Friday, March 15, 2013

Manic End To Session '13; Guv Wins Tax Cuts And They Go Home, No Special Session, Plus: Pros And Cons On Dr. No, And: Blog Pot Debate Still Smokin'  

The 2013 session of the New Mexico Legislature adjourned Saturday, with the last minute passage of a big tax bill that includes corporate tax cuts Governor Martinez wanted. The tax cuts were attached to the "Breaking Bad" bill that gives tax breaks to companies filming certain TV shows in the state. Martinez says she will sign the measure and the state budget and there will  be no special session. HB77--the gun show loophole measure--died in the final moments of the session.  The lengthy and complicated tax package was barely debated in the House which received it from the Senate with only minutes to go before noon adjournment. The major legislation that passed and died is listed here.

  • APD Chief Ray Schultz announced Friday he will retire this year. Hours later an ABQ jury awarded a family over $10 million in damages for a wrongful APD shooting death.

  • Geez...Looking around the blog today, do you get the idea someone really wants to close the gun show loophole in New Mexico? The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns," a national group whose members include Santa Fe Mayor Dave Coss, are putting some last minute heat on the Legislature.

    The bill that would require a background check for every gun sold at gun shows in New Mexico has already passed the House and Governor Susana says if it gets to her desk she will sign it. Late Thursday supporters scored a major victory when they got the bill through Senate Judiciary. Not it's on to the Senate floor...with the clock ticking loudly..

    Meanwhile, Governor Martinez was stumped when she was asked on talk radio about "HB77," the gun bill she has said she supported. Our Alligators report that several callers noticed the gubernatorial lapse and pointed it out. No doubt the Guv is juggling a lot of numbers, but why wasn't there a staffer on the line with her ready to scribble down some assistance when and if needed...

    And she didn't seem much on her game in this video as she tried to explain why she is so upset with the budget that was approved by all the Senate Republicans. There were talking points and key phrases that seemed focus-group inspired. What seems authentic is her facial expressions and manner, but not the words. No, not the words. Susana is very heavily handled and she does not seem to have broken out of that bubble around her and taken personal ownership of her governorship. The "Fifth Floor" orchestrates and run the show....

    The budget. Here today, gone tomorrow? This is the last full day of the 60 day legislative session which is slated to adjourn at noon Saturday. The main job of the 112 lawmakers is to craft a budget to run the state. The one they passed is for $5.9 billion and as we write late Thursday we are still awaiting action from the Guv who says she will veto it, forcing a special session at a cost of $40,000 a day. But first the budget needs to be sent up to her desk by the Legislature. KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson reports:

    Look for a special session sometime before the middle of May. That's mainly because the public schools will need budgets in place so they can do contracts with teachers and buy books and equipment and supplies for the school year that starts in August.

    Many of our Senior Alligators have been watching these things for decades. They remind us that last minute deals are possible right up until noon Saturday. Still, that doesn't mean things don't look dicey...

    As we pointed out yesterday special sessions in which you don't know what the results are going to be beforehand have tripped up more than one Governor. Sometimes it's best to declare victory and go home. Martinez is popular and that's when the danger of overreaching appears.


    In her newspaper op-ed this week, the Governor states that “Our congressional delegation and I have met on various issues…”

    Funny, we don't recall any news releases or photos of the Governor meting with members of the congressional delegation. Just how many times has she met with each member of the delegation? Maybe an enterprising newsman can find out.


    It's pretty simple: a big election turnout in New Mexico favors the Dems and a small one favors the R's. But the legislative session in Santa Fe hasn't exactly lighted Dem base voters on fire. A reader comes with another possibility that could get them concerned and prompt them to vote in the '14 election:

    Joe, great blog and analysis as always. Especially this:

    "Clearly, Martinez does not want to rile up the Dems and create a large turnout election in which she would be threatened."

    I'm wondering this news that, despite promises and legal requirements to the contrary, the Department of Energy is again planning to ship large quantities of nuclear sludge to NM could emerge as one of these turnout drivers.

    Senator Udall was quick to urge caution on these plans, but Governor Martinez has been silent. Could WIPP emerge again as the big political issue it was in the 80's and 90's? It's certainly not going away and is likely to only get hotter (pun intended) as DOE and NRC look again for a site to dispose of the nation's high level radioactive waste from commercial nuclear power plants.


    Our coverage of State Sen. John Arthur Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and one of the more powerful legislators in Santa Fe,  drew a number of responses. Here's one of them:

    Joe, you quoted a source in Santa Fe as saying:

    Publicly Senators complain about John Arthur, but in private and in caucus realize he alone really knows the budget, tax policy and economic issues, and they uniformly defer to him. Unfortunately nobody else in the Dem caucus knows these issues

    I do not understand why Smith does not reflect on the economic and social conditions in the state if he is the all powerful expert. It would seem that he would try something new if 20 years of work and experience got New Mexico where it is today. The expert's ideas are not working. A wise person would change course not dig in. Does he not see it is time to go in a different direction?

    Why hold onto a trust if everything else is collapsing? It's like saying, my house will go into foreclosure next month, but I still have $10,000 in the bank for an emergency. I need to keep that money in savings in case I end up homeless. then I can get a hotel room.

