1-31 Year of the Governor
By JAY MILLER
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 blogs.freenewmexican.com/terrell.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) email@example.com