Inside the Capitol

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-14 Legislative plan becoming evident

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The master plan for this special session on redistricting seems to be falling into place. Although surprises always are possible in the give and take between the governor and lawmakers who aren't particularly fond of each other.
Gov. Susana Martinez says the session can easily be over in two weeks. The Legislature appropriated enough money for three weeks. The maximum length allowed by law is 30 days but no one would benefit by it going that long.
The likely scenario is for lawmakers to wrap up redistricting in about two weeks and then turn their attention to the governor's agenda for several days.
By remaining in session, Gov. Martinez will have to act on the redistricting bills within three days. That will give lawmakers an opportunity to override any vetoes. It also allows for all sorts of horse trading.
The governor will be very busy during those days analyzing the redistricting bills plus advocating for her own package of an expected 11 bills.
Of course, Gov. Martinez said before the session that she was planning to work hard and intimating that most lawmakers weren't anxious to work. Some legislative leaders, during last winter's regular session charged that Martinez hadn't adequately prepared for the session.
But she did prepare for this session. Rep. Paul Bandy, R- San Juan, has introduced a 72-page bill to merge the Tourism and Cultural Affairs departments. Reportedly two more governmental restructuring bills will be introduced soon.
A year ago, government reorganization was a hot topic. A large committee of legislators and others met often during the interim and presented a major report to the 2011 but little was done with the report.
In Gov. Martinez's defense, the job of restructuring government takes a great amount of time and thought, which a new governor doesn't have. She did the one thing she could and it actually was the most important step. She told her top appointees restructure was possible and to be prepared to cooperate.
This didn't happen during the last year of the Bill Richardson administration. Former Gov. Richardson was amenable to reorganization but his appointees had developed loyalties to the present organization structure and fervently fought any change.
So reorganization has a chance under Gov. Martinez. It just won't happen during this session. It requires much more analysis and debate.
Some items on the governor's agenda lawmakers really want to see. They intended to pass the capital outlay bill in the regular session but it got caught up in a political spat involving other legislation.
Bills strengthening preference for in-state bidders and clarifying tax credits for companies paying high wages should get through easily.
That could be about it. Both sides want to shore up the unemployment fund. The governor wants to take the money out of reserves. Lawmakers voted to hike employer premiums during the regular session. The courts said to agree on something. Compromise could be an answer but that's a bad word.
Both sides know the state needs to increase highway maintenance funding. Gov. Martinez has asked for $41 million, which is the amount that was transferred for the Rail Runner. That complicates the matter.
The governor and a majority of the Legislature want fireworks restrictions but that can be handled just as well in January so Democrat leaders may postpone.
That leaves the tough stuff. Gov. Martinez wants to repeal the law granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens. The Senate proposed a compromise during the regular session, which it says meets all her objections. House Speaker Ben Lujan has introduced that Senate proposal in the House. Martinez says she'll veto.
The court has said to figure out the third-grade social promotion. As the battle continues, more good ideas surface. Everyone wants better reading. This seems to be the Legislature taking another slap at Education Secretary Hanna Skandera. She deserves a chance.
WED, 9-14-11

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



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