Inside the Capitol

Thursday, February 02, 2006

2-6 Legislature Passes Halfway Mark

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- This 30-day session of the New Mexico Legislature is past its halfway point and has buckled down to business. In less than a week, lawmakers will be frantically worrying that they don't have enough time left. And they won't.
Even in this session, which began with lawmakers complaining that their plates had been heaped too high by Gov. Bill Richardson, activity began slowly. No bills were introduced the first day, which meant the printing of bills couldn't start as early.
Lawmakers spent time in floor sessions being entertained and introducing guests. And the most important matters facing the session were not the first measures heard.
But that's not to say they aren't trying. Cockfighting, a perennial timewaster, was introduced on the second day of the session, but has not been considered by its first committee -- and likely won't be.
That hasn't kept chicken fighting from making the news however. Since it isn't germane to a budget session of the Legislature, it was introduced as a memorial naming it the official state disgrace.
The memorial's sponsor, Sen. John Grubesic of Santa Fe, explained that in addition to being cruel, cockfighting hurts tourism because people don't want to come to a backward state.
Of course, how many potential tourists would know about the practice -- unless it is named the official state disgrace, in which case it would be in every paper in the nation.
If New Mexico is to have an official state disgrace, it should be our national rankings. Or maybe we could change it yearly. This year it would be our former state treasurer, Michael Montoya, quoted as saying that bribery is the way we do business here.
Santa Fe has not had typical legislative weather for this session. Instead of a major snow storm on opening day, followed by two or three more, temperatures have been in the 50s, downright balmy for this time of year.
Otherwise, things are about the same. Gasoline prices are down for 30 days. Area wholesalers learned years ago that legislative investigations into price gouging can be unpleasant.
Parking within six blocks of the Capitol is as bad as ever, probably worse, with more staff, more state police and more New Mexicans coming to see democracy in action.
The Capitol Complex screams out for a multi-story parking garage. Plans have been discussed for decades, but still no one has stepped to the plate. Lawmakers are unlikely to do anything about it because they all have cozy spaces in the Capitol basement.
The biggest stir this session has been created by Sen. Grubesic, not over cockfighting, but for a guest column he wrote in the Santa Fe New Mexican about after-hours lobbying in Santa Fe.
After two, well-publicized run-ins with Santa Fe police this past year, the senator decided to lay off drinking. On a recent evening, he visited the bar of the Rio Chama Restaurant, next door to the Capitol and was thoroughly depressed at the activity he saw through sober eyes.
Grubesic leveled criticism at lobbyists and fellow lawmakers, but saved his biggest jabs for Gov. Richardson, a fellow Democrat, who was seated for about 30 minutes in a booth next to him.
The following day, Grubesic told a reporter that Republicans loved his comments about the governor, but otherwise he was sure he has leprosy because no one will talk to him.
Grubesic has been on bad terms with the governor ever since Richardson endorsed his incumbent opponent two years ago. The Santa Fe senator says he doesn't care if he upset the governor because Richardson is going to run a candidate against him next time anyway.
Since the next senatorial elections are in 2008, the governor is unlikely to be his biggest problem. We all know that Big Bill is much more interested in a campaign of his own that year.
MON, 2-06-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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