Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


In last paragraph of 2-2 column sent yesterday, I identified Rumsfeld as Secretary of State. Please change "State" to "Defense."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

2-2 Richardson on the Road

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- For now, Gov. Bill Richardson plans to be a weekend warrior on the presidential campaign trail, fighting the battle of the Legislature during the week and choosing a different state to attack each weekend.
And as with everything else he does, our fast-forward governor will be constantly on the move, visiting every town and hamlet he possibly can.
Richardson's first state visit after announcing was to Nevada, which will have a caucus, next January, a week after Iowa. He hit Nevada hard, promoting himself as The Western Candidate and promising to visit every county in the next 12 months.
The governor may be fortunate that he is the only Westerner in the Democratic race. He plays it to the hilt, wearing Western attire and talking Western issues, guns and horses.
It may not help. Dan Quayle didn't get anywhere with it several years ago when he moved to Phoenix before jumping in the GOP presidential race. And then there's some criticism that Richardson hasn't really lived in the West that much.
Small Western states with early primaries are ideal for Richardson's style of retail politics. But the big states are a problem. They require TV advertising, which makes the $13 million he raised for his gubernatorial campaign turn into chicken feed.
Money is what separates first-tier from second-tier candidates. Hillary Clinton may already have a prohibitive lead in that arena. How well will Richardson be able to do?
He's going to have to get most of that money from out of state through contacts he made as a member of Congress, secretary of Energy or chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.
One leg up Richardson may have is that he used much of his $13 million last year to give out nationwide to other candidates. Might some of those favors now be returned?
What would hurt Richardson the most is if some very big states jump into the early primary race. California and New Jersey, with some of the latest primaries in the nation, now are talking about it. So is Illinois, home state of contender Barack Obama. That would cut out the entire second tier of candidates in one blow.
Could Richardson get a boost from New Mexico native Brian Urlacher? I've heard some fantasies that if the Chicago Bears win the Super Bowl this weekend that their all-pro middle linebacker could then introduce Richardson to the nation.
Richardson's name may not be very well known, but Urlacher's is. His football merchandise is the second best seller in the nation. Assuming he doesn't endorse fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama, Urlacher could be a big plus for Richardson.
Gov. Richardson is fortunate that his father made sure little Billy was born in the United States even though the family lived in Mexico City. He wanted no question that his son was an American citizen.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn't so lucky An Austrian by birth, he is not eligible to run for president. His plight has produced talk of amending our federal constitution.
Schwarzenegger isn't the first to generate such talk. Back in the '70s, many wanted to change the constitution so Henry Kissinger could run. Had that happened back then, Schwarzenegger might be the favorite today.
Another famous name currently being tied to Richardson's presidential candidacy is that of outted CIA agent Valerie Plame. Her husband Joe Wilson visited New Mexico twice last fall to campaign for Democrat congressional candidate Patricia Madrid.
While it is true that the couple is moving to Santa Fe, along with their six-year old twins, Wilson says the Fox News report that they will be working for the Richardson presidential campaign is totally false.
Another celebrity move to New Mexico has been confirmed. Former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld has returned to his home in El Prado, just north of Taos, even though some locals there have given him a bit of grief concerning the war.
FRI, 2-02-07

