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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Santa Fe Disconnect: While State Fades Gov. Frolicks On Ski Slopes And Falls; Legislature Amuses Itself With Chile Burgers And Dancing 

Let's dance!
The isolation and disconnect of New Mexico's political class from the everyday world of the citizens they represent scaled new heights as the 60 day session neared its climax next week.

There was Gov. Martinez, not even at the session but instead frolicking in the snows of Utah with fellow GOP governors, injuring her knee on a ski slope. Then there was the House and Senate chuckling away as they "debated" proposals to proclaim an official state dance, to make the green chile cheeseburger the state's "official burger" and to beat Colorado in having the first chile license plates. And to add to this dysfunction, the cabinet secretaries for education didn't show up  at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee to talk about the budget crisis.

Even as this nonsense played out chatter continued about cutting the public schools budgets even more, oil prices remained flat providing no relief from the ongoing budget crisis and the state set a new record for the low percentage of its workforce actually in the workforce.

Gov. Martinez emerged from her ski trip to threaten a special legislative session to craft a  budget because of the frittering away of time by the "meaningless"' measures that the legislature was entertaining. But to show you how screwed up things are in Santa Fe, that threat from Martinez came before the news came out about her own AWOL behavior in Utah. The high ground she sought immediately collapsed into a sinkhole.

And so it goes at the fabled Roundhouse. The new realities of this century are meeting the old ways of governing and colliding. The state has long ceased being a harmonious backwater where things were never great but not all that bad and where green chile, bizcochitos and blue skies were more than enough to see the citizenry over the rough patches. But the legislature, despite a number of hardworking guys and gals, doesn't get it and that applies doubly to the leadership and the Governor. And that's why educated citizens are fleeing rather than fighting.

The mainly comfortable class that populates the 112 seats at the Roundhouse may be in need of a shake-up. We've never been a fan of having a full-time paid legislature but it may be the only way of bringing to the capitol more folks who have a grip on the immense challenges facing us and the real state of the state.

OPERATION RESCUE

The Democrats can still rescue this session and justify their retaking of the House majority and adding more Dem seats to the Senate last November. They could finally pass the constitutional amendment asking voters to tap the $15 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood programs. They could finally pass a sensible cap on payday loans--and not the still outrageous 175 percent cap that is being labeled a "compromise." They could have Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith quiet his threats about more cuts to the public schools and have him draw a line in the sand and say he will not stand for more cuts.

There's not much Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico can do at this point but wait and maybe have one of those official green chile cheeseburgers and tap out the steps to "La Marcha de los Novios," apparently the soon-to-be official state dance. They certainly deserve a break from watching the Roundhouse follies.

MORE DISCONNECT

It's not only Santa Fe, politics at many levels is disconnecting  from the public. The top administrators of the ABQ Public Schools will host a call in show tonight at 6 p.m. on KANW- FM 89.1 to discuss the budget crisis and its impact on APS. But "screeners will field phone calls and write down the questions." That's a new twist. Why not just use a seven second delay to avoid any obscenities and face the music--and the public--over the crisis?

GOP Congressman Steve Pearce tried a similar approach when he refused to have a public town hall and instead had a telephone town hall." After heat was applied he relented and faced the public--and the music over Trump--at a Ruidoso town hall.

Longtime APS critic Ched MacQuigg relished this one falling into his lap and wrote on social media:

. . .The senior-most APS leadership refuses to just sit down and just answer legitimate questions candidly, forthrightly and honestly; Once again they sidestep open and honest two way communication between the leadership of the APS and the community members they serve. There is not one of them willing to be held accountable to the same standards of conduct and accountability they establish and enforce upon students. There is an ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.

We don't know about an accountability crisis, but surely the administrators could stand in the kitchen for an hour or two and take some heat. 

THE BOTTOM LINES

We blogged Tuesday that Medicaid recipients in the state total "over 900,000." The AP says it's "nearly 900,000." Of course, the way Medicaid is growing we could be over 900,000 by the time you read this.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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