Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Starting Gate For '16 Session: Uncertainty Over Licenses, Martinez's New Challenges, Major Move On Bail Bond Amendment, The Budget Fantasy And Still Tracking Torraco 

Gov. Martinez & Leader Sanchez
The most asked question about the 2016 legislative session kicking off today is whether there will be a deal on driver's licenses. This one looks like a jump ball that could fall either way. The one man in the state who may have a pretty good idea on what is going to happen isn't talking. That's Michael Sanchez, the often inscrutable Senate majority leader who each year seems to get better at keeping his playing cards to himself.

He is more than ever the man to watch this session as the Republicans make a long shot play to take over Sanchez's beloved 42 member chamber at the ballot box this year. The R's are going to want votes on every imaginable tough on crime bill they can get so in the campaign they can frame the Dems as weak in the knees. The majority leader will have to be mindful of that booby trap at every turn. . .

The Governor will give her sixth state of the state address at the opening of today's session. It's too early to look past her and to the next governor who we'll elect in 2018. But Martinez's true colors are now well-known, especially after the pizza party gone wrong, and that is sure to impact our politics.

That aforementioned GOP takeover attempt of the Senate looks more doubtful. The ability of Martinez and her political machine to get voters blood boiling is diminished. She is shackled by her new, less serious image crafted in those fateful early morning hours in December at the Eldorado Hotel. And the shadow of the federal grand jury investigation over her "Shadow Governor" Jay McCleskey is also buoying the Democrats who have often acted like willing hostages since her advent in 2011.

And then there's the usual second term creepy crawlers beginning to surface from under the capitol carpets. That's a whole lot of worry on her plate. It makes holding on to what you have suddenly more critical than what you would like to add.


Things that appear dead on arrival at this session: ABQ Mayor Berry's double-dipping bill to bail him out of his police officer shortage, an independent ethics commission and the third grade retention bill (again).


Rep. Adkins
Here's a little blog exclusive for you Roundhouse residents that's sure to shake the place up. From an insider:

Joe, Wall leaners tell me that freshman GOP Rep. David Adkins of Albuquerque will introduce a bipartisan and “clean” bail bond constitutional amendment that nearly mirrors Democratic Sen. Peter Wirth’s bill to give judges the ability to hold dangerous criminals without bail. That’s it. 

Adkins bill does not include the controversial and potentially poison pill section of Sen. Wirth’s bill that ties the ability to make bail to income. The thought is that nearly everyone under the sun supports the judge’s ability to hold bad criminals. That portion needs to be in a clean bill to insure its passage and ultimate vote of the people in November 2016. The other part, they argue, can be dealt with by statute, if the Legislature wishes.

It's going to be interesting to see how Senator Wirth and NM Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels--a major advocate for the Wirth bill--reacts to the Adkins play. Let the legislative intrigue begin.


As for job one in Santa Fe, getting a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, Dem State Senator John Sapien says out loud what everyone is thinking:

Sapien called the $232 million “fantasy land,” adding, “We’re more than likely going to be at $35 million to $40 million (in new money), if any at all.”

The oil price crash is what Sapien is talking about and its impact on the $6.5 billion budget. We're now in the $29 area for a barrel of the black gold. That spells more red ink for Santa Fe, if it stays in the cellar.


In a political environment dominated by austerity hawks, the fight to reclaim the political narrative and place the state's social conditions crisis front and center has been uphill. But the bad news isn't going away. Today this news is released:

. . . The state now has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation, according to the 2015 New Mexico KIDS COUNT report. While child poverty is down slightly—from 31 percent in 2013 to 30 percent in 2014—other states have seen bigger improvements in child poverty, leaving New Mexico dead last in this indicator. The 2015 New Mexico KIDS COUNT data book--released every year on the first day of the legislative session--tracks the same 16 indicators of child well-being that are used to rank the 50 states. New Mexico ranks 49th in child well-being. The annual state rankings are part of the national KIDS COUNT program run by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

That child poverty rate is highlighted in those attention getting TV spots from CHI St Joseph's Children that parodied the state's "NM True" tourism campaign and drew intense criticism from the Martinez administration. It threatened legal action over the ads. That threat is fizzling. The ABQ Journal, which at first rejected $14,000 for the ads, has now relented and will run them. KOAT-TV was the lone TV station to reject the ads because of possible copyright infringement. Numerous attorneys weighed in here debunking the argument that the NM Truth campaign was a violation of copyright.

Meantime, the Santa Fe New Mexican came with a hearty editorial endorsement of the NM Truth ads:

. . . The clever “New Mexico Truth” campaign is determined to serve up truth, no matter how unpleasant the facts. And the truth is, children in New Mexico are suffering. By playing off the popular New Mexico True campaign. . . New Mexico Truth is generating controversy. Instead of displaying the state’s cultural sites or outdoor attractions, New Mexico Truth is taking beautiful images but pairing them with such unpalatable truths as New Mexico being 49th in child well-being. This is guerrilla marketing at its finest. It’s garnered such attention that its backers might extend the campaign past its original three-week run. (Go to New Mexico Truth to judge the campaign for yourselves.)


Back on that topic of a GOP takeover attempt of the Senate, we're getting word that attorney Blair Dunn, son of State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, will make a play for the seat held by incumbent Dem Senator Bill O'Neill in ABQ's North Valley. That could be an intense battle. . . .

And is GOP State Rep. Dianne Hamilton of Silver City going to hang up her political spurs this year? That's what we're hearing. If so, the Dems will have a shot at a pick-up there. . .


Tracking the political plans of ABQ GOP State Senator Lisa Torraco has been a walk on a very twisted trail. First, the Gators get word that Torraco was thinking of giving up her Senate seat, with Torraco knocking that down only for her to resurface as a candidate for the Court of Appeals. That word came from Bernalillo County GOP Chairman Frank Ruvolo (it is Frank not Roger as we erred yesterday) as well as several individuals who Torraco told.  But now in a brief email Torraco has turned that off, saying:

Joe: I'm not running for Court of Appeals. I am seeking re-election for my Senate seat District 18.

Okay, Lisa, but put please stay put for a while. You're making the Alligators following you pretty thirsty.


We get this from a Republican reader on the passing of Royal Andrew Massett, 70, who has died in Laredo, TX and had ties to NM:

Royal trained hundreds of New Mexicans at the campaign schools he held in Austin. He never charged tuition for New Mexicans that attended. The New Mexico Republican Party would pay for airfare and lodging and Royal let the students in for free. Former NM GOP Chair Ramsay Gorham, ex-ABQ City Councilor Sally Mayer and even former State Sen. Rod Adair attended. Many New Mexicans who attended would like to know about his passing so I am asking you to post his obituary.


From the media pit:

I’ve had lawmakers from both parties tell me they fear this upcoming session will be just as nasty as last year. But looking on the sunny side, it’ll only be half as long.

The 2016 NM legislative session goes for 30 days.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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