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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Low Energy, Small Ball Session Crawls To Close; "They Came Here Already Checked Out." Plus: '18 Session Sore Loser Award And Sex Assault Charge Rocks Gonzales As He Quits Lt. Gov. Race  

The low energy, small ball legislative session of 2018 crawls to a close today. As one Wall-Leaner put it:

Joe, they came here already checked out, acted that way for the month and then just checked out. There was no energy."

Checked out meaning they were exhausted from the 7 years under Gov. Martinez and just waiting for it to end and get on with whatever comes next.

That it was a small ball session was not a disaster. The lawmakers did do their main job for a short session. They passed with little rancor a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. And while you will read of long lists of "accomplishments" in the press and elsewhere, that was the major significance of the 30 day meet.

Not that Santa Fe went on a spending spree. They didn't have the money to do that. As we have pointed out, the $6.3 billion general fund budget just approved is lower than the budget passed 10 years ago when adjusted for inflation.

Democrats decided to go easy on the minority R's, even to the point of giving some of them in theHouse ammo for their re-election campaigns. But the D's believe this cycle belongs to them so they assume this "checked out session" preserves the gains they see coming in November in the governorship, the statewide offices and in the House.

The 30 days is best compared to this year's annual Senate-House basketball game--unlike past games there were no injuries and no tackles.

A WINNER? MAYBE

If there was a big winner in Santa Fe this year, it came from the outside. BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez received a big--a really big increase--in his budget after marshaling the media and convincing lawmakers who were afraid of being cast as "soft on crime."

It was well done as not one story appeared in the mainstream media--TV or newspaper-- about how Torrez is handling the money he already has, the office vacancy rate and whether current pay levels are appropriate.

State Senators put off by the Torrez pressure are now laying in wait and come next January will be expecting glowing reports from him about how ABQ crime is rapidly receding because of all that new money. Good luck with that.

And that so-called "bipartisan crime package,"containing as it does measures that have about as much bite as a month old puppy, was, like the DA budget boost, just an optical play by both sides to assure the public that were doing something--anything--about the crime waves that roll through the state.

Gov. Martinez laid low for the most part for her final legislative session. Like everyone else the fight is out of her. With only 10 months left her staff can be expected to start looking for work elsewhere and so can she.

PORK BARREL

This year's capital outlay or "pork" bill is about $180 million for projects across the state.  You can find a list of those projects for your area here. They are mainly financed with bonds drawn from the Severance Tax Permanent Fund which gets its money from oil gas taxes and royalties. And those have been going back up as oil recovers.

That pretty much sums up the major themes, but one final note. . .

GONZALES ALLEGATION

On Wednesday we referenced a "backstory" on Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales when we reported of his withdrawal from the race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Wednesday night that backstory went front and center when charges made against Gonzales at a Santa Fe City Council meeting from two weeks ago surfaced.

KRQE-TV decided to run tape from that meeting of Roger Rael addressing Gonzales at that council meeting and repeatedly demanding he answer his question: "Did you sexually assault a member of your family"? (Full news report here.)

Gonzales interrupted Rael and urged him to move on or he would be removed from the meeting. The TV station asked the NM State Police if they are investigating the charge that Gonzales assaulted a family member some 35 years ago when he was a teenager.
The agency confirmed it was investigating but added what the station called an odd addendum by saying that it is not naming any suspect because no crime has yet been charged.

The shock claim from Rael was rebutted by Gonzales' campaign who characterized him as a "right-wing nut job, an anti-Semite, anti-African American" and urged anyone who believes he has credibility to Google and YouTube Rael's name. Gonzales said in a statement that the charge dates backs to when he was going through a divorce. Gonzales has come out as a gay man but was formerly married and is the father of two daughters.

Gonzales denies that the charge had anything to do with him withdrawing from the Light Guv race. He said he got out because "my heart is no longer in it."

Whatever the reason for the withdrawal this mess would have been sure to sully the atmosphere for the Dems if Gonzales had become the ticket's #2. You can bet after getting an earload of this the Dem candidates for Governor are glad to bid Javier "Adios."

Earlier, ABQ Dem State Senator Michael Padilla withdrew from the Light Guv race because of decade-old sex harassment charges that resulted in the city of ABQ paying a lawsuit settlement.

Republicans have relished the Dem dysfunction from the sidelines and hope that there is more to come in this sex opera. The Dems are praying that the Gonzales mess is the end.

But it isn't the end of the Dem sex woes. The latest from the Dems PR arm at the Roundhouse:

After official allegations of sexual harassment against Dona Ana County Commissioner Vasquez came to light, Democratic Senators Mary Kay Papen (SD38), Bill Soules (SD-37), and Jeff Steinborn (SD-36) and Democratic Representatives Doreen Gallegos (HD-52), Bealquin “Bill” Gomez (HD-34), Bill McCamley (HD-33), Angelica Rubio (HD-35), Nathan Small (HD-36), and Joanne Ferrary (HD-37) released the following statement:

“As elected officials it’s essential that we conduct ourselves professionally and treat all citizens with respect. We are very troubled by reports of Doña Ana County (Democratic) Commissioner John Vasquez engaging in harassment and unwanted sexual behavior. We stand with the women who have come forward and been affected by this behavior, and call on Doña Ana County to immediately investigate and take action."

That one is dragging in Richard Ellenberg, chairman of the NM Democratic Party. And we thought the election was about the economy. Silly us.

SORE LOSER

The sore loser award for the session goes to PNM. Get a load of this from the electric company:

Public Service Co. of New Mexico wants to stir a public backlash against the Santa Fe-based environmental group New Energy Economy for its role in defeating a legislative bill this month that could have accelerated the utility’s replacement of coal-fired generation with renewable energy.

That statement after PNM received a giant federal tax cut that made unnecessary any major rate increase, sparing them more public enmity and also after years of increasing profits courtesy of previous rate hikes.

Hey, PNM, its not a winner take all game anymore. And for not recognizing that, you're the winner of the 2018 Legislative Sore Loser Award. Congrats or something. . .

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018
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