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Friday, March 20, 2015

Susana's Second Termitis; Senate GOP Breaks With Her On Driver's License Repeal, Plus: Promotion Could Mean Another Senate Vacancy, This Session's Lost Opportunities And Some GOP Big Picture Bills 

The NM Legislature adjourned its 60 day session Saturday at noon.

Some second termitis for Susana as the legislature heads for a Saturday noon adjournment. Republicans joined with Dems on the Senate Judiciary Committee in voting for a compromise on the perennial issue of repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. It was one of the few examples of statesmanship at the Roundhouse this often bitter session, but Gov. Martinez promptly rejected it. That those R's were willing to break from their own party's Governor reveals fatigue with the issue and with Martinez's rigid positioning. On this one she's looking like previous GOP Governor Gary Johnson. He also started to see his own party drift away from him in his second term because of rigid positioning. . .

And in another sign that Martinez may be losing some of her audience, the Lincoln County Commission did a redo of its meeting to recommend a replacement to the Guv for the seat of ex-Sen. Phil Griego (D). He resigned the Senate over an ethics issue. But the second time around the Republican commission still did not send Susana the name of her favorite candidate--former NM Bureau of Elections Director Bobbi Shearer. She received only one of the five commission votes.

The last of the county commissions in the six county Griego district will meet today to submit recommendations to the Guv. The NM Supremes rejected a petition to speed up the replacement process. . .

While we await the machinations to play out over the Guv filling the seat held by ex-Senator Griego, another possible senate vacancy pops up on the radar.

With a little help from his Republican friend on the Fourth Floor, Dem Senator Pete Campos could become the president of NM Highlands University. If he does, one assumes he will give up his senate seat which sprawls across seven counties. It's solidly Democratic and there will be a lot of contenders if Campos leaves. He's been representing the region since 1991.

Speculation is that Campos has been voting with the Guv on some key issues this session because of his hopes for the Highlands presidency. Hey, if he gets the gig maybe he can get some tips on running the place from former NM Senate leader Manny Aragon. He left the senate in 2004 to take the Highlands presidency and he did it with the help of another Governor--Bill Richardson.

LOST OPPORTUNITIES

The biggest lost opportunity for state House Republicans this session? Their inability to broaden their party's base and approve a stand alone fifty cent an hour hike in the state's minimum wage that would have been approved by the Dem controlled senate and signed by the Governor. New House Speaker Don Tripp will get another chance next year but major employers like Target are now raising their own minimums to as much as $9 an hour. This was the year to do it and they missed out.

And the biggest lost opportunity for the House Democrats was not doing the job of the minority--which is to put controversial amendments and legislation out there for the sole purpose of making the Republicans take hot-potato votes that could haunt them at the polls. Where were those votes? House Minority Leader Brian Egolf will be thinking about that after noon Saturday.

BIG PIC BILLS

The GOP is often fairly criticized for being a party of minimalists that doesn't have much interest in governing or using government to move things along. But this session two big picture pieces of legislation actually came from the R's.

The first we've blogged of previously--the long overdue need for an overhaul of the state's tax structure with an eye toward eliminating a myriad of exemptions in order to lower the onerous gross receipts tax. This year GOP Sen. Bill Sharer took on that thankless and nearly impossible task. But the discussion was more serious than years past. And that's progress. . .

And Alamogordo GOP Senator Bill Burt won approval of a bureaucratic bill with big implications. He points out that the state's military bases have a $9 billion impact here and there will be moves in the future--as there have been in the past--to downsize or even close one or two of them. His bill streamlines the state commission charged with keeping a close eye on Washington's plans for the bases and that is ready to defend their presence.

Instead of moaning about "DC dysfunction," Burt's Bill does something about it by putting the state in a more offensive posture in protecting its economic livelihood rather than a defensive crouch.

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