Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

12-31 Unpredictable Year Expected

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Get ready for another unpredictable year in the world of politics. Gov. Susana Martinez comes almost completely unknown,
Her inauguration ceremony will be outdoors for the first time since 1975 and away from the current capitol building for the first time in memory. She will host the first children's inaugural ball ever and that evening will be her "bold" inaugural ball.
It is the first time anyone around here can remember an inaugural ball with an adjective attached to it, or with an invitation required or with a steep price. Entry fees at previous balls have ranged from free to $10. Never $100 apiece.
The message so far is that Susana will be different. We knew what to expect from a Bruce King administration. We even had a good idea of what a Bill Richardson administration would look like. He represented northern New Mexico for 14 years and often acted as though he represented the entire state.
Gov. Gary Johnson was at least as unpredictable as Susana. His libertarian views were unfamiliar to just about every New Mexican. He even astounded the leaders of his own party, which caused considerable havoc.
But Susana is not expected to have Johnson's independent streak. She has listened faithfully to her party advisers and is expected to do the same during her administration.
Bill Richardson will not retire to the quiet life of a gentleman rancher as he has suggested. Our soon-to-be-former governor has been the restless type ever since he was a kid. He may not want to be tied down by a job but he will always be on the go and cooking up something. Expect fireworks his last day in office.
New Mexico will have only one statewide race in 2012. U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman will have to decide in 2011 whether he wants to go after another six-year term.
At this point in each of Bingaman's previous terms there has been speculation he would retire. In his late 60s, Bingaman can retire with no financial worries and a respected career to look back upon.
But that isn't the Jeff Bingaman I have known since he was in grade school. Back in the 1970s, Jeff and Ann traveled to Mexico with another couple to enjoy a week of kicking back and enjoying life.
An hour after arrival, they were lounging by the pool and Jeff disappeared for awhile. When he returned he announced he had run over to the local college and signed up for a week's course in Spanish.
I seriously doubt Jeff has changed. He stays in great shape and always wants to be doing something constructive. Unless there is something of a personal nature I don't know about, I pick Jeff to announce for another term in mid-2011.
New Mexico's junior senator, Tom Udall, will stay busy in 2011. He belongs to a group of Democratic senators who were elected in 2006 and 2008. The young mavericks want to change the Senate's way of doing business.
Udall is taking the lead on the cloture rule which requires 60 votes of the 100-member body to consider legislation. It's a good idea but it won't go anywhere. Even senior Democrats object because they remember when they were in the minority.
Major issues before state lawmakers in 2011 will be the budget, ethics, reorganization of government and redistricting. Don't expect much.
On the budget, they'll kick the can just far enough down the road to get through another year. They'll pass a token ethics law or two to make it appear they support open government. They'll realize reorganizing government isn't going to save much money or be worth the hassle. And redistricting will be minimal because of the new governor's veto.
The 10th anniversary of 9-11 looms. Early September will be tense. And Billy the Kid will still be causing trouble -- in more places than one.
FRI, 12-31-10

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



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