Thursday, February 20, 2014

Joe Biden Runs Into Buzzsaw Of La Politica; Dem Rep. Jeff Brushes Off VP's Plea As Minimum Wage Bill Tanks, Plus: More On Session '14 With Adjournment Set For Noon Today 

Rep. Jeff
VP Biden
It's not true that State Senator John Arthur Smith was seen toasting Rep. Sandra Jeff at the Rio Chama following the House defeat of the  constitutional amendment that would have asked voters to raise the state minimum wage to $8.30 an hour. But the two had good reason to do so.

John Arthur was the only Senate Dem to vote against the amendment when it was sent to the House. Jeff was only one of two House Dems in attendance who did not vote for it when it went up in flames on a 33 to 29 vote.

And get this. Not even the VP of the USA--Joe Biden--could bring the mercurial Jeff on board for what the Dems had described as their top legislative priority. His office confirms Joe called Jeff to urge her to support the amendment but when the vote was called Jeff had taken a walk. Dem Donna Irwin voted against. (Hey, maybe Jeff slipped out for that toast with John Arthur?)

Don't feel bad, Mr. Vice-President. Welcome to La Politica. If you have questions, ask Hillary. She's been down here a couple of times.

Naturally, tomatoes were immediately thrown at the House Democratic leadership which worked furiously last session to push through a controversial corporate income tax cut, but when it came to giving a lift to their base voters they could not come close to getting the job done.

Meanwhile, several R's lost their courage in the last moment and followed Rep. Jeff in taking a walk, instead of voting against the minimum amendment like their fellow R's. The list included Reps. Baldonado, Fajardo and Tripp--all of whom have swing seats in the Valencia County area.

But it was that old strain of rural Dem conservatism exemplified by Smith and Jeff that has been seen so often in Santa Fe that again raised its head and had Speaker Martinez putting his head into his hands.

Even if two Dem's who have been absent from the session because of illness had been present and voting, Kenny would have come up short. He needed 36 votes to pass a constitutional amendment in the 70 member House,

With no minimum wage proposal on the November ballot and with state legislative Dems doing little to accentuate any major differences with the Republican governor, it will be that much harder for the D's to turn their voters out to give Susana a run for her money and also retain at least nominal control of the House chamber.


One item that caught our eye in the budget that was approved by lawmakers and is now on the Guv's desk was a spike in the amount for tourism advertising.  The ad budget soared from $5.1 million to $7.6 million. That's a nearly 50 percent increase and puts us on a competitive path with our neighboring states.

Promoting the legacy and beauty of New Mexico has been a bipartisan 100 year endeavor and there's no reason to stop now. The advertising boost will mean more tourists heading here. They will not only be going to ABQ and Santa Fe but also to struggling rural towns. The money was part of the Speaker's jobs package.


Veteran State Rep. Tom Taylor of Farmington, 65, will end his political career this legislative session. He's been in local and state office for over 30 years and at one time was House Minority Leader. 16 years at the Roundhouse is a good run. A number of Wall-Leaners say that the Reps much older than Taylor would do well to follow his example.

So who will replace Taylor in the heavy R district? They're starting to line up. Karen Bayless, a legislative analyst, has announced she's running. Rod Montoya, a former chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Sanchez, is weighing a run and there could be more. No D's need apply in this one where R's have 57% of the registered voters.


Back to the readers monitoring the soon to sine die state Legislature. Dem Troy Williams has this analysis of the '14 session:

First, let's point out the obvious. The Democratic Party has no leadership and when there is no leadership there is no message. That's why right now it seems that the R's in the House have the upper hand.

But let's do a reality check of this session. Gov. Martinez and the NM House Republicans remind me of Speaker Boehner and the Tea Party. Martinez for the 5th time tries to get this exhausting driver's license bill through the session just like the Tea Party tried to repeal Obamacare over 40 times. Then there's the state budget which the House R's held hostage over $20 million so that Martinez can get her "below the line" education funding. Does that sound reminiscent of anything on the national level? It reminds me of the Republican government shutdown over an ideological crusade. 

 The R's held up a $6.2 billion budget over $20 million...The House R's and Martinez mirror the Tea-party on the national level. They are blocking everything--minimum wage, teacher pay and the budget so now we have a session that looks like Congress.

You have many grassroots groups ready to mobilize and organize because of the fire that the R's lit beneath them. They may just take it upon themselves to do this, seeing the lack of leadership from the Democratic Party. Don't underestimate them. This governor's race may be closer than what people think and I would no longer so confidently say the House could go to the R's. Yes, the Democrats have no leadership, no messaging, nobody to carry the ball to the finish line despite all the softballs being thrown their way, but don't underestimate the power of grassroots campaigning.

Thanks, Troy. The Governor and R's succeeded in getting into the final budget about $17 million in education reform money that the Dems initially resisted.


Reader Miguel Suazo writes:

I found this article interesting, especially given your recent posting on child welfare in NM. A cross-collaboration between NM and Massachusetts to explore how to address this issue might be helpful. If a state like MA has difficulty addressing issues like this, examining the reasons might be helpful as we attempt to address our child welfare issues. The article says:

Massachusetts is used to being near the top in national rankings--from education to health care to technological innovation. But when it comes to protecting children in foster care or potentially abusive homes, the state has languished closer to the bottom for years, according to an assortment of federal data. Massachusetts ranked 38 out of 50 states in the percent of foster children visited each month by caseworkers, according to federal data from 2012. In the category of children not mistreated again within six months, the state ranked 45th...


In a first draft Wednesday we said there was $600 billion in unspent capital outlay money in Santa Fe. We meant to say $600 million. The estimate comes from ABQ Dem Sen. Tim Keller.

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