Friday, February 27, 2009
According to the poll, 53 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Richardson's job performance. Only 41 percent approve. In late January the numbers were 47 percent approving and 50 percent disapproving.
For much of his six years in office, Richardson's approval rating was above 60 percent. As recently as May 2007, when he was running for president, his approval went up to 74 percent in the SurveyUSA poll.
The governor's bad poll performances began last month after he withdrew as President Obama's Commerce secretary nominee because of the grand jury investigation of an alleged pay-to-play scheme.
The bishops' opposition was a leading factor in the lopsided margin of Thursday's 17-25 vote.
Read my story in The New Mexican HERE The complete rollcall is HERE.
Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, told me the panel never intended to permnanently deep six the bill. He said there were questions from some members about technical issues Wednesday, which were cleared up Thursday.
Conference committee meetings are where issues such as the state budget are hammered out. They are some of the few that are not open to the public.
The bill now goes to the House floor, where, if things go as usual, it will pass.
But if things go as usual in the Senate, it will die a hideous death there.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
"I spent many hours deliberating about this issue and did not come to my decision lightly or easily. I have talked with and listened to many groups, individuals, families and friends about their beliefs, personal situations, constitutional freedoms and religious stances, as well as about the effects of prejudice in their lives. They have all expressed a genuine desire to have equal rights to share personal holdings and be able to make end-of-life decisions for loved ones and lifetime partners. It has become clear to me over the last year that this issue involves much more than allowing elderly couples to more easily care for each other, enjoy hospital visitation rights and inherit a loved one's belongings and assets. As last year's court cases in California have shown, this issue has wider implications and needs much more study and review.
"If this legislation is not enacted into law this year, I will continue to monitor the issue over the next year with the goal of preserving the institution of marriage in New Mexico while ensuring that all New Mexicans enjoy certain basic rights in their personal relationships.
"The bottom line is this decision has been very difficult for me."
UPDATE: Gov. Bill Richardson also issued a statement: “I’m disappointed by the Senate’s actions today in defeating what is fundamentally an issue of civil rights and equality.”
Also I just spoke to Sen. Carlos Cisneros about his vote change. He said it wasn't a tactical move. He said he initially voted yes because he'd committed to the sponsor to do that. But when he saw the margin was as big as it was, he changed. He said his clergy was opposed and that had a big influence.
Sen Carlos Cisneros, who originally voted "yes" changed his vote to "no." That might be a tactic to allow him to make a motion to reconsider in the future if some of the other votes are changed. (only someone who voted with the majority to defeat a bill can move to reconsider.)
Besides Cisneros, the Democerats who voted against the bill were Pete Campos, Linda Lovejoy, Richard Martinez Tim Jennings, George Munoz, John Pinto, Bernadette Sanchez, John Arthur Smith and David Ulibarri.
Update: I changed this to correct a math error.
This is to try to satisfy concerns of religious groups, Siegle said. I asked her if she thinks it will change any votes. She said she didn't know.
Heath is all upset about this:
... even in these times, when the Richardson administration is dogged by pay-to-play allegations, when the former Senate president has admitted to using the legislative process to help steal millions of dollars in taxpayer money, when scandal after scandal after scandal is further jading an already skeptical public, the majority of members of the committee voted to shelve a proposal that would increase transparency and public confidence in the Legislature?
But obviously Heath hasn't considered all the implications of such a mean-spirited bill.
Let's look at the the argument of the senators who yesterday opposed SB141, (which would allow a court to increase the sentence of a public official convicted of a felony and impose a fine up to as much as the official's salary and benefits).
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, voted against the bill, saying it could punish an innocent spouse by taking away their partner's pension. "Why would we want to punish the spouse of the person ... for something their spouse did when they had no knowledge of it?" he said.
Senate Majority Whip Mary Jane Garcia, D-Doña Ana, who also voted against the bill, expressed the same concern as Sanchez and called it "mean-spirited" when it comes to the spouse.
Wouldn't it be punishing the spouses of lawmakers who use the legislative process to steal millions dollars of taxpayer money if the Legislature passed this conference committee bill and inhibited or even cut off this source of income. Maybe the HAFC was only being compassionate.
The vote was 10-4 to table
Voting to table
Rep. Lucky Varela
Rep. Brian Egolf
Rep. Jeanette Wallace
Rep. Rhonda King
Rep. Kiki Saavedra
Rep. Ray Begaye
Rep. Joni Gutierrez
Rep. Patty Lundstrom
Rep. Don Tripp
Rep. Danice Picraux
Voting against tabling
Rep. Kathy McCoy
Rep. Larry Larranaga
Rep. John Heaton
Rep. Richard Berry
Rep. Antonio Lujan
Rep. Richard Vigil
Rep. Nick Salazar
Rep. Don Bratton
February 26, 2009
The state Senate vote on a bill to establish domestic partnerships in New Mexico — set to be heard on the Senate floor today — is expected to be so close that supporters aren’t saying whether they have a majority of senators aboard.
In fact, they are hoping for a tie, according to one prominent advocate.
That’s what Linda Siegle, lobbyist for Equality New Mexico, told me Wednesday.
