Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Deal Brewing On Licenses Amid Passport Panic? Plus: Martinez Unveils Budget And With It Signals Start of '16 Campaign, And: Thinking The Unthinkable: Shutting Down Los Alamos 

If key legislative insiders have it right, New Mexicans can stop with the passport panic. They finally expect a deal on driver's licenses to be crafted in the upcoming legislative session. The public positioning by legislative leaders and the Governor got underway in earnest this week. On the surface it could be argued that yet another stand-off is brewing. But insiders note that Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez has pledged there will be a solution this year.

We're told the two-tier license bill from GOP State Rep. Paul Pacheco will be the vehicle for the deal. It's modeled after Utah and not a bad place to start, even though the Smith-Ingle bill is preferable and contrary to the critics would likely be just fine with the Feds.

The rhetoric from both sides is still stern but unlike past years there are fewer lines being drawn in the sand--an indication that prospects for a deal are good. But just in case, don't put your passport into storage. . .

This could have been Susana but then there was that infamous pizza party:

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to give the GOP response to President Obama‚Äôs State of the Union address.


Here we go again. Former NM GOP Governor Gary Johnson (1995-'03) is set to announce his second presidential bid today. Friends say he will make it official this morning on the Fox Business Network. The 63 year old, known for his athleticism and
early support for marijuana legalization, may also be one of the few modern day politicians who never ran a negative TV ad. He also ran as a Libertarian in 2012 when he received 0.99% of the national popular vote.

ELECTION '16 (and scandalous) 

Martinez has unveiled a budget for the fiscal year that begins July1 that assumes $228 million in new money will be available to spend. But that is subject to change as oil prices stay weak and impact predicted state revenues. The total budget proposal is $6.46 billion, or an increase of 3.7%. The Legislative Finance Committee will also come with a budget proposal.

In this election year when all legislative seats are up for election, the Martinez administration seems more determined to talk up the state's financial outlook and ignore the oil elephant in the room. Here's the Governor's budget news release.

Also, R's are going gaga over Martinez's proposal to increase public safety funding. They plan on trying to turn the '16 legislative elections into a referendum on how Dems are soft on crime. It was lost on no one that she held her budget news conference at corrections department offices in ABQ.

Still, the loss of stature she's endured because of her ill-fated pizza party is going to be in the background during the R's battle to take control of the Senate and to keep control of the House. And it won't be helpful. And what happens with that Federal grand jury conducting a criminal investigation of Martinez's right-arm and chief consultant Jay McCleskey? That could be the big political development, even if most of the media is curiously incurious.


This reader doesn't like the newspaper's wish list for the new year:

Joe, the list is most striking for its omissions. Creation of jobs? Missing. Stopping the exodus of citizens made up in are part of educated and capable young people? Missing. Remedies for the recent report of failing public schools? Missing. Efforts to address entrenched poverty? 

Improvement of early childhood nutrition and development? Infrastructure development to nourish and support commercialization of technology and innovation spun off from our national labs? All missing. The paper's outlook is disturbing evidence of a pervasive failure of leadership and vision in the Land of Enchantment. Perhaps the state motto should be, "Think Small; You Won't Be Disappointed."

ICYMI, here's our wish list. . .

We talked about the ABQ housing market being "flat." Here's how that looks as noted by the real estate watchers at CoreLogic:

In Albuquerque, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 0.6 percent in November 2015 compared with November 2014. On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, decreased by 1.2 percent in November 2015 compared with October 2015.


So many previously unthinkable things have happened to the state's economy (think depopulation) that the possibility that Los Alamos Labs could be shuttered can't be ignored:

Sen. Udall. . . said the lab is vital for producing plutonium pits used in nuclear weapon triggers, but even the senator questions whether the pits are necessary to maintain the stockpile of aging nuclear weapons. . . Roberts and others argue that taxpayer dollars spent at the lab would be better spent elsewhere. The Pantex Plant in Texas already handles nuclear arsenal maintenance, including taking apart and refurbishing plutonium pits, Roberts said. Non-nuclear research can be done more easily and cheaper at other facilities, such as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The only reasons to keep LANL going are to provide jobs in Northern New Mexico and to pad the pockets of private companies and UC, Roberts said.

In many ways scandal-besotted Los Alamos Labs has done it to themselves. Its political support is precarious.


Details now on Bill Clinton's January 9 visit for a high-dollar Hillary fundraiser at the Los Ranchos home of James Griffin. Tickets for co-hosting are $10,000 a pop. "Champion" tickets are $2,700 each and "attendee" tix go for $1,000. Sorry, food stamps will not be accepted.

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