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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Senate Dems Hold Tight, Sanchez Scores Some More Points On Guv And Behind the Pro-Life Stall 

With the Dem controlled Senate holding like a brick wall against the R's battering ram, the talk is already starting about next year. Can the Senate Dems keep the dam plugged on right-to-work and the rest of the Governor's usual agenda in the 2016 election year session? In the media we say "you're only as good as your last broadcast." For Dem senators, they're only as good as their last session. . .

And how about a friendly bet? How soon after the end of the session on Saturday will Guv Martinez hightail it out of here and hit the '16 national campaign trail? Probably about as fast as Bill Richardson did following the 2007 session when he began running for president. . .

And what's this? The Dems scoring more points against the Republican Governor? It's hard to recognize after all these years of their big lay down. But Senate Majority leader Michael Sanchez has been winning some rounds with the Guv. In his latest knock he questions her for taking big campaign donations from a donor convicted of domestic violence, and he got the answer he wanted:

Sanchez called on Martinez to return more than $20,000 the Republican governor received in June 2014 from Marcus Hiles, a luxury home developer and his wife. However, a spokesman for the Republican governor said the criminal history of Hiles was not known until recently and that returning the money in question would not be feasible. “The campaign has long since ended, and you can’t return money that’s already been spent,”  a Martinez spokesman said.

The question left dangling by the Guv's office--and to Sanchez's satisfaction--is whether Martinez--if it were feasible-- would return the contribution as a protest against the domestic violence?

A minor victory, but for a team that has put few points on the board in four years, any basket a Dem makes has them celebrating.

PAYING THE BILLS

GOP Sen. Carroll Leavell points out that the budget that the Senate approved and will soon be approved by the House and sent to the Governor has a reserve of about $500 million or about 7.9 percent of the total $6.2 billion budget. He also says he hopes the state doesn't have to use that money as oil prices continue to stay low and hurt royalty and tax collections. Leavell may be hoping against hope. Oil plunged back below $44 a barrel this week. The state budget is based on oil averaging $56 a barrel in the budget year that begins July 1. For each dollar it does not, the state loses about $7 million. That money would have to be made up through higher tax collections in the non-energy sector or with that tall pile of cash reserves.

PRO-LIFE STALLS

So with the GOP freshly in control of the state House and a number of pro-life Senate Democrats, what happened to anti-abortion legislation this session? Writing on his blog, Father Stephen Imbarrato, a Catholic priest and the Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Albuquerque, says:

I felt from the beginning and I still feel now that these bills were written and introduced for the sole purpose of giving the Governor and the necessary legislators political cover. These bills were never meant to reach the Governor’s desk. They were poorly written with ridiculous exceptions that rendered them meaningless and unenforceable. Each bill actually, if passed, would eliminate the only pro-life law on the books in NM, a late term abortion statute. As it were, both bills were introduced late and moved through the House with no sense of urgency.

The pro-life cause has been a headache for Gov. Martinez who has not had to deal with actually signing any controversial legislation on the topic. Pro-lifers--especially the Catholic church--put considerable pressure on lawmakers to advance the anti-abortion bills through the House. They were tabled in a Senate committee.

STAYING THERE 

The owner of the Santa Fe New Mexican says Ray Rivera, the editor of the paper who was recently arrested on a DWI charge, will keep his job and the paper will continue to have aggressive coverage of the state's DWI problem. We heard some criticism when we made light of the arrest and said maybe the Legislature drove Rivera to drink. We're thinking about that criticism but can't say we get it.

JOB WATCH

It appears call center jobs will replace high-paying jobs being lost at the Rio Rancho  Intel plant. B of A is hiring 300 for its call center there. Meanwhile, Intel is down to 2,400 or 2,300 employees, depending on which news account you go by. Intel has cut well over 60 percent of its staff in recent years

THE BOTTOM LINES

We blogged erroneously Tuesday that the Bernalillo County Commission would meet Friday to send a name to the Governor to replace former Sen. Phil Griego who resigned. The meeting is scheduled for today. And we called the petition to the NM Supreme Court to get the county commissioners in the six county district to act faster in choosing names a "lawsuit." It is a petition.

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