In case of a tie vote, the lieutenant governor gets to cast the tie-breaker. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is on record for supporting the bill.
If Senate Bill 12 passes the Senate — by Denish’s vote or otherwise — it would go to the House, which has passed similar bills in recent years.
The GOP connection: Although nobody expects any Republican votes for SB12 in the Senate, Equality New Mexico has one Republican on its lobbying team.
Former House Minority Whip Joe Thompson is one of the organization’s lobbyists.
Though he didn’t want to discuss his efforts on behalf of SB12, Thompson said Wednesday, “I’m very proud to work for them.”
Thompson said that as a legislator representing an Albuquerque district, he voted for a bill that made it illegal to discriminate in housing, credit or accommodations based on sexual preference. “No Republican has ever given me a hard time for supporting the Human Rights Act,” Thompson said.
Poll dancing: A recent poll conducted for Senate Republicans, released this week, showed that more New Mexicans favor the domestic-partner bill than oppose it, 47 percent to 42 percent.
That is, until those surveyed were “informed” that “in two states, California and Connecticut, the state supreme courts have ruled that domestic partnership legislation like the law proposed in New Mexico is same-sex marriage.”
“Knowing this, do you favor or oppose the Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act?” the pollster asked.
After that, support for the bill fell to 42 percent, with opposition rising to 52 percent.
But the “information” given was misinformation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The description of events in California and Connecticut didn’t happen the way the pollster said. In those states, the supreme courts ruled that the domestic-partnership laws violated state constitutions by creating a separate-but-unequal institution. According to the ACLU, there are seven other states (Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) with domestic-partnership laws that have not led to legal same-sex marriage.
The telephone survey of 500 registered voters in New Mexico, conducted Feb. 17-18 by Public Opinion Strategies, has a margin of error of 4.38 percent.
I first heard of the poll — or at least one very similar to it — a few days before Senate Republicans announced the results. One of the 500 registered voters who was contacted told me last week that she felt the pollster was “somebody who had an agenda.”
Suzie Clark of Albuquerque, who is active in the group Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said she felt uneasy about the poll when the topic switched from “domestic partnerships” to “gay marriage.”
Using “domestic partnerships” and “gay marriage” interchangeably is common among opponents of SB12. A news release from Senate Republicans on Wednesday has a headline saying, “Domestic Partnerships and Same Sex Marriage on Senate Floor Tomorrow.”
For a moment I wondered who was doing the ceremony.
But one question that Clark said she was asked didn’t appear on the list of questions released to the public. She said she was asked whether she’d vote for or against a legislator who voted for “gay marriage.” No poll results have been released on that question.
Watching the grass grow: The Senate Rules Committee has had a whole batch of ethics bills on its agenda for more than two weeks now. The New Mexico Independent Web site has featured webcasts of several meetings in hopes of showing viewers an ethics debate.
But so far very little in the way of ethics discussion has come out of the committee. A bill to prohibit ex-legislators from becoming lobbyists, SB163, sponsored by Sen. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque, is about it.
Although several ethics bills were on the committee’s agenda Wednesday, other bills came first. This caused much concern among ethics-reform advocates and in the state political blogosphere.
“More time was spent discussing antelope during a confirmation hearing for a Game and Fish official than anything else,” wrote Las Cruces blogger Heath Haussamen.
“What happened today was more of the same inaction and meandering rumination that those of us who’ve been following the (Senate Rules Committee) hearings have witnessed before,” wrote Albuquerque blogger Barbara Wold in Democracy for New Mexico. “... To me, their behavior seems more than a little insulting, cynical and irresponsible.”
Even before the meeting, Common Cause lobbyist Steve Allan wrote in an e-mail to supporters, “from our standpoint, watching ‘the action’ in this committee has been roughly analogous to watching grass grow. (I can almost hear the crickets chirping!).” In an interview Wednesday, Allen said he can understand how some complex bills might take time. “But things like campaign contribution limits should be simple,” he said. “Forty-five other states have been doing this.”
Asked later about such complaints, Rules Committee Chairwoman Linda Lopez denied there was any effort to stall ethics bills. “You know how it works here,” she said. “These bills will be heard.” Lopez promised a bill to establish a state ethics commission will be heard first thing Friday morning.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
But I'll be back at the Roundhouse today.
Meanwhile, here's a little item from Michael Calderone's Blog on The Politico illustrustrating the dangers of Twitter. (He's talking about a White House luncheon for TV reporters):
Clearly the menu wasn't off the record. From Stephanopoulos, via Twitter: "lobster bisque w beignets, seared Virginia bass w leeks and pot, pound cake w fruit compote and lemon sorbet."
... Stephanopoulos follows up on Twitter to note that there were no illegal substances at the table: "The bass not served w cannabis! "Pot" short for potato!
Speaking of Twitter, are there any current legislators besides Rep. Brian Egolf on Twitter?
Friday, February 20, 2009
The bill goes on to the Senate.
If the bill passes the Legislature and is signed into law by Gov. Bill Richardson, the state would join an interstate compact. The agreement only would take effect after states with electoral votes totaling more than half the national total had joined the compact — 270 of 538. That would guarantee that whoever won the popular vote nationally would win the election.
