Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blasters Beware: Senate Leader Says Right To Work Will Not Get A Free Ride To The Floor, Plus: Big Pro-Life Demonstration Puts R's On The Spot, And: Monitoring The New APD Monitor 

Sens. Smith & Sanchez
To blast or not to blast? The 2015 legislative session is much focused on that question. And as far as we can tell--and to invoke Shakespeare again--Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is not wavering ala Hamlet. No blasts, says he, and that's big.

Supporters of the controversial right to work law (RTW) have the Republican House in the bag but need RTW to bypass the Senate committees where it will most likely be killed in the crib. They want it before the entire Senate for a vote. That's where the "blast" comes in.

The 17 R's would vote to blast RTW from a committee and directly onto the floor. If 4 Democrats would join them they would have what they need--a 21 to 21 tie that would be broken in favor of RTW by GOP LT. Governor John Sanchez. Susana would then cheerfully get out her pen and sign on the line.

But the odds appear to be growing longer for the blast, and if it doesn't happen RTW will have a much tougher path.  RTW bills could be stuck in Senate committees where they will RIP.

Our sourcing tells us that at the recent caucus of Senate Democrats all agreed not to take part in blasting legislation because it would pretty much make the committee system a sham. We're told just about every Dem Senator was at that meeting.

Insiders further report that Leader Sanchez has been diligently working Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith and Senate President Pro Tem May Kay Papen--two Dems who often lean conservative--not to be blasters, or from a Democratic perspective--bastards.

Sanchez's public statements have been firm. He is saying that no bills have been blasted in the Senate in 10 years and it's going to stay that way.

Still, that does not mean RTW advocates are out of the game. There are other parliamentary maneuvers that could still be employed to get the bill through. And there's the wheeling and dealing and horse trading with the Governor and that has yet to unfold that could create a path for passage.

Former ABQ Dem State Senator Richard Romero--who served as president pro tem over a decade ago--told public broadcasting's Gene Grant that he believes Sanchez will prevail. He said blasting of bills occurred when he was there and resulted in chaos and the decimation of the cherished committee system that gives a number of Senators significant power. They lose that power when blasters bring out the dynamite. . .

Speaking of committees, GOP House Speaker Don Tripp has announced the chairs of all the standing committees in the House. Some of the committee names are going to be changed and some committees will be abolished including the House Voters and Elections panel. Said one Democratic wall-leaner embittered about that: "You don't need a voters committee when you don't want people to vote."


In her state-of-the-state speech, Governor Martinez made no mention of hot button social issues that excite GOP base voters. Neither has the GOP House leadership yet. But a big pro-life rally sponsored by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Wednesday had to get the attention of those Republicans who do not want to mess with abortion or other high voltage issues. The GOP embraces pro-life positions but they are at odds with a majority of voters.

This report on the rally expresses optimism that a number of anti-abortion bills will sail through the newly controlled GOP House. We're not so sure:

. . .Bills that would require minors to get parental notification before obtaining abortions, call on doctors to distribute information on medical risks and alternatives to the procedure to women seeking abortion and banning all late-term abortions. Each measure has been introduced as a bill in recent years, yet none of them have ever cleared House committees. The bills haven't been formally introduced this session yet, but with a new Republican-controlled House, they're expected to at least clear the House. They'll likely face a tougher time in a state Senate still controlled by Democrats, who usually lean in favor of abortion rights.

Parental notification is the easiest of the bunch and has the best odds of making it through the House, but a ban on late-term abortions? That could put the Governor on the spot and give Dems a major social issue against the R's in the '16 election, especially in the swing ABQ seats. At the ABQ special election in November of '13, over 55 percent of the voters rejected a late term ban.

It's a slippery slope for the Governor--who has shown little zeal for the pro-life cause--and the House. They've dodged the bullet in the weeks leading up to the session. They'll have to keep bobbing and weaving as the GOP base comes to collect on promises made.


The selection of James Ginger as the federal monitor to oversee Department of Justice ordered reforms of the troubled ABQ APD seems to be getting a pretty warm welcome by most parties involved. But much trust has been lost. Some critics of the department say they haven't much faith that Ginger and company will be effective. Chuck McCoy, writing in the newspaper's comment section, summed it up this way:

Expecting the current APD officers to voluntarily "buy in" to policies that restrict their authority to do as they damned well please is about like expecting toddlers to "buy in" to an earlier bedtime. This fellow says his job is to identify areas in which the APD is found wanting and to leave it to them to figure out how to improve. We've already identified the areas where the APD needs improvement, and expecting them to improve themselves on their own with academics looking over their shoulders periodically saying "That's not quite good enough, and you'll have to guess how to do better" doesn't seem particularly bright. At the end of the day nothing much is going to change in the nasty attitudes of the APD officers on the street who are going to sit through all the yadda-yadda-yadda from these consultants and then go do as they please. We're paying millions for suits to nag them into better behavior, and I don't think it's going to have much effect.

We're going to have a long time to see if it has any effect. The monitor could be here four years or more.

And City Hall appears to have met its match in Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg. Here she comes:

The four-term DA said she has no plans to step aside from the prosecution of officers Dominique Perez and former detective Keith Sandy (in the killing of homeless camper James Boyd), or any other police shooting case, despite an aggressively worded letter from ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry calling on her to appoint a special prosecutor. Perry claims Brandenburg and her entire office have a conflict of interest in the case — and in all other police shooting cases. She disagrees. “At this point, we don’t see any legal reason to appoint a special prosecutor. Neither has anyone given us a reason up to this point … We think we’re following the law and, for doing that, we’re getting push back from the brass at APD and from the Mayor’s Office.”

Maybe the Justice Dept. should have made DA Brandenburg the federal monitor for APD?

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