Inside the Capitol

Thursday, March 07, 2013

31113 weird

SANTA FE – Today's features continue with more of the unexplainable in politics.
As we enter the final week of New Mexico's annual legislative session, still nothing major has happened concerning the well-being of our state.
Usually, when a legislature is controlled by one party and the governor is of the opposite party, at least some fireworks can be expected. But this session so far is running smoothly with next to nothing getting done.
One possible explanation for the lack of action is that almost all the leadership of both houses is new due to the death of House Speaker Ben Lujan and the defeat of Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings.
The change in leadership, plus almost a third of the Legislature being new may mean that many lawmakers are still feeling their way around their new positions.
Conjecture in the hallways of the Roundhouse is that in this, their final week of the session, action will explode into a flurry of activity. Count me among the disbelievers.
At least there isn't the animosity that is so obvious in our nation's capital. There are huge differences of opinion here in our state but either New Mexicans are nicer people or it may have something to do with benefits.
Members of Congress have huge six-figure salaries and vote themselves very generous benefits. They have a lot to protect. New Mexico lawmakers don't get paid and have meager benefits. Much of their motivation seems to come from wanting to help their constituents.
Two weeks ago, I mentioned that the action might move more quickly in both Santa Fe and Washington if our governor and president were more social with members of their legislative bodies.
I'm not going to take credit for the idea but it certainly worked with President Obama. He has been a social butterfly of late. Who knows if it will do any immediate good but Gov. Martinez should watch Obama's results closely.
Early in the session, it appeared a bill to clear up some rocket passenger liability issues would be the first bill passed. A measure in each house to clarify the issue did move quickly but the bills weren't identical.
Now they are sitting in committees of the other chamber and going absolutely nowhere. Trial attorneys are still the major suspect, figuring they aren't going to give up the opportunity to make millions off some juicy settlements.
Aren't these lawyers going to be surprised when they kill the golden goose and no passenger ever leaves Spaceport New Mexico? It is hard to sue anyone (but themselves for malfeasance) when the space business has left New Mexico. C'mon guys, this little liability change isn't going to cost taxpayers a cent.
Another issue on which I need some explanation is why New Mexicans seem so tolerant of highway traffic stops that extend for miles.
We seldom take a trip that we don't see lines of traffic waiting for a wreck to be cleared. Recently I saw that a sheriff along I-40 had opened some gates to a frontage road to allow a string of traffic around a crash site. He should be given a medal. You seldom see state police redirecting traffic. Of course, in our wide open spaces, there often aren't alternate routes.
Police say they have to take so long at accident sites because trial lawyers analyze their every move in court. Here we go with trial lawyers again.
The most egregious traffic stop ever occurred last month when cars were stopped near the middle of Albuquerque at the request of Amarillo, Texas police. The weather was fine in Albuquerque but Amarillo felt it couldn't handle all that bad weather traffic.
It seems like Texas is always doing something to upset New Mexicans. I've heard stories from farmers for years about Texas wasting the precious irrigation water we send them. And now Texas is in court trying to get more water.


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