This isn't the first time this bill has been floated in the New Mexico Legislature. The late Sen. Ben Altamirano tried it two years ago and it never even got a floor vote.
But maybe it wasn't the content of Altamirano's bill that was the problem. Perhaps it was the bill number that put people off: Senate Bill 666.
(No disrespect for the much-loved Sen. Altamirano. Nobody would ever describe him as "beastly.")
But seriously folks ... For more information on the national effort behind this bill, check HERE.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Chris Abeyta, state Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman and Claude Stephenson sing the official state song "O, Fair New Mexico" in the Capitol Rotunda about an hour ago for Culture Day at the Legislature.
Claude, who is state folklorist, said afterwards that he didn't hear me yell my request for "Dirty Water" after the state song. Probably because the crowd was going wild.
Full disclosure: Both Claude and Chris are old music buddies of mine. Claude played mandolin in my hastily-organized bluegrass band, Smilin' Ted & The Bluegrass Bird Beings, which won the 1986 (or was it 1985?) Fiddle & Banjo Contest. Chris, who is running unopposed for a seat on the Santa Fe Community College board, is a fellow KSFR jock. His show, Music y Palabras, 8 pm - 10 pm Sundays, comes on right before my Terrell's Sound World.
For those of you not following The New Mexican's Twitter feed , the House Voters & Elections Committee on 7-5 party-line vote, decided this morning to table Rep. Dianne Hamilton's Voter ID Bill (HB591). That's the usual fate for voter ID bills in the Legislature.
I followed the hearing on Rep. Janice Arnold Jones' webcast .
My favorite quote was from former Dona Ana County Clerk Joe Martinez, a Democrat who supported the bill: "New Mexico has a proud history of not disenfranchising our dead at election time."
The two "same-day voter registration" bills that had been on the committee's agenda (HB52 and HB395) were postponed until next week. One of the sponsors, Rep. Jim Trujillo, told me yesterday he expects his bill to be heard by the committee on Tuesday morning.
February 19, 2009
Organizations and businesses that are running issues ads during the current session of the Legislature have until 15 days after the session is over to file expense reports for the ads, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office said Wednesday.
So far there have been two groups — a huge developer from California and a three-person PAC from Las Cruces — running ads asking viewers to contact their lawmakers to vote for or against bills.
There’s SunCal, which has run two TV spots touting the concept of Tax Increment Development Districts and which, according to a spokeswoman, has a third ad that will start on television stations today.
Then there’s the political action committee called Hispanos Unidos, which is running ads against same-day voter registration and in favor of requiring voters to produce identification before voting.
An Albuquerque woman last week filed a formal complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office against SunCal, which is pushing two bills in the Legislature — Senate Bill 249 and House Bill 470 — to help finance the initial stage of what eventually would be a 55,000-acre residential, commercial and industrial project. The complaint by Lora Lucero said SunCal had failed to file expense reports within 48 hours of the expense.
Common Cause New Mexico hasn’t filed a formal complaint, but the group’s executive director, Steve Allen, complained informally this week about Hispanos Unidos’ television ads, claiming the group was in violation of state law governing lobbyists.
As often is the case with New Mexico laws, there is some confusion in the area of lobbyist reports. There’s another law that requires lobbyists to report expenditures with 48 hours. This routinely is done with expenses like parties, receptions and dinners for committees. Indeed, some groups do file advertising, polling and mailing expenses with the 48-hour reports.
Secretary of State spokesman James Flores pointed to the law governing lobbyist reports that says any group that spends more than $2,500 “to conduct an advertising campaign for the purpose of lobbying” must register with the Secretary of State within 48 hours of the expenditure.
But the law says such groups have until April 4 to file expense reports, Flores pointed out.
SunCal spokeswoman Catherine Wambach said Westland Development Company, which is affiliated with SunCal, filed its advertising campaign registration with the state Wednesday and will be filing the expense report in accordance with the law.
Hispanos Unidos leader Victor Contreras told me this week that he intends to file his expense report in May, the next time PAC reports are due.
TIDD wars: Another entry into this year’s issues-ad competition is Southwest Organizing Project, an Albuquerque group that is starting a radio campaign saying TIDDs are as bad as SunCal says they’re good.
SWOP is among the groups that report expenditures on 48-hour reports. Spokeswoman Jo Ann Gutierrez Bejar said Wednesday that SWOP spent $7,130 on the spots.
(TIDDs, for the uninitiated, are a public financing process in which the current tax base is measured in the district in question. The developer gets a percentage of the increase in taxes over that current tax base in the future. The idea is that the project and infrastructure built for the project will spark growth in the area. SunCal and other advocates of TIDDs say the method is a good way to create desirable developments and jobs. But opponents say TIDDs lead to urban sprawl, take existing businesses out of their current locations and adversely affect tax revenues.)
SWOP’s new 30-second spot features people supposedly at the Legislature talking to a fictitious and unnamed developer.
“I’m a developer, and we’re going to get the Legislature to pass our TIDD bill — that stands for Tax Increment Development Districts, which is just a fancy way of saying we’re taking your tax dollars to fund my development,” the bad guy says.