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


Monday, January 29, 2007

1-31 Year of the Governor

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The 2007 Legislature, in the middle of in its third week, can now be said to be really underway.
Well over 600 bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate, along with thousands of capital outlay requests for the more than $700 million available for pork projects.
Committee hearings are going full steam. No parking spots are available within three blocks of the Capitol. And Gov. Bill Richardson has his presidential announcement out of the way.
Gov. Richardson's announcement is likely to have more effect on this legislative session than any other factor. He can't sell himself as a seasoned chief executive and a brilliant international diplomat while fighting with his own legislature.
So the governor kicked off this session in a totally unusual manner. He admitted to having made mistakes and asked for lawmakers' guidance and cooperation.
For those words to come from Bill Richardson's mouth sounds almost desperate. But don't be fooled. He wants the Legislature to cooperate by passing his priorities first, then he'll cooperate with them.
The Senate, which has been the thorn in his side in the past, was quick to put him to the test, asking that its $36 million in pork projects the governor vetoed last year be restored.
Two bills already have been introduced to reinstate all the vetoed projects. Don't expect them to go anywhere, but negotiations on a more individual basis are very likely.
Gov. Richardson dubbed this session the "Year of Water," so he's requesting $100 million for pipelines, restoration and innovative water projects.
But Sen. Steve Komadina, a Corrales Republican, says forget about the Year of Water, this is going to be the "Year of the Governor" because everything we do will be to help him get elected president.
Parenthetically, Sen. Shannon Robinson, an Albuquerque Democrat, says if the Year of Water goes anything like last year's Year of the Child, we may be in for a 100-year drought.
Gov. Richardson's other priorities for this year include environmental measures, tax cuts for the military, a minimum wage increase and roads.
The first three have a definite presidential slant. Any environmental measures passed might attract Al Gore supporters if the former vice president doesn't run again. Lacking military service, visible support for our troops is very helpful.
Other issues which have arrived on the legislative table include ethics reforms, which may fade with the Vigil trials over, but which could reemerge when Bernalillo County court building indictments surface. The governor hasn't introduced his package yet.
Opening legislative conference committees will continue to be a major issue until legislative leaders relent. These huddles are the negotiations that occur between House and Senate leaders to resolve differences between similar bills passed by each house.
Often items are tacked on in these sessions that were never discussed in open committee hearings. Open meeting opponents argue that lawmakers are inhibited from talking freely in public sessions. Open meeting supporters say they would like to hear what it is that lawmakers can only speak about freely in private.
And then there's cockfighting. Gov. Richardson supports a ban for the first time this year. Sen. Shannon Robinson is no longer chairman of the Senate Conservation Committee that has often killed it in the past. But new chairman, Sen. Phil Griego, whose district is primarily rural Santa Fe and San Miguel counties, also opposes the ban. Bill sponsor, Mary Jane Garcia of rural Dona Ana County, will try an end run.
Santa Fe New Mexican Capitol reporter Steve Terrell has a new slant on why gasoline prices go down in Santa Fe when the Legislature is in session. He says it's just the time of year.
Terrell also is developing a list of indicators that a session is really underway. Rather than stealing his thunder, I'll refer you to his blog at
WED, 1-31-07

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


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

1-29 The Taos Rebellion

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- New Mexico currently is in the middle of the 160th anniversary of the short-lived Taos Rebellion of 1847. It bears some consideration.
Ten years ago, I wrote a column criticizing the New Mexico historian and state museum officials for ignoring the 150th anniversary of New Mexico becoming part of the United States in the summer of 1846. How could anyone be so unappreciative of being an American?
In response, I heard from friends in the New Mexico Historical Society that no one in its ranks had wanted to write a paper in commemoration of the event. The strong implication was that maybe I should study my history a little more fully that what I had learned in school.
I've done that, and although it didn't take me 10 years to get a clearer picture, I never got around to putting it in words. This seems to be an appropriate time for more than one reason.
The decision to make war on Mexico was part of America's belief that our Manifest Destiny was to spread democracy throughout the continent and to remake the world in our image.
The expectation was that citizens in New Mexico and elsewhere would welcome liberation from the corrupt Mexican regime.
It didn't seem to occur to anyone that while New Mexicans might have little love for their former masters in Mexico City, they just might not be overjoyed at being conquered and occupied by a foreign power.
I had learned in school that Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny had benevolently written a new code of laws to govern us. I didn't learn until later that international law called for him to continue the existing local government under military supervision.
Instead Kearny replaced Gov. Manuel Armijo and his administration with Gov. William Bent and a group of Anglos and a few Mexican traders who had grown rich from business over the Santa Fe Trail.
To most New Mexicans, this new government was alien and unwelcome.
Soon after, Kearny and his troops departed New Mexico to conquer California and Chihuahua, leaving a scattering of garrisons manned by volunteer troops that showed visible bigotry toward Mexicans and little discipline.
By December 1846, an insurgency plot was coming together. On January 19, the uprising erupted at Bent's home in Taos, where the governor and some relatives and supporters were massacred. Rebel ranks grew to several hundred.
The garrisons scattered around the state were brought in to quell the insurgency in a series of bloody skirmishes, culminating with the bombardment and assault on the church at Pueblo de Taos February 3-4.
As the war moved farther south and west, U.S. troops continued to take land, move on, and become surprised again that anyone would react negatively to U.S. invasion and occupation. Californians nearly drove U.S. forces out of their province before losing to a counterattack. Guerilla warfare erupted throughout Mexico.
As the war continued, disgust with the whole business grew throughout the United States. By the end, the war was regarded in this country as illegitimate, started under false pretenses and pursued incompetently. In his annual message to Congress in 1846, President James Polk accused war critics of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy."
So now I understand a little more about why there were no commemorations in 1996 of New Mexico becoming part of the United States. There is no doubt that almost all New Mexicans are grateful to be citizens of the United States. It's just that getting there was a little problematic.
And it's also evident that there isn't much new under the sun. Not much should be a surprise to those who study their history well. And it doesn't seem that our nation's leaders have done that.
But there is hope. As Winston Churchill says, "America always does the right thing -- after exhausting all alternatives."
MON, 1-29-07

