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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

State Of Euphoria: Governor Kicks Off Session As Cheerleader In Chief, Plus: Pete's Fingerprints On House, And: Heinrich Says Its Never Too Early, But Is It? 

We didn't see Governor Martinez crossing her fingers for good luck as she gave her State of the State address Tuesday but that seems to be the strategy when it comes to dealing with what is shaping up as a severe budget pinch.

The crashing price of oil--the proverbial elephant in the room and the one costing the state millions in tax revenue--did not even earn a mention. Nothing could interrupt the Governor's state of euphoria. . .

(Full text and video here.)

She sported a confidence more noticeable than in such speeches of the past. And why not? She won re-election in a landslide and the state House is now under her wing with the GOP in charge. For this Governor it's a Sally Field moment: "You like me, you really like me!"

The growth in this governorship has been in cosmetics and symbolism. The speech was well-delivered--one of her better efforts--and the optics just right. She looked fit and engaged. The ubiquitous school kids were brought directly to the podium this year. But the content was like summer TV--heavy on the reruns.

For example, making their annual appearances on Susana's greatest hits list was holding back third graders who don't perform and repealing driver's licenses for undocumented workers.

Right to work might be called a new idea, but it was an original series back in the 80's when it passed the Legislature twice only to be vetoed. In a rebuttal to Martinez following her nearly 50 minute speech, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez predicted that the Democratic Senate will kill the right to work bill. He sounded convincing.

(For you policy nerds, 2014 Dem Guv candidate Alan Webber came with an in-depth study of RTW).

Applause in the chamber for Martinez was as modest as her initiatives. Seasoned lawmakers know they have a budget crisis on their hands and are already looking past the gubernatorial rhetoric and grappling with the new reality. Against that backdrop her desire for targeted tax cuts seems out of sync.

The Governor got the emphasis she wanted from the speech--education and right-to-work. That was the easy part. The hard part has only been postponed--not eliminated.

BREAKING PROTOCOL

The enmity between Governor Martinez and her predecessor is so deep that it led her to break with protocol and actually attack Bill Richardson by name, ripping him with this:

We have recovered over $29 million in taxpayer money that was squandered in the Richardson-era pay-to-play scandals. But there’s more to do.

We had her getting an "A" for rhetoric, but that took her down to a B. It revealed what Mother Jones magazine and others have called her "petty and vindictive" side.

It also conjured up what could go awry in her own second term. Remember the racino lease for the ABQ Downs? The behavioral health upheaval?  The NCIC license plate checks?

PETE'S FINGERPRINTS

The new House hierarchy has the stamp of former GOP Senator Pete Domenici. Majority Leader Nate Gentry once worked in his DC office as did newly elected House Clerk Denise Ramonas.

Seated behind Gentry during Tuesday's opening session was none other than Steve Bell, the former chief of staff to Domenici who engineered many of the senator's political movidas. Domenici was also on hand for the session opener, receiving rousing applause when introduced in the House chamber.

Meanwhile, Gentry was working hard to push back against speculation that he could try to usurp newly elected House Speaker Don Tripp. Gentry is tied to the Governor's hip. Tripp not as much. On his Facebook page Gentry said of Tripp's election as Speaker:

Very happy for and proud of my Boss.

Okay, Nate. But are you sure you're talking about Don and not Jay?

EASY DOES IT

Out with the old and in with the new. Here's a shot for the books--Democratic Speaker Ken Martinez welcoming new Speaker Tripp to the House rostrum. The peaceful transfer of power is a given here, but not for much of the world. . .

One of our Roundhouse watchers predicts a more easy going environment in the state House now that the R's--believers in minimalist government--have taken the reins of power:

Expect a much slower and easy going schedule. They have an agenda but it is not lengthy. Committees are expected to meet from 8:30 to 10:30 followed by a floor session, lunch at noon and committee hearings in the afternoon. There are skeptics that the committees will actually meet on time and that all of this will not take, but the R's are much more regimented than the Dems so the House leadership might not have that hard of a time.

Time will tell but it was nearly 2 p.m Tuesday before Susana started her speech slated for 1 p.m. In fairness, the House had to vote on a Speaker as well as a new clerk before hearing from the Guv and that slowed things down. 

SESSION PREP

Reader Steve Dick comments on the drop in the oil price as he preps for the legislative session and passes along sentiments that should draw unanimous consent in both legislative chambers:

Perhaps this can serve as a shock that blindly relying on natural resources to be your major economic driver year after year is a lazy way of life to pass along. New Mexico needs to wake up and smell the coffee. If it is going to get out of the doldrums it has to work its way out. And that includes making sure that kids go to school, learn something while there, and actually graduate. Given the current state of things, New Mexico is going to be hurting for the rest of the decade unless something changes.

STATE OF THE CITY

Maria Bautista writes of  recent events in the APD crisis in ABQ:

The city attorney resigns. The city PR agent resigns. A police officer discharges his weapon and shoots a neighbor. A police officer was shot. A police officer shoots himself. A police officer shot another police officer. The DA charged two officers with murder. The police turn against the DA. Another shoot out last night, another death. The Mayor in hiding.

The city and Department of Justice announced Tuesday that they have agreed on a Federal Monitor to oversee APD reforms.

NEVER TOO EARLY?

From Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich on his 2018 re-election bid (yes, 2018):

One rule I have always followed in politics is that it is never too early to get your campaign started. As I watched the election returns this past November, then saw Senator McConnell sworn in as Majority Leader last week, I knew that rule was as important today as it ever has been. That is why we set a goal of raising $7,500 online this month. Can I count on your early support?

Never too early? What's next? Susana announcing that she's taking on Heinrich in '18?

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