Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Opening Day Memo: 2015 Session Won't End State's Stagnation But There's Plenty To Talk About; The Barebones Budget, The New Speaker And The Insider Info, Also: Times Of Tijerina And Other Notable Passings 

As the 2015 session of the New Mexico Legislature opens today the state has settled into a long-term stagnation that hardly anyone expects to be turned around by whatever comes out of the 60 day confab. . .

Flat to declining federal spending combined with a crash in energy prices will ensure that this year will mimic the others since the Great Recession tagged us its favorite place to hang out. . .

Governor Martinez now owns whatever one thinks of today's circumstances. She wasn't punished for it at the November polls. She will continue to put a smiley face on matters, proposing itty bitty solutions to a macro problem. . .

Democrats will spar some with the R's but will have their hands full simply trying to put a finger in the dike as conservative economic legislation floods into the state Senate from the newly GOP controlled state House. . .

Dem Senator Carlos Cisneros is first out of the gate with a specific budget prediction. He's saying that because of the bear market in oil prices Santa Fe will be "lucky" if there's even $40 million in new money to spend for the budget year that begins July 1. . .

That's essentially no growth for the budget. If lawmakers and the Governor are going to get to the $6.3 billion number they propose, they may have to eat further into the state's cash reserves. . .

Our legislative Alligators are already reporting that a budget proposal of $6.1 billion will soon be making the rounds. . .

Most of our legislators are comfortably middle or upper class so the world of many of their constituents--especially those who don't vote--can be unfamiliar. The separation of the haves and have nots permeates politics everywhere:

The richest 1 percent of the population will own more than half the world's wealth by 2016, Oxfam International (a charity group) said in a report. . .Oxfam said the world's richest people saw their share of global wealth jump to 48 percent last year from 44 percent in 2009. Rising inequality is holding back the fight against global poverty. . .

Governor Martinez will deliver her State of the State speech early this afternoon. Tonight President Obama gives the State of the Union. He has started to tack to the center-left on the key economic issues, proposing, for example, a hike in the capital gains tax for high-income households. . .

Obama is hamstrung by a Congress now completely controlled by the R's. State House Minority leader Brian Egolf and his freshly defrocked flock know how the Prez feels.


We're going to get a new House Speaker today. For the first time in decades he will be Republican and hail from south of I-40.

GOP Rep. Don Tripp of Socorro is not only smack dab in the middle of the power game but also in the middle of the downturn that has ravaged his district. The news:

In business since 1963, Monette Ford in Socorro closed its showroom and doors last week. The action was necessitated due to the economic climate, according to Danny Monette. . . Owner Chuck Monette was quoted as saying that business had already been tough for the dealership since 2008, and “if a dealer wasn’t making it, they had no one to sell it to, so they would simply shut down.

It will be interesting to see if Tripp tips the Speaker's gavel towards assisting his embattled rural compatriots and what form that assistance might take.


Will new ABQ Dem state Senator Mimi Stewart--who chaired the House Education Committee before running for the Senate--get a seat on the Senate Education Committee? The answer is no. You can ask Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen why. . .

Will four Democratic state Senators join with the 17 Senate Republicans and "blast" bills out of Senate committees and force floor votes on them? Bills like "right-to-work?" Insiders say no, but they are not absolutely positive. How's that for clarity?. . .

Will this be the session that finally sees the Senate vote on the nomination of Hanna Skandera as state education chief? Yes. The deal has been cut, say the insiders, and she will be approved.


Joe Monahan blogs New Mexico
Few give much of a chance for the GOP House and Governor to support a reinstatement of the food tax, but that isn't stopping the NM Municipal League from charging ahead. The group has set up a website to make its arguments which have widespread support from their irked membership. Local governments are getting hit now that Santa Fe will no longer reimburse them for the funds they lose through the food tax repeal.


Here's the special events calender for the 60 day session, ranging from tonight's annual legislative dinners by both the D's and R's to American Indian Day later in the session.


That decision by Mayor Berry's administration to exclude the Bernalillo County District Attorney from the scene of last Tuesday's fatal police shooting is drawing national attention--and outrage. The WaPo's criminal justice blogger came with this scorcher

. . . This is really reprehensible behavior. . . It’s also just the latest example of law enforcement officers and their supporters demonstrating incredible petulance in retaliation for public scrutiny or the rare attempt to hold rogue cops accountable for their actions. Keep in mind, this is all occurring in a city that has a long history of questionable police shootings, that recently entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice after an investigation found a pattern of unconstitutional use-of-force incidents, that seems to have a problematic shoot-first culture within the police department, and that has a history of law enforcement officials retaliating against whistleblowers.


Tijerina in 1969 (Bralley)
Reies Lopez Tijerina drew sharply divergent opinions but his reach across NM history is not in dispute. He died Monday at 88, ending a life that was lived large.

Veteran photographer and blogger Mark Bralley is one of the few media figures still around who covered the heyday of the land grant activist. He posted this obit on his blog. . .And retired (and legendary) ABQ Journal reporter Larry Calloway--who as a wire service reporter was taken prisoner during Tijerina's '67 raid on the Tierra Amarilla Courthouse--posted on his blog a remembrance of that historic event.

And tragic news has come to us. The 31 year old daughter of Robert and Peggy Muller Aragon, Amberlee, died in an early Sunday morning auto accident on ABQ's westside, family members confirm on social media. Robert Aragon, an ABQ attorney, is a member of the State Board of Finance and was the 2014 GOP state auditor candidate. Peggy Muller Aragon is a candidate for ABQ School Board in the Feb. 3 election. . .

And oldtimers will remember Eric McCrossen, for many years the editorial page editor of the ABQ Journal. McCrossen, 83, died Sunday. We first met him in '74 when we covered our first NM Guv's race and when McCrossen's columns on the subject were a must read. In '76, we met up with him on the campaign trail, covering Senator Joe Montoya's unsuccessful re-election bid. (Reporters actually went out on the trail back then. Today the trail is a TV studio).

That day we shared some of the hard stuff with McCrossen, "Little Joe" and his hangers-on and then did some hard news. As retired political reporter Rodger Beimer often says: "Those were the best of times."

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