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


1-26 Guv Makes It Official

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Gov. Bill Richardson has finally made official what New Mexicans have known for months. He really is running for president.
Richardson milked his announcement for as much national media coverage as a second-tier candidate could expect. He leaked it to the Albuquerque Journal on Saturday in return for a nine-page spread in Sunday's paper.
He posted his announcement on his Web site early Sunday morning, followed by a taped 15-minute interview with George Stephanopoulos that had been taped three days earlier at the governor's residence.
At the end of his show, Stephanopoulos announced that Gov. Richardson would be filing his papers on Monday. And on Monday, Richardson officially announced at his New Mexico headquarters in front of cameras from all the major national news outlets.
Thus Richardson kept his promise to announce in New Mexico while also garnering maximum media attention. It didn't help that Sen. Hillary Clinton picked the same three days for her announcement extravaganza, but at least the national media already were on the subject of presidential announcements.
Richardson says he will win the Democratic nomination by working harder than the other candidates. While it is true that no one outworks Bill Richardson, he also has to spend time being our governor. By my count, at least five of his likely opponents, including John Edwards, can devote full time to their candidacies.
Another ace Richardson may feel he has up his sleeve is a hoped-for good showing in New Hampshire. It is a state very willing to be wooed and a state perfectly willing to turn its back on a favorite if it feels it has been ignored.
Richardson has wooed New Hampshire. For the past two years, he has found any number of reasons to be up there supporting candidates, speaking, or fulfilling his duties as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. During that time, he also built a good organization in the state.
Another recent plus for Richardson's effort is that First Lady Barbara Richardson stood beside him at his announcement and made the appropriate remarks. That was a big deal because unlike his runs for Congress and governor, Barbara has not been excited about Bill's presidential ambitions.
There was her famous remark after Bill's first gubernatorial victory that a presidential run was "another life, another wife." As late as this past fall, she told me that the two had not had a discussion yet about a possible run.
So now Barbara will face many months of scrutiny and attacks on her husband. Bill says he's ready. He's been in public life for over 20 years, confirmed by the U.S. Senate twice, investigated for secretary of energy and U.N. ambassador and vetted for vice president. So he's confident he has nothing to fear.
But there's nothing like another presidential candidate's opposition research. Sen. Hillary Clinton's team is the one to watch at this point, although even the state GOP says it will go after him in early Democratic primaries.
What good it will do New Mexico Republicans for their party to undermine Richardson in other states' Democrat primaries, I don't understand. Perhaps they have more resources than they need for in-state party-building activities.
And it doesn't seem to strengthen the state GOP to boast that the governor who took 69 percent of New Mexico's vote really got trounced in other states.
It doesn't do any good for New Mexico either. We have enough trouble even convincing the rest of the nation that we exist. Having a serious presidential candidate from our state would be a feather in our cap.
I've asked friends and relatives from Texas if they were aware of partisan efforts to weaken Gov. George Bush's presidential candidacy. They said Texans were proud they might be able to boast another president of the United States.
FRI, 1-26-07

