Friday, December 02, 2016

Friday Clips On The '17 Legislative Session 

Some thoughts on the 2017 legislative session that we also shared with readers of the ABQ Free Press.

Will the 60 day session of the NM Legislature beginning in mid-January be known as the "The Constitutional Amendment Session? With Gov. Martinez promising to wield her veto pen on pet Democratic proposals, the D's might consider an end run. How?

Lawmakers have the power to place constitutional amendments on the ballot for voter approval. For example, they have the votes to approve a bill substantially increasing the state's low $7.50 an hour minimum wage, but can't get the Governor to go along. If they put that raise in the form of a constitutional amendment it would easily win voter approval. But there's a catch .

Any constitutional amendments approved during the session would not go before voters until November of 2018 and take effect the following year. With the Dems having a good chance of recapturing the governorship in '18, they might want to ditch the amendment maneuver and send their minimum wage bills and the like to the Governor and force her to make unpopular vetoes. One other angle: If the Democrats did place popular legislation like the minimum wage boost on the '18 ballot it could serve to increase Democratic turnout and improve their chances of winning the governorship.

For those of you wondering about a possible constitutional amendment to legalize recreational use of marijuana in New Mexico, even with Democratic control of the Legislature it seems problematic. A number of Democrats have raised concerns about the impact of legal marijuana in our state which is already saddled with a myriad of substance abuse problems. The day of legalized marijuana here may be on the way but its arrival is best measured in years.

And what about the money? People are starting to really believe Gov. Martinez when she says that no matter how bad things get she will not agree to a tax increase. With the state's budget still under immense pressure because of falling energy prices, it appears Martinez could be the first Governor to preside over widespread state government layoffs. An improving state economy has to be at the top of the Christmas wish list for state employees. Otherwise, the grinch could soon be staring at them.

Perhaps the most significant election fallout will be simply what we talk about. Instead of the "all crime all the time" agenda the Republicans focused on, the newly empowered Democrats will switch the narrative. Now the subjects will be the high jobless rate, the ongoing depopulation and vanishing millennials and the social conditions crisis that worsened the crime wave the GOP unsuccessfully tried to use to keep their legislative power. There are no easy solutions to the state's deep-seated problems but identifying what they are is a start.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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