When the others argue, saying, “We need money for schools and cops, not your development. We can’t afford your TIDD, not this year, not ever!”, the developer responds, “Well, my TIDD is going to pass, regardless of what you think! We have the votes lined up already.”
The ad encourages listeners to contact their legislators “and ask them to support TIDD reform.”
I don’t know what the new SunCal ad will say. The two that are posted on the company’s “TIDD Facts” Web site include a spot with Association of Commerce and Industry president Beverly McClure saying TIDDs bring economic growth and one featuring a man surrounded by his wife and children saying TIDDs keep families together.
The “ungift” that keeps on giving: The radio ad isn’t the first public-relations expenditure reported by SWOP. Earlier this month, the group reported spending $9,160 for printing and mailing a magazine.
But Bejar objected to me lumping in that expenditure in an article last week headlined “Legislators showered with $128,747 in gifts.”
“... Our magazine is hardly a gift to legislators," she said in an email. "In fact, they might consider it an ‘ungift’ and not like it at all. It’s our bi-annual magazine that we send to our constituents, and in this particular issue we urge them to contact their legislators and make sure they vote the right way on specific issues important to us.”
UPDATE: Between the time I filed this column and I posted it here, SunCal has its latest ad up on its Web site. It features Ray Baca, director of The New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council, saying that TIDDs create jobs.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The House voted unanimously this morning to pass Rep. Joni Gutierrez' House Memorial 40, which declares Feb. 18 "Pluto as a Planet Day."
Gutierrez carried the memorial -- as she has in the past -- because Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, is from Dona Ana County. He died in 1997.
Here's something in the memorial that I didn't know: "...approximately one ounce of (Tombaugh's) ashes is being carried on the New Horizons spacecraft that was launched in 2006 and that is scheduled for a fly-by of Pluto in 2014."
Most astronomers no longer consider Pluto a planet.
As loyal readers of this blog know, Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson poked fun at New Mexico on The Daily Show last month because of a similar Pluto memorial two years ago.
What the heck. Let's rerun that video.
I've got to post this one in both my blogs, music and politics.
In her column at The Ventura County Star, Beverly Merrill Kelley says politicians could learn a lot from the Grammy-winning collaboration between former Led Zep wailer Robert Plant and modern bluegrass princess Allison Krauss.
I don't think much of the Grammys, but it's still a worthwhile column.
You can read it HERE.
Thanks to Deborah Baker at the Associated Press for showing me this.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Turns out thery're the work of a small (three person) PAC in Las Cruces.
The story is HERE. The ads are below.
By the way, Rep. Jim Trujillio's HB52 is scheduled to be heard Thursday by the House Voters and Elections Committee. And Rep. Joe Cervantes, who is sponsoring a similar bill, HB395, says the current version of his bill would require a photo ID to register at the polls.
UPDATE: I talked to Rep. Trujillo Wednesday. He said his bill has been postponed in the committee until next week.
But he did talk to Matt Reichbach on the Insight New Mexico radio show (1350 AM, Albuquerque.) You can find that HERE.
Regarding MAFF, Colon told Reichbach, "I'm glad you asked." (I guess he wasn't glad that I was trying to ask or he'd have called me back.)
He told Reichbach that the Moving America Forward Foundation was different than Moving America Forward, Inc., which was a political action committee, and thus did report contributors and expenditures.
And he said MAFF spent money "for the purpose of registering and educating voters all over the country.” But we still don't know exactly where the money went or who gave to MAFF.
Granted, legally a "public charity" is not obligated to disclose contributions or expenses. However, people naturally want to know who is giving money to anything associated with a public official.
Not much to report here this afternoon. The Senate just accepted the Judiciary Committee's report of SB12, which sets the stage for a floor vote for the Domestic Partnerships bill. I'm not sure when. Wednesday is going to be a short day because of the Patty Jennings funeral. I suspect Thursday or Friday.
Our story about Geno Zamora's hire as general counsel for the state Economic Development Department can be found HERE.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Previously the bill had stalled in the committee on a 5-5 tie.
But the logjam broke when Sen. Bernadette Sanchez, who was out of the room during the first vote a couple of weeks ago, voted to give the bill to the entire Senate.
Sanchez said after that first vote that she was opposed to the bill. Today she still sounded as if she's not backing the bill. She said because the bill involves marriage it should be heard by the full Senate.
It could be heard by the Senate later this week.
Sen. Cisco McSorley, the bill's sponsor, said he believes there are enough votes on the Senate floor to pass it. If so, it would go on to the House, which has passed similar bills before.
The release quotes Caucus Chairman David Ulibarri informs us that, "The ability to represent your constituents, as well as your own best conscience, when debate involves controversial and emotional issues requires personal courage as well as fortitude."
The statement goes on, saying, "it is essential to respect the ability of legislators to gather facts, to weigh the issues, and even to change their mind as the legislative process moves forward and they make their decisions – without personally attacking the legislators involved."
Then it gets good.
"One thing that is also important to remember with this in mind is that as the process moves forward, ‘ambushing’ legislators to get them to express their views on issues like these is more likely to elicit bad sound bites, rather than a true explanation of legislative intent.”