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


Sunday, January 21, 2007

1-24 Lawmakers Should Tend To SHARE

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- If the problems with SHARE, the state's new $28 million computer system, can't be worked out by the end of the 2007 Legislature, they'll probably languish for another year.
Operation of the state government's computer system isn't the Legislature's responsibility, but it has oversight power and no one else is taking much care of getting the many problems fixed.
Competent operation of the state computer system is the executive branch's responsibility, and that ultimately means Gov. Bill Richardson.
But it hasn't become a priority of the governor yet. His only priority, so far, has been to assure that no state employee publicly criticizes the faulty system.
A Roswell businessman who has been harmed by the new system e-mails asking where is the uproar from supervisors, division chiefs and cabinet secretaries?
They've all been told that their job is to defend the system to the 60,000 contractors and vendors and the 24,000 state employees who may complain about being damaged.
State employees blame their cabinet secretaries for telling them not to criticize the system but cabinet secretaries tell me they are being muzzled too. And the plea from everyone is not to use names or they will be in big trouble.
The entire scenario is typical Bill Richardson. The system was bought off the shelf, for the cheapest price possible, with no special adaptations for New Mexico's needs. A company was hired to install the system and get it operating. Of the four bidders, the award went to the least known company.
The governor ordered that everything be up and running in half the recommended time and with many fewer consultants. It didn't work.
Many state employees weren't paid on time or received only partial payments. That resulted in bank overdrafts and insurance lapses. The state wrote letters to financial institutions explaining the situation and requesting them to eliminate their charges. But the state has assumed no responsibility to make its employees whole.
Many contractors and vendors went months without being paid. Some refuse to do any more business with the state. Others have sued.
Much of state government has slowed down because not only does the computer system handle payments, it handles agency budgets and human resources.
Even though SHARE has inconvenienced many more people than the recent storms that stopped traffic going east out of Albuquerque, it hasn't received the publicity. By our third snow storm in three weeks, Gov. Richardson had state agencies mobilized so completely that we may have been over-prepared.
The governor needs to do the same thing with SHARE and the Legislature should pressure him to do it before its March 17 adjournment.
The interim Legislative Finance Committee did a good job of grilling SHARE executives at its October meeting. By the panel's December meeting, the SHARE chiefs had some answers and promises, but state employees tell me the committee went far too easy on them.
One of the promises was that all problems will be ironed out by March. There are suspicions that might mean the end of March, when lawmakers already have gone home.
The state has a bonanza of new money streaming in for this legislative session. Let's spend a little of it on hiring the necessary people to get our newest faulty computer system working.
We never seem to learn. This is not the first new computer system to tie state government in knots. Remember the new system at the Taxation and Revenue Department several years ago that was supposed to solve all our tax reporting problems?
And then there was the State Land Office's ONGARD system for oil and gas accounting. People in the industry tell me they spent millions adapting to the system, which still has its flaws 20 years later.
WED, 1-24-07

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


Saturday, January 13, 2007

1-19 GOP Gets House in Order

SANTA FE -- While Democrats have been reveling in their victories, the state GOP has been working quietly to put its house in order for 2008.
Often controversial executive director Marta Kramer has departed, but could resurface later in a New Mexico campaign. Also departing is public relations spokesman Jonah Cohen, who is headed for a private school history teaching position in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The staff departures are seen as an attempt to pacify those who were calling for a change in party direction. For awhile, at least a half dozen names were floating around as possible candidates to replace state GOP Chairman Allen Weh.
But suddenly Weh announced that he will run again for chairman in the spring. Following that announcement, all his likely competitors surprisingly fell silent.
What happened? Likely, party powerhouse, Sen. Pete Domenici, decided the state party needed some stability leading into the 2008 elections when both he and the GOP presidential candidate will be running. Domenici also is sure to have realized that divisions within the party needed healing, thus, the departures of Kramer and Cohen.
Quiet control of a state party by its top elected official is not unusual. In the Democratic Party it is commonly the governor -- when he's a Democrat. When Republican Gary Johnson was governor, Rep. Bill Richardson and Sen. Jeff Bingaman shared the honor. When Rep. Manuel Lujan represented New Mexico in Congress, he and Domenici shared the power.
Weh took over the reins of the state GOP in April 2004, replacing Ramsay Gorham who was ousted mid-term by an opposing party faction. Weh was to be a caretaker for a year, serving mainly as a figurehead and fund raiser, but then he was elected to a term of his own in the spring of 2005.
Weh worked hard as a fund raiser and didn't alienate fellow Republicans the way Kramer did. So now it appears he will fill the roll of providing stability, while the departure of top staff members will serve as the change of direction. Now we'll see if some of those with complaints, such as state Sen. Joe Carraro, will be happy with the new structure.
Carraro was a candidate in the U.S. Senate primary last June. He felt that Kramer and the party were supporting the eventual winner of the nomination, Dr. Allen McCulloch, of Farmington. Carraro blamed the favoritism on Kramer and was calling for her head until she departed.
Kramer is gone but the faction of the party she was supporting still is strong so Weh and the new staff members will have their jobs cut out for them. One question will be whether to hire from within New Mexico, where the staff might already be aligned with a party faction or to bring in fresh faces from outside.
Sen. Domenici will be watching closely, along with Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce. Weh's success in hiring new staff is sure to have a bearing on whether other candidates jump into the race for party chairman next spring.
Some of the names floating around have been Bernalillo County GOP Chairman Fernando C de Baca, Truth or Consequences rancher Earl Greer, Roswell oilman Mark Murphy, Albuquerque attorney Jim Bibb and even Santa Fe physician J.R. Damron.
One problem it appears Weh won't have to face this month is a Democrat bill in the state Legislature to redistrict New Mexico's three congressional seats four years early to give Democrats a better shot at winning two of the seats instead of one.
Albuquerque Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino floated the idea following Rep. Heather Wilson's razor-thin victory in November's 1st Congressional District race. But Gov. Bill Richardson said he would prefer not to have such a controversial topic dominate this legislative session.
Remember when Texas Republicans did that and Senate Democrats from our neighboring state paid a month-long visit to New Mexico a few years ago?

