Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Capital Report Debues


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- A new political publication has appeared on the scene. Capitol Report New Mexico is a three-issues-a-year magazine that intends to shed some light on political and policy processes "inside Paseo de Peralta," New Mexico's version of the famous Washington, D.C. "Beltway."

      Capitol Report is published by Jack Swickard, who was editor and general manager of the Roswell Daily Record for many years, and Harold Morgan, known for the Sunwest Bank business newsletter he produced for many years. Morgan also writes a political column distributed by New Mexico News Services.

      The feature of the first issue is the health care proposals that will be discussed in depth by the 2008 Legislature. Summaries of the four major approaches fill several pages. It is sure to be a hot topic as states throughout the nation wrestle with providing affordable health coverage to all.

      Also included was an insightful analysis of the extremely close 1st Congressional District race between Rep. Heather Wilson and Patricia Madrid. University of New Mexico political science professor Lonna Atkeson suggests that in order for Democrats to ever win that district, it will be necessary for them to abandon traditional concepts of targeting voters and put a greater focus on individual Democratic voters within Republican areas and not concede any area or voter.

      Atkeson says this micro-targeting strategy was what won the 2004 presidential election for Republicans in New Mexico. They decided to leave no voter unattended.

      Also in the issue is an analysis by New Mexico State University political science professor Jose Garcia  of Gov. Bill Richardson's prominent effect on state Democratic politics.

   Garcia surmises that this governor's overwhelming presence has created a bottleneck of indecision among Democrats coveting top offices while waiting to see if Richardson will serve his full term, win presidential nomination, decide to run for the U.S. Senate in 2008 or receive a top federal appointment in 2009.

   The most interesting article to me was the report of an anonymous citizen who visited our Capitol for a day during the past legislative session. This citizen had lived in other states and visited their capitols so had some basis of comparison.

   He found our legislature fascinating for its openness, politeness and courtesy. He was surprised to be able to walk in the front door and go straight to his lawmakers' offices. He met both his representative and senator who were eager to know if he had any issues or concerns.

   Within minutes, he had met two lobbyists and a former governor. The committee meeting he attended was addressing a controversial issue but  the legislators were statesmanlike and the testimony was respectful, unlike what we see on the news from our nation's capital.

   What amazed him most, however, was the quantity and quality of art that surrounded him. He marveled at the phenomenal environment in which the legislative process operates and admitted it was a bit distracting because he wanted to spend his time just admiring all the works by well-known artists.

   The citizen's one complaint about New Mexico politics was that he doesn't get enough information and analysis. Access to Capitol Reports issues will help address that complaint. And of course, moving to a community whose newspaper carries this column would be invaluable.

   I don't know where this fellow parked, but that is the complaint I hear most often from citizen lobbyists. The Legislature is finally addressing that problem, however.

   A large parking garage will be built across the street west of the Capitol. When New Mexico citizens are able to park easily in that structure, our Legislature will be much closer to the truly open and accessible government it should be.

   The spring Capitol Report issue also contains a concise explanation of New Mexico's changing tax scene, a profile of a top lobbyist and many, many colorful snapshots by noted political photographer Mark Bralley.

   My prediction is that this will be a successful venture.

FRI, 6-29-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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