I'm not sure what his definition of "ambushing" is. I do know I haven't ambushed anyone all day.
ALBUQUERQUE (Monday, February 15, 2009). Tuesday marks the official launch of Richard Romero's campaign for Mayor of Albuquerque.
As mayor, Richard will lead Albuquerque through the ongoing economic crisis. Richard will campaign to create new jobs for Albuquerque, reduce government waste, improve our education system, and cut the growing crime rate.
With family and supporters present, Richard will address supporters and apply for public financing in his bid for Mayor.
February 17, 2009, 12:00pm
City Hall, 5th and
Marquette, Downtown Albuquerque
(still in formation)
State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, State Senator Cisco McSorley, State Representative Mimi Stewart, State Senator Eric Griego, State Senator Tim Keller, former State Senator Tito Chavez, former U.S. Senator Fred Harris, Veronica Garcia, New Mexico Sec. of Education, Ralph Arellanes, Phil Baca, Fabrizio Bertoletti, Teresa Brito-Asenap, Pat Bryan, Phil Ewing, Michelle Garcia, Earl Holmes, Lou Hoffman, Blair Kaufman, David Kleinfeld, Mary Molina Mescall, Dr.John Mondragon, Bill Moye, Michael Passi , Dr. Steve Pilon, Kim Posich, Stephanie Poston, Giovanna Rossi, Orlie Sedillo, Orlando Vigil, Ann Yegge.
Richard is a former teacher, principal and leader of the NM state Senate. He is from Albuquerque's Barelas neighborhood and lives downtown with his wife, Margie.
Albuquerque's municipal election will be held on October 6, 2009.
Also Romero is a registered lobbyist in the Legislature. His current clients include Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico Community Foundation, New Mexico Speech & Hearing Association, New Mexico Association of Educational Retirees and Southwest Learning Center.
UPDATE: I should mention the other candidates and potential candidates. There's Michael Cadigan, Ken Sanchez and possible current Mayor Marty Chavez. ... and as a reader pointed out, Debbie O'Malley.
UPDATE 2: Romero's campaign consultant Neri Holquin told me Romero is taking a break from lobbying. "Richard Romero will be running for Mayor full time. He ended his contractual obligations to his clients last week and has informed the SOS this week."
But that might not be good news for bill supporters.
Remember, a couple of weeks ago when the committee voted, it was a tie vote on a do-pass motion, which means the motion failed to pass. There was not a motion to table (or do-not pass), so the bill's in limbo.
Sen. Bernadette Sanchez, D-Albuquerque was out of the room at the time of that vote, but she told reporters she would have voted against it. If that holds today, and there's a motion to table, the bill will be dead.
However, last week The American Civil Liberties Union released a poll that shows that constituents in the districts of Sanchez and Sen. Richard Martinez, of Espanola -- the two Democrats on Judiciary who are opposed to legally recognizing domestic partnerships -- actually favor the concept.
The ACLU commissioned Research & Polling Inc. of Albuquerque to conduct the Feb. 6-8 telephone poll to gather opinions on a domestic-partnerships bill. Results showed that 61 percent in Sen. Richard Martinez’s district strongly support or somewhat support the proposed law, while 38 percent strongly or somewhat oppose. Martinez, of Española, represents District 5 north of Santa Fe.
Meanwhile, 63 percent of registered voters in Sanchez’s Albuquerque district strongly support or somewhat support the proposed law, while 31 percent strongly or somewhat oppose.
Pollsters interviewed 405 registered voters in each district. The margin of error is 4.9 percent.
If that poll had any effect on either Sanchez or Martinez, we should see this afternoon.
Here's a list of some current lobbyists who have served in the Legislature. (Some of these were lawmakers many years ago.)
* Former Sen. Mickey Barnett
* Former Sen. Fabian Chavez
* Former Rep. Joe Nestor Chavez
* Former Rep. Tom Horan
* Former Sen. Les Houston
* Former Sen. Roman Maes
* Former Sen. Robert McBride
* Former Rep. Michael Olguin
* Former Sen. Richard Romero
* Former Sen. Tom Rutherford
* Former Rep. Raymond Sanchez
* Former Rep. Joe Thompson
First of all, a note of condolences for Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings for the loss of his wife Patty Jennings who died Saturday after a long battle with cancer. (Thanks to Heath for the photo.)
In case you missed my story about lobbyist expenses, which appeared in Saturday's paper, you can find it HERE.
Finally, it looks like the Senate Rukes Committee is finally moving on some ethics bills. Watch it live HERE.
Friday, February 13, 2009
The quality ain't great. Gwyneth Doland of the New Mexico Independent is blaming the lousy wireless at the Roundhouse.
I can testify to that. Perhaps that's the next battle for better access to the state Capitol.
Looks like the Senate is coming around on webcasting, Read Kate Nash's story HERE.
UPDATE: I nearly forgot, speaking of webcasting adn this whole wacky world of the Interweb , this post from Heath made me laugh last night. I'm Facebook friends with several legislators, but I haven't really used it in my reporting.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I've been trying to get hold of the author of the controversial 2005 interview in Esquire magazine that quoted Kilmer calling Vietnam vets punks and borderline criminals.