This will be the last column for next week. The next column will be 1-24.

1-17 Bill Making all the Right Moves

SANTA FE -- Several weeks ago, this column advised readers that if they aren't sure why Gov. Bill Richardson is taking an action, they should look at it from the point of view of a presidential candidate.
We know that is the way our governor is thinking 24/7 and we should expect him to be making all the right moves to enhance his potential candidacy. Let's take a look at some of his recent moves.
Global warming. Why would a governor get excited about a subject that takes national and international action to address? It's a big issue for Democratic activists who choose presidential nominees. So Richardson appointed a diverse 40-member climate advisory group to make recommendations on what New Mexico can do.
Governmental ethics is a hot issue at both state and national levels. Neither Congress nor the New Mexico Legislature did much about it last year. The new Democratic Congress appears to be going full steam ahead. So Richardson is proposing a long list of state reforms proposed by an ethics task force he appointed.
Eminent domain is a big item for both Democrats and Republicans after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling opened the door for private developers, in concert with state or local government, to have private property condemned for private economic development purposes. Richardson appointed a task force on this subject also.
Election reform has been a major federal concern since the Florida recount fiasco of 2000 and the Ohio electronic voting problems in 2004. Richardson succeeded last year in pushing the state back to paper ballots in order to create a paper trail. He's hoping that by working out the bugs in that system, he can claim national leadership in restoring voter confidence.
Emergency preparedness has been a big deal since 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Gov. Richardson tried to show off his readiness by activating the state Emergency Operation Center and declaring a state of disaster for our second big snow that began on Dec. 27. Some say it wasn't good enough.
Travelers headed east from Albuquerque on I-40 complained the road was closed far too long. Hearing the state Homeland Security director explain that we had an unprecedented amount of snow made those travelers even more upset. They responded that they didn't need an expensive new office to explain the obvious. They needed an office that didn't take three days to clear 20 miles of road through Tijeras Canyon.
Richardson may have struck out on that one, although the emergency office did wake up in time to start helping ranchers with starving cows. There may be some validity to charges that the office is staffed by too many political appointees. "Gifts from the north," they are called.
The governor finally says he will push for a ban on cockfighting in the 2007 Legislature. Richardson has stayed out of that battle the past four years, explaining that there wasn't time to deal with the issue plus his long list of priorities.
So count on a chicken fighting ban taking even more legislative time than usual this year. It is a highly charged issue that takes not only time, but an emotional toll on lawmakers because both sides will fight to its death -- or passage.
Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez says a governor cannot win the presidency if his state is one of only two allowing cockfighting. That may not be true. Animal treatment doesn't rank particularly high on lists of national priorities, but the governor likely would prefer to see the issue out of the way.
National pundits agree that Richardson has built himself a golden resume. But that isn't the only way delegates or voters pick candidates. Emotional attachment to a candidate is important and Richardson hasn't found the "easy button" to activate that.
Being a likable Hispanic candidate with a great resume normally should work. But right now the first serious female candidate and an inspiring African-American candidate are trumping him.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Grab Your Pocketbooks

