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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

At The Roundhouse: Guv Gives Alternate Reality, Senior Alligator Analysis Of Opening Day Direct From House Floor, Plus Your Blogger's Notebook As Session '18 Gets Rolling  

Well, she couldn't stand there and say that under her watch the state of New Mexico has descended to new lows in quality of life measures, smart kids act like they're breaking out of prison as they move out of here in droves and the business climate is as sluggish as a snail. This, after all, was her swan song, her legacy building speech--her final State of the State speech. So what we got from Governor Susana Martinez was a lengthy description (54 minutes) of an alternate reality that her speechwriters must have dreamed up while partaking in some medical cannabis. (Full text here.)

In Susana's world everything is now coming up roses even as the skunks continue to foul the Roundhouse air with dreary stats on childhood poverty, drug addiction, low paying jobs and crime waves.

But all of that will be left to the next administration. This is an election year and in the end this will be a minimalist session as lawmakers begin thinking of and preparing for the post-Martinez landscape. To that end Democratic senators put forth Senator Howie Morales, a candidate for the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor, to give the response to Martinez. It was a welcome pop for him in a crowded contest.

UNVARNISHED ANALYSIS

Now direct from the House chamber where Gov. Martinez spoke Tuesday we provide you with unvarnished Senior Alligator analysis (our senior anonymous sources) that you will get only here:

There was the sense of an ending in the House chamber Tuesday. Democrats remarking it was finally “the last time they had to listen to her” and Republicans resigned to the end of an era--holding on to the last remnants of power.

Attendance was down with lots of seats normally reserved for politicos sitting empty along the chamber walls. House Minority Leader Nate Gentry was busy imagining he still held sway and House Speaker Brian Egolf looked more and more confident and comfortable in his Speaker’s chair. 

Veteran Republican lobbyists like Art Hull and the usually-jovial Joe Thompson seemed a bit deflated, readying for the last laps around the Roundhouse. Democratic lobbyists were chomping at the bit to set the stage for 2019.

The speech was a bit of an afterthought by the decreasingly relevant Governor who used an approach that seemed to be behind the times. She took credit for a slight increase in revenues due to oil and gas production and suggested that the surplus go back to the taxpayers--this in a state with yawning socio-economic problems. She must not have read the news today that child welfare is improving across the nation while it is declining in New Mexico.

The Dreamer’s protest was in a way a symbol of all the issues banging on the door of the Roundhouse wanting to be heard but knowing that they had to wait 12 long months to get there.

Sexual harassment in the legislature gained much attention and some gallows humor. Hand-shaking was definitely on the rise and hugs were noticibly on the decline.

Good job, Senior Gator. Now back to Monahan's take:

It appears Martinez will finish her two terms as Governor about where her predecessor, Bill Richardson, did--with an approval rating in the mid to low 30's. The latest number has her at 37 percent. The fear factor is long gone and the less confrontational approach in her speech reflected her lame-duck status.

There was a sign of the divisiveness with which Martinez has governed the state. Protesters in support of the federal Dream Act unfurled banners and chanted, preventing Martinez from starting her speech. While that legislation is not relevant to Santa Fe, for years Martinez played divide and conquer politics over the issuance of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. The protest was a reminder of those past sessions that were among the most contentious ever seen.

One of the odder pre-session newspaper headlines was: "Gov. Martinez’s Uncertain Legacy." Really? What's so uncertain?

Despite losing nearly every major bill on her crime agenda for seven sessions, former prosecutor Martinez will again go down swinging on those measures.

One item the Legislature will make quick work of is her push for a $6 million boost in the budget for the office of BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez. That is already being trimmed to less than $1 million as rural lawmakers balk at bailing out BernCo.

Some early headwinds have formed for ABQ westside Dem Senator Jacob Candelaria who is sponsoring a bill favored by PNM but which is being called a $350 million "coal bailout" by critics in his own party. Social media has already started the take down.

Meanwhile, progressive Dem ABQ Senator Cisco McSorley used the opening day of the session to endorse Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham for the Dem Governor nomination. But Cisco shouldn't count on Michelle going all in for his favorite cause--legalizing marijuana.. She says she wants more study before going there.

Gov. Martinez was able to provide a bit of reality based good news in her speech. That is if the bean counters have it right--and they don't always. She said new revenue projections give lawmakers about $330 million in "new money" to appropriate for the budget year starting July 1. That's up from about $200 million as the oil and gas recovery in SE NM continues to push taxes and royalties up to Santa Fe.

The first order of business at the session was the quick approval of new sexual harassment policies for the Legislature. There continues to be nervousness over whether there will be any more public allegations made against lawmakers. Lobbyist Vanessa Alarid rocked the Roundhouse when she went public accusing Rep. Tomas Garcia of sexual harassment, charges he denied. He has since left the Legislature.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver was on hand for opening day. She actually served 10 years as Bernalillo County Clerk, not 8 as we blogged this week. She filled out two years of the unexpired term of Clerk Mary Herrera when Herrera was elected SOS and then Oliver was elected and re-elected.

She is currently filling out the unexpired term of GOP SOS Dianna Duran who resigned after being convicted of corruption charges. It's possible Oliver could serve a total of 10 years as SOS, if she is elected to a four year term this November and runs again in 2022 and is re-elected. Then in 2026 she can retire along with 91 year old Sen. John Pinto who will turn 102 that year. Is it time for the Potato Song yet?

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018
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