Meanwhile the management of the magazine contacted the Military Money Matters blog, which has been at the forefront of the outrage.
Here's what Esquire editor-n-chief had to say about Kilmer's statement that he was misquoted:
The quotes attributed to Mr. Kilmer in Mr. Klosterman’s story are
absolutely accurate. The interview was recorded and every quote used in the story was checked by our research department to insure that it was printed precisely as spoken.
It should be noted Mr. Kilmer did not dispute the validity of the quotations when the article was first published four years ago, nor did he dispute them when the article was reprinted in Mr. Klosterman’s fourth book, nor did he dispute them when the story appeared in Ira Glass’s anthology The New Kings of Nonfiction.
Editor in Chief
As I noted in the story, the 40-28 vote is virtually the same as 2007's vote on that year's capital punishment bill. But three representatives who voted against abolition last time -- Republicans Diane Hamilton and Jimmy Hall and Democrat Andrew Barreras -- voted in favor of the current bill. One who supported the bill in 2007, Rep. Debbie Rodella, voted against it this time.
Like I've said many times before, the true test of this bill will be in Senate Judiciary -- and if it does pass the Senate, the next hurdle would be Gov. Bill Richardson, who has said he's favored the death penalty in the past.
(By the way, the New Mexican's Twitter page is HERE. )
Over the span of just three months, Bill Richardson has gone from being on the shortlist for secretary of state to late-night punch line, a breathtaking descent that has tarnished his once-sparkling career.
Since withdrawing as the nominee for secretary of commerce in early January amid questions surrounding a federal grand jury investigation, New Mexico’s Democratic governor has seen his political fortunes crater. Once unmatched in his power and popularity in Santa Fe, Richardson’s grip on state politics has been weakened by the whiff of scandal, and home state opponents have been emboldened by his plummeting approval ratings — numbers that have dropped below 50 percent, according to a recent SurveyUSA poll.
The story, by reporter Andy Barr, even quotes a post from this very blog.
Check Barr's story HERE .
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
February 1, 2009
Bill Richardson isn't the only Democratic governor being mentioned in connection with possible "pay-to-play" politics involving CDR Financial Products.
According to a story Wednesday in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell also has a CDR problem.
The state of Pennsylvania awarded nearly $600,000 in fees to CDR. In one of those strange coincidences that we're used to reading about in this state, CDR's CEO, David Rubin, donated $40,000 to Rendell's campaign committee.
According to a story last month in the Tribune-Review, CDR "won a contract in 2003 with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency that Rendell has said he wasn't aware of."
That's less money than CDR donated to Richardson, whose various political committees received more than $100,000 from Rubin and CDR. The company made nearly $1.5 million as part of a financial team for the state transportation-construction program known as GRIP, which stands for Governor Richardson's Investment Partnership. Both Richardson and Rubin have denied any pay to play.
Rendell and Richardson are similar in many ways. Both are gregarious politicians who have been frequent guests on cable news shows. As pointed out in this column a few years ago, both have gotten in trouble for ordering their state police drivers to exceed the speed limit.
Unlike Richardson, there's no indication that a federal grand jury is looking into Rendell's dealings with CDR.
However, CDR's dealings in the Keystone State have caught the eye of federal investigators before. Bloomberg reported that in 2001 CDR hired Philadelphia lawyer Ron White, who was chief fundraiser for Mayor John Street. The company paid White a $5,000 retainer to help CDR win work with the city.
"Rubin donated $15,000 to Street's election committee from December 2000 to June 2003, the records show," Bloomberg reported. "In addition, CDR gave White three tickets to the 2003 Super Bowl game in San Diego and also provided a limousine ride to the stadium. White brought Philadelphia Treasurer Corey Kemp to the event." The city of Philadelphia paid the firm $150,000 for financial advice, while banks paid CDR at least $515,000 from profits earned on transactions with the city, Bloomberg reported.
According to the Tribune-Review and other Pennsylvania papers, CDR is not Rendell's biggest headache. The Patriot News in Harrisburg reported Wednesday that the state auditor there is accusing Rendell's administration of "hiding the details of nearly $600 million in technology contracts with one company and is suggesting abuses ranging from vendor favoritism to no-bid contracts."
The paper says a draft audit report "indicates the administration stonewalled the Democratic auditor general's staff in its quest to unravel details that led to contracts with Deloitte Consulting and its affiliates for the years 2004 through 2007." Deloitte is a New York-based software company. A Rendell spokesman denied any lack of cooperation with the auditor.
The Pennsylvania Legislature is reacting. One bill introduced there would ban contracts from being awarded for one year to anyone who has made political donations to a state or local officeholder. Another would require competitive bidding for contracts of more than $100,000. Both were introduced by Republicans — which is the minority party in that state — and a Rendell spokesman has said the bills are politically motivated.
A Valentine from Val: Last Friday, I ran into actor and possible gubernatorial candidate Val Kilmer in the reception area of state Sen. Phil Griego's office at the Capitol.
