Inside the Capitol

Sunday, February 05, 2012

2-8 Legislature still dominated by politics

20812 Legis 6
SANTA FE – Politics still dominate the 2012 Legislature. Redistricting helped set the tone. All lawmakers will be running in at least slightly different districts this year. That makes for some tension.
The judicial decision on districts in the almost evenly divided House is being appealed because Democratic leaders charge it will help Republicans. Both parties presented plans designed to help their own. The judge decided the Republican plan was fairer.
Gov. Susana Martinez also is partly to blame. Her campaign manager still is her chief adviser so her relations with the Legislature are being handled as a political race would be. Instead of working with lawmakers to resolve differences, she announces she will not compromise and goes directly to voters to promote her positions.
And Democrats are partly to blame. They control the Legislature and will use that power in any manner that can help them. As an example, consider the confirmation process. Theoretically, the governor should get to choose the team she wants to help her govern.
But if there is a way for the opposition to make her squirm, it will do so. Economic Development Department Secretary-designate Jon Barela considered another run for the 1st Congressional District seat he almost took from Martin Heinrich in 2010.
So the Senate Rules Committee, which controls confirmation hearings, slowed Barela's confirmation to a stop. It removes a slight amount of prestige from Barela's resume to not be able to say he was a cabinet secretary even though he has been doing the job for over a year. Now that Barela has announced that he won't run, will the rules committee quickly give him a hearing?
Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera hasn't received a confirmation hearing in over a year either. Democrats have fought some of her ideas about reforming education. Skandera says she doesn't care about having to call herself a secretary-designate. Her authority is still the same. That must ruin some of the fun for Democrats.
Then there was the grilling the Senate Rules Committee gave three appointees to the State Fair Commission for their votes to award a controversial new 25-year contract to operate the Fair's racino. Gov. Martinez, wanting to reduce the criticism that her appointees awarded the bid to a company that is behind on its payments to the state, withdrew the nominations.
The following day, the Senate quickly approved the nominations, saying the governor doesn't have the authority to withdraw the names. As of this writing, it isn't certain what will happen next but, once again, Martinez has ruined some of the Democrats' fun.
Meanwhile, as Gov. Martinez says she is willing to start communicating with legislators, she remains unyielding to compromise on any of her priorities. House Democrats have worked hard to find ways to eliminate the fraud that accompanies the issuance of driver's licenses to illegal aliens without taking away their driving privileges.
Democrats contend that illegals need to drive their cars to do the jobs that Americans don't care to perform. Efforts to severely restrict those licenses have been met with repeated warnings from the governor that she will veto anything short of a total prohibition.
Insiders say she calculates that voters will defeat Democrats who won't totally support her. It is a campaign issue and Democrats who don't support her will be targeted in the November elections. Some already are being targeted with robocalls into their districts.
The $50 million cap on film rebates is another item of contention. Now that Gov. Martinez seems to have mellowed her feelings about the film industry, efforts to remove the cap or make some exceptions are being rebuffed by the governor saying the industry said it wants some certainty and I'm letting them know they can be certain the cap won't change.
Did New Mexico attract as much film business last year as in previous years? We haven't seen any figures and we haven't seen as many stars around town either.


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