SANTA FE -- Grab your hats -- and your pocketbooks. The 2007 Legislature convenes on Tues, Jan.16. It should be a lively time. We've learned that any legislative session with Gov. Bill Richardson cracking the whip will see plenty of action.
This will be a 60-day, "long" legislative session, so all subjects are open for consideration. Over a thousand pieces of legislation are likely to be introduced in each house on every topic imaginable, but the governor and lawmakers have signaled that certain topics are sure to be discussed.
At the top of everyone's list is money. Also sure to be considered are elections, ethics, eminent domain, water and, of course, cockfighting.
The state has a treasure chest of money and all lawmakers and lobbyists want just a little more than their share for favorite programs and projects. A little will be given back, but not enough to make a bit of difference to anyone.
Count on state government increasing by over 10 percent next year. Our current $5.1 billion general fund budget is sure to increase by over $500 million. How can I be so sure?
December revenue projections forecast an increase in "new money" of $720 million. Some of that will go in the state's huge savings account and a little will be used for tax cuts, but most of it will increase state government and its programs.
The major increases are expected to be in Medicaid spending and public safety. State Medicaid costs amount to over $700 million a year. Expect an increase of somewhere around 15 percent for next year. When we have the money, as we currently do, Medicaid spending actually isn't a bad investment.
Under the federal government's poverty formula, the feds will approximately quadruple every dollar we put into Medicaid. Since our state comes out near the bottom in health care coverage, money put into Medicaid will improve our ranking by covering more people.
Strengthening public safety is another good idea for a security conscious nation. The state's Homeland Security office gets part of that. Another recipient is the state police crime lab, which we learned won't be able to get around to former First Lady Dee Johnson's toxicology report for four months. Expect a hefty, double-digit increase there.
Public schools are by far the biggest state expenditure, consuming almost half the state's general fund budget. But increases for schools never will be in the double-digit range because of the amount of money that would eat up.
Care must be taken that tastes don't become too expensive because the whopping revenue increases are made possible by oil and gas payments, which plummet whenever prices do.
Even more new money is available for pork projects. This money comes from severance taxes, mainly on oil and gas; budget surpluses and bond issues. There is so much money available for pork that some of it is wasted on local projects that don't have any local support. Over $1 billion appropriated for pork projects over the last few years, is lying idle because projects are moving slowly or not at all.
The state's new paper ballot voting system worked reasonably well in November but adjustments are necessary to clarify voter identification procedures, provide sufficient training and analyze extra funding requests made by the former secretary of state.
Ethics reform is a must. Gov. Bill Richardson asked lawmakers to send him a bill last year, but they didn't. So the governor appointed a task force to make recommendations, most of which he is sending on to the Legislature.
Eminent domain authority of state and local governments needs reining in to protect private property rights after the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to condemning private property for private developers' benefit.
And then there is cockfighting. Gov. Richardson has agreed to support a ban this year, but that doesn't mean it will pass easily. There will be just as much time-consuming controversy as ever.


