Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

4-15 Gov and Lawmakers Interact

FRI, 4-15-11
Here are some further thoughts about the governor and Legislature.
If Gov. Susanna Martinez continues her out of state trips to speak to Republican groups, she might want to consider some of her recent vetoes relating to women and minorities. Media talk has indicated that the GOP is interested in making inroads among women and minorities in order to capture some of the vote that President Barack Obama won so heavily in 2008.
Gov. Martinez announced before the 2011 Legislature convened that she wanted to disband the Commission on the Status of Women. Lawmakers didn�t like the idea, so the commission remained but Martinez vetoed the body�s entire appropriation from the budget bill.
The governor also vetoed appropriations for the African-American Performing Arts Center at the State Fair Grounds along with a bill to provide loans to small budget films, especially those made by American Indians.
Maybe Martinez feels that since she achieved the governor�s office, recognition of women and minorities now has been fully satisfied. Or maybe she feels that groups to which she is speaking will not care. Regardless, it makes one wonder.
Restructuring of state government was a major topic for over a year. Gov. Bill Richardson entertained the idea before his final legislative session after a task force, headed by former Gov. Garrey Carruthers, came up with the idea.
The 2010 Legislature took a look at it and instructed its fiscal staff to make a comprehensive study of how state government could reorganize to achieve cost savings and maybe greater efficiency. The Legislature even instructed state agency heads to cooperate with its staff in the study.
It didn�t happen. Outgoing cabinet members fought reorganization all the way. Some of us thought that the incoming governor and cabinet might feel more flexible about money-saving ideas. But that didn�t happen either. Gov. Martinez indicated a willingness to consider anything the Legislature might suggest but she went ahead and appointed an entire cabinet.
Legislation was introduced but at some point along the way, lawmakers began to lose interest. It was too big a battle for little in the way of savings. Attention was turned to bigger cost-saving items And then there were the wedge issues, which invariably consume the majority of any legislative session.
An interesting situation is developing around the tough-on-crime issue. The old talk about locking �em up and throwing away the key is being rethought in terms of cost containment. It is expensive to lock up people for years. Criminals who are a menace to society should be locked up forever. But less expensive alternatives might be fashioned for others.
The Legislature passed a bill this year diverting certain drug offenders to programs not involving prison. Gov. Martinez vetoed it but eventually even she may want to rethink her position.
Gov. Martinez did stray a little from her law and order philosophy at least once. She signed a bill banning corporeal punishment in schools. Most New Mexico schools have banned it for years. When I taught in Albuquerque 50 years ago, we were told not to touch a child even lovingly. Even then, no excuse was too small to sue the government.
Many of the reasons for the right to paddle are similar to those in favor of capital punishment. It is a deterrent even if almost never used. Gov. Martinez still favors the death penalty but might this be an indication she might bend a little on her tough on crime positions?
Since Gov. Martinez now is now enthusiastic about the spaceport, might she rethink her position on requiring private money in order to finish it? The possibility exists that it might be necessary next year to ask for a small amount to provide finishing touches.
The only likely source other than the state would be Sir Richard Branson. It appears he is doing a much greater service with heavy international marketing of Southern New Mexico tourism.


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