Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Final Hours Of Session '14 And We Are Monitoring The Action--Or Inaction; News And Exclusive Analysis Of The Budget, Marijuana, Early Childhood And More, Plus: Readers Debate "COPS" Coming Back 

We're monitoring the action as the 2014 New Mexico Legislature heads towards a Thursday noon adjournment. Some notes....

A move to legalize marijuana in New Mexico--ala Colorado--is dead for the session, but what if advocates forced such a vote in the city of ABQ in the November election? They could. We had recent ballot questions here on raising the minimum wage and restricting abortions that were brought about by petition signatures.

Pro-legalization forces could conceivably gather the signatures over the summer and the Dem majority on the council could put it on the November ballot. Such a vote would also drive up turnout in the liberal areas of the city and could have an impact on the Guv's race--if the race is put into play by then--as well as the battle for control of the state House.....

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith says he did not have "direct" talks with Governor Martinez over the state budget his committee approved. But that leaves "indirect" on the table and no one doubts that fiscal hawk Smith again was working a deal with the Fourth Floor. Hasn't that been the way since Susana took over?

Agree or disagree, Smith of Deming has carved out a power position in the Senate that is going to be long-remembered and compared to Senators Manny Aragon and Aubrey Dunn. The downside for him? If he seeks re-election in 2016, the 71 year old Smith will very likely face stiff Dem primary opposition. Here's one reason why...


Big Daddy
After enormous pressure from across the state, Smith on Monday finally agreed to have his committee vote on the constitutional amendment for early childhood education but as expected the amendment was sacked. But it was one of those half-assed, cover your ass Santa Fe votes. Let's explain. 

One reason Smith said he dragged his feet on giving the amendment a vote is because he wanted to "protect" his committee members from having to take a public position. Kind of like a big daddy. And true to his word, to the end Smith worked to protect the committee members from having to take a firm stand. Instead of voting up or down on the amendment, members on an 8-2 vote, tabled it.  With only hours left in the session it is dead. The two Dems who voted against tabling were Senators Morales and Rodriguez. Dem Senators Munoz, Cisneros, Smith and Campos voted to table.

It's interesting that Sen. Carlos Cisneros is wavering on letting voters decide if they want to use the $13 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood programs. Remember when Sen. Campos was making a run for Senate President Pro Tem last year? Word was that Cisneros was with him because Campos would oust Smith as chair of Senate Finance and replace him with Carlos. Now amendment supporters have to worry that even if Smith were to get out of the Senate, they will have the same obstruction problem with Cisneros of Questa.

Cisneros says he is upset with the public attacks on Smith by amendment supporters and that's a reason  he is bolting. But coming from the Spanish North where the human need is great may leave Cisneros  the odd man out. It's quite a way off but in 2016 Cisneros could be facing the same kind of attacks Smith has had to endure--from a Democratic primary opponent.


Such is the state of the New Mexico Democratic Party that Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, who sponsored the early childhood amendment and insists he backs it wholeheartedly, had the door of Senate Finance slammed so harshly in his face by Smith. Now you tell us who's really in charge of the New Mexico Senate when it comes to major legislation that could alter the state's future?

And then there's the spectacle this year of Senator Smith hijacking the state budget process from the House where by tradition the budget has originated for decades In any other state the House leadership would be burning mad and planning retaliation. Not here. You're damn right if you think House Speaker Ben Lujan is rolling over in his grave.


Breaking news for you from ABQ's South Valley. We've learned that if ABQ Rep. Ernie Chavez seeks re-election to his House seat, he will have at least one Democratic primary challenger. He's Lorenzo  Pino who works for the city of ABQ. He's announced his candidacy for Dist. 12 on Facebook.

Chavez, 76, has held the seat since 2004, but he has been unable to attend this year's legislative session because he is undergoing rehabilitation for what colleagues say is a spider bite. Chavez has not yet announced his re-election intentions. The seat is safe Dem so no R's need apply...


Some call her "Hanna Susana." That's Hanna Skandera, the controversial Secretary of Education designate. And she remains the "designate" after her nomination stalled.

We'll put aside the question of whether she is capable and qualified and should finally be confirmed by the Senate. But we do think this lengthy trial by fire might prepare her for another job---politician. Could you, for example, see her running someday for the ABQ congressional seat held by Rep. Lujan Grisham? Or has she worn out her NM welcome? Speaking of Grisham....

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham brings Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD-05) to Albuquerque today to visit Lavu Inc., a local technology company, and to discuss House Democrats’ “Make it in America” plan. They will tour Lavu which "creates point of sale systems for retailers. Their technology is used on iPads by many local restaurants as a more efficient, wireless system to complete transactions." 

Grisham is seeking her second, two year term this November. Two R's are competing to run against her. The seat is rated safe Dem.


A number of readers write to express their disapproval of Republican Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston's decision to allow the tabloid TV show "COPS" to shoot real life episodes in Bernalillo County. Charlie Bennett says:

If Sheriff Houston wishes to continue the current national perception of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and the state of NM as a haven for crime, drug/narcotics sales and stupidity then, by all means, encourage “COPS” to stick around to perpetuate this portrayal. Understand that this national perception only serves to invite more criminals to New Mexico. Sheriff Houston’s actions in this regard are an irresponsible betrayal of the public’s trust and an assault on the public safety of all citizens of Bernalillo Co. and surrounding communities.

Reader David Nava writes:

Joe, I could not believe my eyes when I read that the sheriff is bringing the TV show COPS back to Bernalillo County, which means Albuquerque. I remember very well a conversation with an elderly man years ago in New Orleans. When I told him I was from Albuquerque he said, "Man, that is one rough town." This coming from a man who lived in the murder capital of the United States. When I asked him why he had that idea he said he watched us on the TV show COPS. Am I the only one who thinks this is a terrible idea? As we struggle economically is this the thing we want to do to enhance our image nationally?

You are not the only one, David. BernCo Commissioners O'Malley and Stebbins have asked the sheriff to reconsider his decision. Hey, wonder what Dan's GOP primary opponent Scott Baird thinks of "COPS" coming back here?

Another reader claims--not without merit--that if the politicians around here had been doing their jobs they wouldn;t have to worry about what new episodes of COPS will reveal:

Joe, don't you think it oddly funny that Mayor Berry and some of the Bernalillo County Commissioners are worried that the TV show COPS will harm Albuquerque's reputation? Just what reputation are they worried about? The Dept. of Justice investigation into APD, the tens of millions in lawsuits, the Bernalillo County Treasurer's errant investments, the economic collapse of Albuquerque...Well...you get the point... If Berry, the City Council and the County Commission had been doing their jobs maybe they wouldn't be so ashamed to have TV cameras here.  It is the failed leadership of Berry, the Council and the Commission that we should be embarrassed about.


New Mexico's Michael Corwin, the political private eye, gets some national attention in an interesting read in Politico.

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