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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday Blogging: Our "Wondering About" List, Plus: Driver's Licenses Forever; State Rep. Caught in Morass, And: Blog Pot Debate; We're Still Outnumbered, Also: Say What? Steve Pearce Touted As GOP Hispanic Answer 

Things to wonder about....

Will the US Justice Department expand its civil rights investigation of the ABQ police department into a criminal investigation? And if it does, what will be the impact, if any, on the 2013 ABQ mayoral race....

Will the Navajo Nation be heavy with contributions and endorsements for Governor Martinez for her '14 re-election now that she is pressing on the accelerator at the Roundhouse to get Navajo gaming compacts approved?....

Is the citizen petition the new anti-veto? Citizens in ABQ petitioned to get a minimum wage measure on last November's ballot as well as the city charter amendment that was approved this week by special mail-in election. The Republican mayor would have vetoed both measures, but he was dealt out of the process. More to come?....

Will UNM Lobo basketball coach Steve Alford be a victim of his own success? He is one of the better coaches in school history and that has made expectations for the team soar too high for the upcoming NCAA tournament. If the Lobos don't make the trip to the "Sweet Sixteen--a trip they have never taken--will Alford be scorned? ABQ often has a funny way of viewing basketball success....

DID YOU KNOW....?

The state budget for the year that starts July 1 is $5.9 billion and it's getting ever closer to the Guv's desk, signaling that this 60 day legislative history is near the end. Where does all the money go? Here's the list:

$2.567 billion for Public Education (increase of $112.1 million or 4.6 percent)
790.6 million for Higher Education (increase of $32.9 million or 4.3 percent)
929.9 million for Medicaid (increase of $24.8 million or 2.7 percent)
301.5 million for Dept. of Health (increase of 9.5 million or 3.3 percent)

DRIVER'S LICENSES FOREVER

Rep. Garcia Richard
Well, the licenses may be forever for freshman Los Alamos area Dem State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard.

She may have made her first mistake when during the 2012 campaign she swung to the right and to Susana's side on repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrant. She represents a swing district and thought it to be the savvy move. Then she goes to her first legislative session and is all over the map on the matter and the R's are all over her--sharpening their long knives for the '14 campaign. Take a look:

Garcia-Richard continues to dig a deeper hole for herself on the driver’s license issue. Last year, Garcia-Richard campaigned on repealing the law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in New Mexico, and during a call of the House last week, she appears to have changed her mind. She initially voted with Republican Members of the House to discharge House Bill 606—the driver’s license compromise—out of House Labor and Human Resources Committee, but then switched her vote to align with her party on subsequent discharge motions.

Garcia Richard--who defends herself here--barely defeated Republican Jim Hall for the seat--51.2% to 48.8. R's salivate at the thought of taking it back in '14.

The driver's license repeal may have lost some mojo because it has become like an irritating song that gets in your head and won't go away, but waffling ala Richard--no matter the issue--is always fodder for the campaign mill. You think Jim Hall is warming up in the bull pen? You betcha.

LEGALIZE OR NOT?

We're getting plenty of email over the skepticism we expressed about legalizing marijuana in a state like New Mexico where drug abuse and deaths are rampant and where drug-related crimes are off the charts. Reader Oliver comes with this:

Marijuana legalization has absolutely nothing to do with "heroin deaths." Nobody dies from marijuana; if anything, it can save the lives of people with certain diseases. You know what drug is already "widely available" and which is responsible for countless cases of violence, liver failure, driving fatalities, spousal abuse, etc. Yep, alcohol! Available on nearly every street corner and dispensed in bars (legal death dispensaries) with nice parking lots outside so that the inebriated can hit the road immediately. A sane society does not allow alcohol while banning marijuana. We either legalize weed or we should start talking about prohibition (Yeah right, how much corporate money does alcohol represent?). I know many well-to-do professionals (of all political stripes) who smoke weed in the Abq area. I don't know anyone who shoots heroin! To conflate them is very 1950s :)

We're not conflating marijuana and heroin, Oliver. Just making the argument that legalizing marijuana will increase consumption of another mind-altering substance among a population that has shown itself vulnerable to abusing such substances--more so than just about any state in the USA. Would the effect of that be completely innocuous? Just asking.

AND MORE ON THIS

From reader Mario Hernandez-Gerety:

It is logically inaccurate...to relate the legalization of marijuana to the problems associated with heroin addiction. The two drugs are as far apart as any two drugs can be. 

When was the last time any person overdosed and died because of marijuana? Heck, when was the last time a person got high and crashed into oncoming traffic, killing innocent bystanders (as with the rampant DWI problem here in New Mexico)?...

Not to mention the fact that there is zero evidence that legalizing marijuana will somehow make it "more available." As a 27-year old male, trust me when I say that I can get marijuana much more easily right now than I can get a six-pack of beer at the grocery store..

Well, maybe you can get marijuana easier than other folks can get a six pack, Mario, but a lot of people can't or won't because it happens to be against the law. That cuts down on use.

And isn't decriminalizing possession of small amounts of weed enough? Why all of a sudden this renewed rush for legalization? We went through this with Republican Governor Johnson in the 90's. It gobbled up endless hours of the public affairs agenda, and for what?

We said we'd try to keep an open mind on this and the emails are persuasive. We just don't see anything that would make us put this at the top of the state's agenda of pressing matters.

STRANGE DAYS INDEED

Rep. Steve Pearce
The weirdest story of the week award so far goes to the Wall Street Journal for a front-page piece about how the beliefs of GOP southern NM conservative Congressman Steve Pearce supposedly appeal to a large swath of Hispanic voters in his conservative district.

It's a piece that will make you chuckle if you follow Steve's career. He gets elected to his safe GOP district with hardly any opposition so judging his Hispanic appeal is a nonstarter, but conservatives seem to be working for a way to hang on to the notion that the R's don't have to change their very conservative policies in order to appeal to Hispanics. They do. But we--and a number of readers--did get a kick watching Steve on the video in the report where he agrees that he is the man of the hour when it comes to attracting Hispanic votes to the GOP. Really? Where was all that Hispanic support when Steve suffered a landslide defeat for US Senate against Tom Udall in 2008? Oh, they forgot that one.

The rumblings over Pearce's alleged appeal to Hispanics does raise the question of what is happening in the southern district. It is getting more Hispanic and Dems think they might have a shot at taking it later in the decade. ( Did you see where the Lea County population now has a 52% Hispanic population).

Steve is a respected, authentic voice of unapologetic conservatism. There are many good things to say about him, but to cast him in the role of recruiter for the Hispanic vote is like asking a pacifist to recruit Marines.

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