1-12 How Udall Snared Coveted Panel

SANTA FE -- Rep. Tom Udall's surprise capture of a coveted seat on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee was much like many other overnight successes in this world -- the result of years of hard work and planning.
It wasn't an accident, fluke, luck or anything else of that nature. It had been in the works for a long time. And it was evidence that playing by the old rules still works quite well, thank you.
Udall had been working at getting a seat on this most powerful of all committees ever since former Rep. Joe Skeen announced his retirement almost five years ago. Skeen had been on the Appropriations Committee for many years and had chaired several of its subcommittees.
That made Skeen a "cardinal," a title given to Appropriations subcommittee chairmen because of the tremendous power they wield. Udall won't be chairing a subcommittee anytime soon, but that's where he's headed.
Skeen and Udall both gained their precious committee seat the same way. They both chose to live in Washington and spend most of their weekends there. U.S. senators do that and it once was what House members were expected to do.
Living in Washington allows members of Congress to get to know each other on a social basis. It brings our representatives much closer to each other. It builds an atmosphere of trust and bipartisanship.
Living in Washington enabled Rep. Udall to get to know Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee and now its chairman. It also allowed him to get to know House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
Udall let both of them know what he wanted as soon as the time became right. The Democratic capture of the U.S. House made it the right time because the majority party has quite a few more members on each committee than does the minority party.
So Rep. Udall got on the Appropriations Committee at the beginning of his fifth term in the U.S. House. That's a little quicker than most House members get on that committee, but Udall had played his cards at least as well as anyone in the House.
And why not, considering his mentor? Udall's father, Stuart Udall, was a member of Congress in the 1950s. He lived in Washington, so that's where Tom grew up. When Jack Kennedy became president in 1960, he chose Stuart as his secretary of the Interior Department. How's that for knowing how to get plugged into the system?
The opportunity to network in Washington has decreased since Republicans took over Congress in 1994 and began encouraging freshmen to leave their families in their district, leading to less time in Washington.
To accommodate that practice, floor votes were taken only Tuesday morning through Thursday noon. New Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says she plans to discontinue that practice and return to a five-day work week.
We can only hope that returning to a schedule that encourages living in Washington also will encourage more bipartisanship. Maybe some ice cream socials need to be planned to get the socializing started again.
In the days when Republican leaders were encouraging members to keep their families at home, some of those leaders were living in their offices, a no-no for members of Congress. Members of the media then began patrolling the halls of congressional office buildings to see if they could catch congressmen in their jammies and report on the infractions.
Our own Sen. Pete Domenici recently became a victim of the pajama patrol when he was spotted wearing what a reporter from Roll Call newspaper thought were pajamas. Bloggers excitedly picked up the story since their unofficial work attire is pajamas. Soon blogs were screaming things like "Senator in Pajamas Terrorizes Washington."
What a crock. Pete lives in Washington, near the Capitol. He is known for working weekends and holidays, at home and in his office. He had on a pair of hunting pants, which city-boy reporters wouldn't recognize.

Jay Miller's INSIDE THE CAPITOL, Fri,1-12-07

I will be sending only two columns this week, instead of the usual three.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

1-08 Catron Law Firm Brings Memories of Old West

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Memories of the Wild West still live at the Catron law firm, founded in 1866 by Thomas Benton Catron, the reputed head of the notorious Santa Fe Ring.
The family of lawyers, headed by Thomas B. Catron III, grandson of the founder, is celebrating the 140th anniversary of the firm, making it one of New Mexico's oldest businesses.
Until about 15 years ago, the firm had its offices on the Santa Fe Plaza in the Catron Building, diagonally across the street from the Palace of the Governors, the seat of New Mexico government for almost 300 years.
Look up to the top of the two-story building at the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and Palace Avenue and see the words "Catron Block," indicating that Catron owned much more than just that building. Those words were in full view of the governor and lawmakers as they entered and exited the Palace of the Governors.
Until the firm moved to modern office space in the early 1990s, the office still had the look of the 1880s, when it was built. Still practicing with the firm are Tom Catron III, 84, his brother John Catron and his son Fletcher Catron.
Tom Catron says the stories of his grandfather and the Santa Fe Ring are overblown. The Ring was not an early type of Mafia, Catron says.
Nevertheless, stories from a century ago abound about the group of lawyers, politicians and businessmen who used unscrupulous tactics to acquire Spanish land grants that had carried over to the United States after the Mexican War in the late 1840s. Reportedly, the Ring accumulated as much as two million acres of land.
Those stories also include accounts of the Ring controlling judges, district attorneys and lawmen throughout the territory who ran roughshod over citizens in their quest for even more power and money.
The Ring figured significantly in the Lincoln County War, about which we've often written. It reputedly backed the Murphy-Dolan faction, which used any means necessary to keep the Tunstall-McSween faction from competing for the lucrative contracts to supply Fort Stanton.
Billy the Kid was a cowboy, working for the Tunstall ranch. Tunstall's cruel murder set off the Lincoln County War and Billy's string of killings.
Tom Catron says the Santa Fe Ring's participation in these events is exaggerated. But some who have written about Billy and the Lincoln County War, say they would love to write about the Ring but fear for their lives if they do so.
Having known the Catron family for nearly 40 years, I find that very difficult to believe. The firm does much pro-bono work for non-profit organizations. Tom and his gracious wife June were early supporters of the Santa Fe Opera and continue to be some of its leading patrons. The Catrons are as nice a family as you'll ever meet.
Tom Catron acknowledges that his grandfather accrued a lot of land but says he lost most of it before he died. Tom says he doesn't have any of it. Catron also notes that he is a Democrat, whereas his grandfather's extensive political influence came through the Republican party.
Former state historian Myra Ellen Jenkins, the leading authority on just about everything until long after her retirement in 1980, dismissed conspiracy theories about the Santa Fe Ring. She also didn't think much of Billy the Kid. Just an obscure delinquent, she would say.
Whatever the senior Catron's shortcomings may have been, he made his mark on New Mexico. He came here after fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Having lost many of his rights to the Unionists, he moved West, settling first in Las Cruces, which briefly had been Confederate headquarters for New Mexico and Arizona during the war.
Soon he became district attorney, U.S. attorney, mayor of Santa Fe, a state legislator and New Mexico's first U.S. senator. Catron County was named after him in recognition of the major role he played in our effort to gain statehood.
MON, 1-08-07

