Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Expect Fireworks


SANTA FE – Expect fireworks from the 2012 Legislature even though everyone promises to be nicer. The thaw in relations began when Republicans, Democrats and Gov. Susana Martinez reached some agreements late in the redistricting process.
Short 30-day legislative sessions were created for the purpose of building the following fiscal year's budget. The governor and Republican lawmakers would like to see tax breaks for businesses and Democrats want to reinstate some program cuts.
Now that the word "compromise" seems to be less onerous, a few tax cuts and a few increases in previously cut programs may be on the horizon.
Legislators are limited to introducing only bills relating to the budget but the governor is allowed to request introduction of any additional subjects she desires. The procedure is for her to send messages to both houses on each additional subject she would like them to consider.
At that point, she will have already found one or more legislators to introduce a bill her office has drafted on the subject. That act then allows any other lawmakers to introduce their own legislations on the same subject. Each house has a committee to determine whether such bills are appropriately germane to the governor's message.
It is those non-budget bills that will cause the fireworks this session. Gov. Martinez has said she wants to try a third time to take driver's licenses from illegal aliens. If the vote appears close, Democrats may propose amendments to grandfather existing license holders or to stipulate how the program will be administered.
Martinez had an all-or-nothing attitude on her legislative priorities last year. If she is willing to accept half a loaf on some of her priorities this year, she may get some of them up to her desk and fight for the rest another day.
Former Gov. Gary Johnson insisted in all or nothing during all eight years he was in office. In his final year, revenues were very good and he proposed some big tax cuts. The Legislature sent him a package of smaller cuts, which Johnson vetoed.
The following year, new Gov. Bill Richardson got a similar package of tax cuts through the Legislature, for which he received national acclaim. Rush Limbaugh even praised him. Johnson complained but the fault was basically his for a take-it-or-leave-it approach.
Other non-budget items we likely will see from the governor this session are bills to halt "social promotion" of third graders, Public Regulation Commission reform, requirement of voter identification at the polls and an increase in the age requirement for public employee retirement eligibility.
Gov. Martinez likes the idea of reorganizing state government, which has been discussed since the final year of the Richardson administration. But instead of a major legislative hassle about how to do it, Martinez likely plans to continue her quiet consolidation of government programs and personnel.
Now that the governor has unexpectedly become a fan of the film industry, might she want to remove the cap she got put on rebates to that industry for expenses incurred in New Mexico? She has said nothing and film industry representatives are talking among themselves about doing it in 2013.
It all may become a moot issue now that Disney has announced it will film a big Lone Ranger adventure in the state. It has been difficult to get any figures on whether the cap on film rebates has hurt or not. All I know is that there have been far fewer star sightings reported in the Santa Fe area the past several months.
Speaking of former Gov. Richardson, this column reported a month or so ago that he had dropped from sight after a grand jury began investigating him again. But Richardson was highly visible last week at the huge funeral for former state Tourism Secretary Mike Cerletti at the St. Francis Cathedral Basilica.
His website,, also is full of information again on his travels and activities.
I just discovered I didn't email 1/18 column after writing it two days ago. Bad mistake on my part when events breaking fast up here. 1/20 column should be to you in a couple of hours.


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