Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Session Arrives With Plans For Another Record-Setting Budget But All Crime All The Time May Shove That Aside, Plus: Issues That Are MIA: Fentanyl And CYFD Reform  

It's called a budget session, the 30 day legislative confab that kicks off in Santa Fe today, but this year's record-setting budget proposal ($10.5 billion) is getting stiff competition from an all-crime-all-the-time agenda sent down from the Fourth Floor. That may be the cause of any outbreaks of heartburn that afflict the 112 lawmakers--not the stacks of cash they have at their disposal.  

It's clear where the Governor's heart lies as she prepares to deliver the traditional State of the State address this afternoon. She penned an op-ed that ran in the major papers over the weekend and that was devoted to her proposal to ban assault weapons. Nothing about the budget. Nada.

Never mind yet another mind-boggling surplus (at least $3.5 billion). We've been spoiled rotten by this years-long oil driven revenue boom. What's it going to be like when Santa Fe has to give up the steak and go back to the burgers? 

New Mexico is not unfamiliar with a chief executive's penchant for an all crime or nearly all crime session, especially in an election year that will see the issue jam the mailboxes and screens of voters. 

Gov. Martinez, a former district attorney, was relentless in her pursuit of the wedge issue and criticized over it because during her tenure crime was bad but nothing like the post-covid ferociousness the state has experienced. 

MLG making crime her session centerpiece is not an overreach as it may have been for Martinez, but it does seem a bit late in the game.

ABQ has been punished with a crime wave for about four years. Finally the fever was broken in '23 when the murder rate rate fell as it did in many other cities. Other categories (e.g. auto theft) have also seen a decline from the maddening rates that resulted in good measure from the covid lockdown.

While the crime epidemic cools, that is not the case with guns. 2020 smashed all records for gun sales and appear to be picking up again. Many of the buyers have been women and minorities, Democratic constituencies that night not necessarily cotton to severe gun restrictions such as that ban on assault weapons or a 14 day waiting period before taking possession of a gun--both of which the Governor is touting. 

MLG's public health order declaring an emergency over guns and banning them from being carried in Bernalillo County may also cut against the gun bills. After all, if you're living in the middle of a battlefield, as the Governor says, you might think about arming yourself. Even progressives want to feel safe in their homes. (The gun ban was mostly set aside by a federal judge.)

Republicans should have no problem forming a coalition with the majority Democrats to again stop the major gun bills. But the debate over guns and assorted criminal behavior will be loud and long and perhaps leave the impression with voters that something is actually getting done. 

Like we said, this is an election year. 


The state would not blink if the Guv declared a public health emergency over at the Children Youth and Families Department. But one state Senator (playing Alligator) informs us that there will be no push for major reforms from the administration. There is a CYFD proposal to form a new CYFD division that would help troubled families having economic or other problems that might precipitate child abuse. 

The Democrats reform resistance continues to be an election year theme for the GOPFor example, this opinion piece from Sen. Crystal Brantley.  

Constitutional amendments do not need to have a message from the Governor to be considered in this short session. Dem Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, breaking with the Guv, is introducing one that would strip CYFD out of the cabinet and have a commission run the troubled agency. 


Another problem that could be called an epidemic--the fentanyl explosion--is also a topic not getting much love from either the Governor or lawmakers. It seems few want to say the F word. This, despite the drug being responsible for so much of the murder and mayhem in ABQ and elsewhere. 

GOP state Rep. Stefani Lord steps up to the plate with this piece urging adoption of a proposal that aims to address pediatric exposure to fentanyl. But a rebuild of the state's behavioral health system still awaits as the drug lords continue to lure New Mexicans into temptation with all too predictable results. 

Until we hear lawmakers come forward and say: "Anyone who needs a bed to treat their addiction gets one" the crisis will persist. 

(By the way Rep. Lord also has a bill that would outlaw necrophilia in the state but we'll drop dead before we cover that one.)


This early news from the session comes from the House GOP:

Former House Republican Leader, Jim Townsend (R-Chaves, Eddy & Otero), was nominated and elected by the House Republican Caucus, with unanimous consent, to assume the role of House Minority Whip. Representative Greg Nibert previously held the position but was recently appointed to the New Mexico State Senate.

Townsend won't be around the House much longer. He is seeking election this year to the state Senate seat held by Sen. Ron Griggs who is not seeking another term. Townsend's chances are seen by locals as quite good. But there is grumbling in Alamogordo as some see the switch as a loss. Townsend is from Artesia and Griggs is from Alamogordo. (Do Artesians need a passport to get into Alamogordo?)


The machine gun scandal involving Manny Gonzales, the former BernCo Sheriff and now the leading GOP US Senate candidate, is going to be one of those gifts that keep on giving as Sen. Heinrich seeks a third term. The latest downer for Gonzales comes from the WSJ. He says the scandal is politically motivated but that's not going to stop the damaging news copy. 

This is the Home of New Mexico Politics.

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