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


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

1-05 Should We Treat Presidents Like Kings?

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Americans should apply some perspective to the "simple tributes" accorded to former President Gerald Ford upon his death.
The media spoke at great length about the modest arrangements to honor Ford and noted that they were as he would have liked. Wrong. They were as modest as he could make them but he was pressured to allow much more of the trappings than he wanted.
One commentator spoke of the "protocol people" sitting him down years before his death and impressing on him the importance to America of him having a stately funeral.
So is a stately funeral important to America? It wasn't to our founders. They were escaping the royal rulers of Europe. Their government was based on all men being created equal. The president was first among equals, while he was president, but he became a common man again when his term ended.
Tributes to past presidents truly were modest back then. Funerals were private. Lowered flags and some tributes were about the extent of any recognition.
It was different when a sitting president died, especially under tragic circumstances, such as Abraham Lincoln. His was the first "state" funeral. He also was first to "lie in state," which historian David Clary of Roswell describes as a royalist term, borrowed from Europe.
But following Lincoln's mourning, presidents' funerals became modest again. The next extravagant funeral was that accorded President John Kennedy, a glamorous president also assassinated while in office.
Kennedy's assassination was carried worldwide on television and so was his funeral. Clary believes it was the advent of television that brought about the excessive coverage, not only of presidential funerals but of everything a president or past president does.
Ever since Kennedy, presidential inaugurations have been surrounded by pomposity. The annual message of the president to Congress has become the State of the Union address and presidents retire to a glorious life of high-paid speeches, corporate directorships, seven-figure book advances and library-museums befitting a pharaoh.
Former President Ronald Reagan's funeral set the new gold standard. He came from the world of Hollywood glitz as did his first lady. Ford's funeral was a step below but still far more than he or our founding fathers thought was appropriate.
Clary may be right about television being the influence that changed everything. Either that, or it was coincidence that Jack Kennedy was the first president to be a TV star just as television spread nationwide. After that, every president wanted to be a star.
The creation of 24-hour news networks has increased the excesses. Even with President Ford and James Brown dying just a day apart, the news stations still had more than ample time to overload us with the pageantry stage managers planned.
And what about the American public? If we feel the adoration is more than any royal ruler deserves, we could tell that to the rating services and the all-news channels would go back to covering serial murders and missing little girls full time.
But since that isn't happening, should we assume that Americans feel a need for some of the pageantry and veneration of their leaders and former leaders? We do seem to have a fascination with European royalty.
Maybe our presidents fill the dual role of a king and a prime minister. The Europeans seem to keep those roles sorted out. Veneration for royalty who represent tradition but have no power and treatment of their elected leaders as common men and women.
Anyway, former President Jimmy Carter may be the next to leave us. He is a humble man. Do you suppose he will have any better luck than Jerry Ford at toning down the excesses of his funeral?
Probably not, because sitting presidents have a stake in keeping up the tradition. And you can bet the farm on no president giving up the Secret Service protection, free office space and presidential libraries and museum now accorded to presidents.
FRI, 1-05-07

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