see no reporting on this but the Senate conservative Dem coalition fired their first shot and it ruffled a lot of feathers in the Roundhouse.A bill requiring the labeling of genetically modified food passed the Senate Public Affairs Committee Tuesday night. As the Senate was reading committee reports Wednesday morning, GOP Leader Stuart Ingle made a motion to reassign it to the Senate Corporations Committee. Among the Democrats voting with the R's were Senators Sapien, Papen, Munoz.


 It was a relatively minor bill, already set to die in Senate Judiciary and sure to die on the floor, so the vote was more symbolic than pragmatic, but it did show the coalition's muscle and it led to a heated Senate Democratic caucus meeting Wednesday afternoon.  

Another interesting twist is this: The daughter of Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen is the lobbyist for the restaurant association which opposed the bill. The conservative coalition is alive and well and they showed it on this bill. It's very frustrating for those of us who worked so hard to elect many of them instead of their rivals who were allied with the Governor. 

SANCHEZ AND MARTINEZ

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez has been holding news conferences with Speaker Martinez to show Democratic unity in this session, but the truth of the matter is that House Dems are unified behind Martinez, but in the Senate the Republicans and conservative Dems run the show.

Sanchez can kill legislation but he can't give it birth. Democrats are unable to pursue an aggressive economic agenda because it can't get through both Houses. That's why we are seeing a diluted jobs package and not much when it comes to stimulating the  economy with state investment.

Outside of the Spaceport liability bill and perhaps a compromise on driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, Santa Fe is pretty much where is has been the past two years--in gridlock.

THE EDUCATION BEAT 

Hanna Skandera
A lot of reader interest in this one:  

Education chief Hanna Skandera, overruling the state Public Education Commission, will allow a new all-online charter school to open in the fall...The school will be called New Mexico Connections Academy and will contract with the online, for-profit curriculum company Connections Academy. The school aims to serve students in grades K-12...  

Skandera’s decision came as a national nonprofit, In the Public Interest, released thousands of emails between former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundation and policymakers in several states, including New Mexico. Connections Academy is one of several online education companies that donates money to Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, an organization Skandera turns to for advice on reform initiatives.

In response readers send this investigative report about on-line schools in Maine:  

In many states, the companies have also advanced their interests through their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council. While ALEC claims to be a nonpartisan professional association for state legislators, critics say it is really a corporate-funded conduit allowing businesses to write legislation for compliant lawmakers. Virtually all of its funding comes from its corporate members--which include K12 Inc. and Pearson’s Connections Education--who have collective veto power over the text of its model bills, which cover everything from “right to work” labor laws to “stand your ground” gun laws. They also in effect pay the expenses of many legislative members to attend meetings.this investigative report about on-line schools in Maine...

This school privatization move reminds us when we had our last Republican Governor. Remember in the 90's how Gary Johnson privatized a portion of the state prison system.

ROUNDABOUT

Reader Martha Buddecke writes of a hot and heavy debate that we will likely be hearing more about in the October city election:   

Joe, The City is about to spend $1.6 Million to build at one-lane roundabout at the intersection of Rio Grande and Candelaria. I have lived off the northwest corner of this intersection since 1983 and this will be a disaster for our neighborhood and the entire North Valley.  This is the thoroughfare for all of Rio Grande Boulevard, clear up to Alameda. Virtually all of the streets on the west side of Rio Grande are dead end streets. This intersection is used by students and parents to and from Valley High. 

Most of the money is federal, some state and about $500K from the City. This is far from the most dangerous intersection in the City. Roxana Meyers, the new city councilor for our district, is trying to determine the true support for this project by posting a survey at www.ABQSoul.org. Anyone who has an opinion on this should access the site and post a response.   

THE BOTTOM LINES
 

One of the Alligators call this latest fund-raising missive from the state Republican Party "one last cynical fundraising hit from the grassroots before the Governor and (political adviser) Jay McCleskey capitulate":

 Instead of supporting a repeal of a law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses, Democrats voted against it and instead focused on trying to pass a law that would have allowed a parent to transfer a gun to minor child. As Republicans, we stand for freedom but also understand that one of the government's first priorities is keeping the people of New Mexico safe. It's too bad that those across the aisle don't share our concerns. Donate $25, $50, or $100 today..

The "capitulation" the Gator speaks of is the compromise the Guv has spoke of on this wedge issue. She seems prepared to sign off on a bill that does not call for the outright repeal of the licenses. But the capitulation is also smart politics. The Guv needs something to campaign on for her re-election in '14, doesnt' she?

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