    And in defense of John Arthur comes this letter to the editor in his hometown paper in Deming. It's in response to an op-ed piece in which former Dem Lt. Governor Denish roasted the Senator:

    As a former New Mexico Lt. Governor under Bill Richardson, it probably makes sense that Diane Denish would attack Senator Smith regarding his fiscal integrity and vigilant stewardship over the state coffers. After all, unlike Senator Smith, she had no problem with Bill Richardson stacking the State Investment Council with his (at best) unqualified cronies who eventually ended up costing us millions. She was also silent when the same guy used our money to build what amounts to a commuter train for Santa Fe bureaucrats and a spaceport for international billionaires, both of which are still costing us money we don't have. Now, she piously and passionately advocates on behalf of a program that, despite her alleged prior "painful awareness of the needs throughout New Mexico" she somehow still managed to ignore during her entire term in office. For the record, Senator John Arthur Smith has done far more for the Healthy Start Program than anyone, including his hypocritical and self-serving critics like Diane Denish.


    Attorney General Gary King has already announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor for 2014, but this legislative session he has been as quiet as a church mouse. He scored no points and lost none, but when you are running as far behind as he is, that is not a win.

    Despite Martinez's strength, she is not invulnerable. Her chief weakness being the recessionary economy and the Democratic tilt of the state--especially in big Bernalillo County, But she's only vulnerable if someone starts putting the heat on her.

    Gary King

    King did make some news this week when he confirmed to the AP that his office is taking a look at the mysterious death of civil rights attorney Mary Han. She was found dead in her car in her garage over two years ago, but the case has never been solved.

    Police were widely criticized for allowing top city officials into the home where cell phone photos of Hans dead body were taken and where police procedures may have been violated. That's why this quote struck us as bizarre:

    Assistant City Attorney Kathryn Levy said APD’s investigation was complete and thorough. “Allegations ... are just that. They must be proved, and the evidence will not support the allegations,” she said. Levy said the police on scene were respectful and professional. 

    Respectful and professional? Come on, Kathryn. You've been spending way too much time drinking Kool-Aid with Chief Schultz.


    It's true that the many "pork" projects authorized by the Legislature this year will create only temporary construction jobs, but the hope is that the economic activity created will create some momentum as related business benefit from the construction. We're looking at over $270 million in pork barrel spending approved by the Legislature (before any Guv vetoes).

    ..Approximately $273.7 million for both state-owned and local projects statewide ($222.4 in Severance Tax Bonds) and $51.2 million from “other state funds.” The job creation package includes capital outlay for facilities statewide that are in dire need of repair, renovation, and/or restoration. They include senior centers, dam repair, infrastructure and improvements at courts, colleges, and correctional facilities ..


    Well, we don't know how great it has been but our blog debate on marijuana legalization for NM it has been entertaining and informative. It started out with most emails disputing our position that a state like ours--already confronted with widespread substance abuse problems--really doesn't need this issue at the top of its agenda. Now we are hearing from the other side. Here's reader Bernadette Chavez:

    Both my niece and nephew started using pot in high school. It took several years, but they soon advanced to heroin. Marijuana is a gateway drug.  Anyone who says it is not, is a fool.  Ask any drug counselor and they will have the stats to back the fact that hard core drug users started with marijuana. 

    I am in agreement though, that medical marijuana has its advantages to those who need it but I believe it should be prescribed by the medical profession, just as opiates are prescribed to those who need it.  Both have medical advantages, but both can be abused if used for non medical reasons. This state cannot control the drunk drivers how are we going to control the pot drivers?  Let's watch and see what happens in Colorado before we jump the gun.

    Larry Gioannini says it's time to give up on the drug war:

    How many more decades of a failed War On Drugs before we try something else; anything else? The illegal drug industry is too big and profitable to both countries to be messed with much. It's said you know you're still loosing the War on Drugs as long as the government measures drugs in pounds and money in dollars and the cartels measure both in tons. It's hypocritical to worry about the mind altering potential of marijuana and ignore the devastating effects of alcohol in this state.

    Reader Kevin Garcia comes at the issue from a different angle:

    Even though 52% of New Mexicans are now favor of ending this prohibition against cannabis, our Governor has in fact been fighting against the highly acclaimed NM medical cannabis program here in New Mexico.

    The New Mexico medical cannabis program run by the state Department of Health is considered one of the best medical cannabis programs in the United States, and yet the "Debate" on cannabis here in New Mexico is to keep Governor Martinez from killing a very compassionate program for those who suffer from Cancer, ALS, MS, Crohn's, PTSD, severe pain and a host of other severe health problems!


    From former ABQ Dem Mayor Jim Baca:

    I have a suggestion for the ABQ Journal. They keep putting a sticker ad on the front page of the paper, right over the masthead and teasers for stories. Would it be possible to put that sticker over the editorial on the Opinion Page? Most people aren't reading that craziness anymore...

    They don't forget, do they?

    Thanks for stopping by this week.

    This is the home of New Mexico politics, Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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