Inside the Capitol

Thursday, September 08, 2011

9-12 Legislature off to contentious start

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The New Mexico Legislature is off to its expected contentious start. The starter's gun is fired by the governor with a proclamation setting the time and date of the session and the subjects to be covered.
Normally proclamations are very official sounding but Gov. Susana Martinez's version seemed argumentative, more like a campaign speech. Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, of Roswell, called the proclamation "political rhetoric and antagonistic."
Jennings charged in an opening day floor speech that the governor unfairly portrayed lawmakers as tax-raisers who increase burdens on small businesses.
Those weren't the only shots fired back and forth. In a Sunday Op-Ed piece in the Albuquerque Journal, Gov. Martinez said she was willing to work during the session but suggested that most legislators would have little to do so they should get busy with her agenda.
Jennings shot back that Martinez's comments were absurd. He noted that he has been through four redistricting sessions and she has been through none. "What does she know," he asked?
Sen. Jennings is not a liberal Democrat, by any means. He led an insurgency of all Senate Republicans and a few Democrats to overturn the Senate Democratic caucus' selection of Sen. Carlos Cisneros, of Taos, for Senate president pro tem.
Jennings was former Gov. Bill Richardson's bitter enemy for eight years. It was expected that he and Gov. Martinez would see eye to eye on many matters. But they haven't gotten off to a good start.
One of Martinez's problems seems to be a reluctance to talk with Democratic leaders. Or maybe it is her political handlers who don't want her making deals with Democrats. They likely would rather lose now and use the loses to help win more legislative seats next year.
Martinez often is compared former Gov. Gary Johnson, who also was a Republican faced with a Democratic legislature. But lawmakers appreciated Johnson's accessibility. They didn't agree on much. But they didn't fight. Johnson kept his comments positive just as he kept his campaign commercials positive.
Johnson didn't get much legislation passed but he didn't have much legislation he wanted to pass. He was a proponent of limited government and was able to accomplish that through numerous vetoes.
Blogger Joe Monahan is suggesting that Martinez may be more like former Gov. Toney Anaya, a Democrat faced with a Republican controlled legislature. Anaya couldn't get anything passed and was in a constant war with lawmakers.
Martinez may find herself in the same situation. She has initiatives she wants to pass but she didn't get them in the regular session and isn't on track to get anything passed in this session except for some cleanup legislation left over from last spring.
Catholic bishops have been asking Gov. Martinez to compromise on banning driver's licenses for illegal aliens. During the regular session, the Senate passed legislation strengthening penalties for illegally obtaining drivers licenses.
But Martinez wants to go all or nothing rather than getting what she can now and coming back to do more later. Last Wednesday evening we heard Republican presidential candidates laud former President Ronald Reagan's leadership.
Reagan was a very pragmatic president, however. He was famous for the art of the deal. Today compromise has become a bad word. Bismarck, or whomever said "Politics is the art of compromise," would be in for some major arguments today.
Gary Johnson just can't seem to catch a break. He wasn't invited to the first big presidential debate, which was held in New Hampshire earlier this summer because he was only polling one percent. He was told he needed to be at two percent in the CNN poll to be invited.
Now Johnson is polling two percent with CNN and he still didn't get invited to last Wednesday's big debate. Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum, who only polled one percent, were invited.
Johnson says he'll stick to New Hampshire and try to make his mark there.
MON, 9-12-11

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



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