That's about the last place in the Roundhouse I ever expected to see Kilmer. Back in 2003, when Rolling Stone quoted Kilmer as saying, "I live in the homicide capital of the Southwest. Eighty percent of the people in my county are drunk," Griego, a Democrat who represents the Pecos area southeast of Santa Fe in which Kilmer lives, was the most prominent official to express outrage. Kilmer claimed he was misquoted.
And right outside of Griego's office, Kilmer told me he was misquoted again — this time by Esquire magazine, which quoted Kilmer as characterizing Vietnam vets as mostly "borderline criminal or poor."
So why was Kilmer going to see Griego that day? "He just wanted to talk," Griego said. "We mainly talked about the prequel to Tombstone he's doing."
But besides yacking about the movies, Kilmer offered to support a bill Griego is sponsoring, SB379, which aims to tighten rules on off-highway vehicles. Kilmer offered to write a letter in support, Griego said, and on Tuesday he came through.
Kilmer's letter says the bill is a response "to the concerns of ranchers, like myself, environmentalists, parents and off-road vehicle enthusiasts ... "
"As a rancher and lover of the land I want it protected," Kilmer wrote. "As a parent, I want my children to be properly educated and safe. As a taxpayer I want our dollars spent in the most efficient manner. That is why I support this bill and I urge the Legislature to pass it and the governor to sign it."
Kilmer wrote than he "grew up riding both off-road vehicles, motor cross and horses with my family and friends."
The bill on Wednesday got a unanimous do-pass recommendation by the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. It's doubtful that Kilmer's letter was the deciding factor. Griego said he still deplores Kilmer's 2003 quote as well as the comments from Esquire.
KOB's Stuart Dyson is all over House Bill 594 , the Feral Hog Control Act.
Sponsor Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, says huge, wild hogs are going onto farm and ranch land, wrecking stuff, eating everything and spreading disease.
(If your browswer has trouble getting the dang video embedded here, check out his report on the KOB site.)
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
If it goes like past years, it should pass the House by a pretty-much party-line votes. A few Democrats will vote against the bill, and probably a couple of Republicans will vote for it.
As I noted in a recent story, "Four of six Republicans who voted for (Rep. Gail) Chasey's death-penalty repeal bill in 2007 are no longer in the Legislature. Of those six, only Larry Larranaga and Janice Arnold-Jones, both of Albuquerque, still remain."
Freshman Santa Fe Rep. Brian Egolf of Santa Fe this afternoon passed his first bill, HB227, which would increase airport facilities funding limits.
That was a real hot issue during his campaign. (Oh, wait, a minute ... he was unopposed.) I haven't actually read the bill, but if you're itching to do that CLICK HERE .
Several of his fellow House members used the "debate" on the bill to razz Egolf -- a tradition when members pass their first bill. House Majority Leader Kenny Martinez asked Egolf the whereabouts of his predecessor, Peter Wirth. Egolf joked he had no idea. (There's a rumor that Wirth was elected to the State Senate.) Martinez then expressed concern about Santa Fe electing bright young lawyers who abandon their House seats.
At this point it's not clear how much it would cost. (The contractor has yet to be chosen.)
Back in 2004, the last time the administration proposed something like this, fees for record checks averaged $5.90 nationally and $7.40 in the surrounding states of Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma and Utah, according to an Associated Press report.
Newspapers and insurance companies are among the groups concerned about this. Hopefully I'll learn a lot more shortly.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Unfortunately, you can't see whether anyone is sleeping, and in the little I've heard so far, nobody has said anything that could be turned into an attack ad.
Apparently the governor attended the show with some staff and Leno recognized him from the stage. Leno made some reference to the CDR investigation -- I still haven't gotten exactly what he said -- and some people in the crowd yelled "Guilty!"
I don't know what, if any, Richardson's reaction to this was. But that's a sign things might be getting ugly.
Leno, by the way, is credited for influencing at least one New Mexico law -- at Richardson's expense. Back in 2006 on The Tonight Show, he made fun of a statement Richardson made about cockfighting.
“In New Mexico, Gov. Bill Richardson — this is unbelievable — Gov. Bill Richardson said he is still undecided about cockfighting, which is not banned in New Mexico. It’s still legal. This is what he said, he said there are arguments on both sides. Really? What is the good argument for cockfighting? Does this keep the roosters off the street?”This got wide play, and a few months later, shortly before he began his presidential campaign, Richardson ended his neutrality on cockfighting. In 2007, the Legislature, with the governor's support, banned it.
Friday, February 6, 2009
While leaving a press conference in the Governor's Cabinet Room about an hour and a half ago, who did I run into, but possible future Gov. VAL KILMER.
He smiled for this photo, but went in the door of Gov. Richardson's office before I could even ask him about his comments on Vietnam vets.
Not sure yet what he was talking to Richardson about.
UPDATE: I just ran into Kilmer up in Sen. Phil Griego's office. (Griego and Kilmer tangled years go over that Rolling Stone statement.)
I asked him about his statements in the Esquire article.
"I didn't make that statement," he said. "I have nothing but praise and respect for veterans."
This is Kilmer's second visit to the Roundhouse -- that we know of -- in three days. He said he came for Native American Day and, as he said on Tuesday, "to say hi to some friends."
I wonder if he was misquoted in this 2005 Esquire interview drudged up by Matthew Reichbach at The New Mexico Independent:
(Question)You understand how it feels to shoot someone as much as a person who has actually committed a murder?
(Answer): I understand it more. It’s an actor’s job. A guy who’s lived through the horror of Vietnam has not spent his life preparing his mind for it. He’s some punk. Most guys were borderline criminal or poor, and that’s why they got sent to Vietnam. It was all the poor, wretched kids who got beat up by their dads, guys who didn’t get on the football team, couldn’t finagle a scholarship.
They didn’t have the emotional equipment to handle that experience. But this is what an actor trains to do. I can more effectively represent that kid in Vietnam than a guy who was there.
Reichbach quotes a military families blog that calls Kilmer the "brass-balled moron of the year.”
UPDATE: The entire Esquire interview, by Chuck Klosterman, is HERE.
You can find my article HERE.
The report itself is HERE (or to download it immedicately CLICK HERE. )
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Three Las Cruces Democrats have introduced bills to cut back the Land Commissioner's power on real estate development deals, such as the controversial 2,450-acre Vistas at Presidio development near Las Cruces. (Lyons called that "a little retribution, obviously." The Dems deny it.)
Meanwhile, Senate Republican Whip Bill Payne is trying to take away the pensions of state officials convicted for corruption on the job.
Read all about it HERE.
February 5, 2009
It's not that unusual to see Hollywood celebrities at the state Capitol during a Legislative session. Ali MacGraw, Shirley MacLaine and Marsha Mason — all of whom have homes in or around Santa Fe — have been spotted here in recent years.
But none of them are rumored to be running for governor in 2010. And Val Kilmer, who paid a visit to the state House of Representatives on Wednesday, is.
Kilmer, who owns a ranch near Pecos, sat on the rostrum of the House for a few minutes before he was introduced by House Speaker Ben Luján moments before the House adjourned for the day.
A few minutes before that, Kilmer was spotted by a television reporter, then me, outside the House Chambers.
What was the actor doing at the Legislature? "Just saying hi to some friends," he said.
Kilmer — who has portrayed Batman, Jim Morrison, Billy the Kid, Doc Holiday and "Big" John Holmes in the movies — would neither confirm nor deny that he's auditioning to play governor in a couple of years.
"No, I just don't have any plans. I'm looking to be more active in the many concerns I have and that we all do," he said.
"My kids are in high school now," Kilmer said, "and so I'm more available. I'm available to serve."
So how about that report by The Associated Press last year — when the Val for Gov rumors started surfacing — that Kilmer had never voted in New Mexico, at least not before the 2008 election?
He said the AP story wasn't exactly true. But, he admitted, "like a lot of Americans in this year's election, I've realized I need to be more responsible. I've done a lot of substantial work in a lot of areas, but it's true I haven't voted much, which I regret."
Wouldn't that hurt in a gubernatorial campaign?
"No, I think we're a forgiving people," Kilmer said. "But (we're) also very serious about the need to be more active. I think it's an invitation by President Obama in this new administration to be more responsible, and that's going to become a demand."
Then he got even more philosophical. In an almost New Agey way, Kilmer said New Mexico "already has a jump on the whole country, (in) working out race issues 100 years in advance." Kilmer said the state has an appreciation for the arts and "you've got a really strong acceptance of different lifestyles and spiritual outlooks. It's very real to us."
Summoned by the Lt. Gov.: Kilmer later went up to the Fourth Floor and spoke with Eric Witt, Gov. Bill Richardson's point man for the movie industry.
"What do I look like, The Riddler?" Witt joked when first asked about his meeting with Kilmer.
"We just talked about the movie industry and a couple of economic-development project ideas he has," Witt said. He said the projects deal with the arts, but he couldn't discuss details. Kilmer didn't meet with Richardson, Witt said.
At one point Wednesday afternoon, there was a page for Kilmer over the Capitol public address system, saying he was wanted in the lieutenant governor's office.
Some who heard the announcement assumed it was a prank page. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is running for governor as a Democrat next election.
But, according to a spokeswoman for Denish, the lieutenant governor really did page her possible opponent.
Denish spokeswoman Danielle Montoya said her boss wanted to thank the actor for serving on Denish's short-lived transition team — put into place in December when Obama chose Richardson as his nominee for commerce secretary and dismantled after Richardson withdrew his nomination. Kilmer was on the Economic Stability Team, Montoya said.
But apparently by that time, Batman had left the building. The meeting didn't happen.
How does Denish feel about the possibility of running against Kilmer in the 2010 Democratic primary? Through Montoya, Denish sent in a prepared statement.
"I am committed to running for governor in 2010, and I'm focused on fighting for New Mexicans during tough economic times. I think that voters are smart and that they will elect someone into office who is clearly committed to New Mexico. I'm not going to speculate on opponents right now."
Here's an audio clip from our short talk with Val Kilmer Wednesday.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
However, Domenici’s attorney on Wednesday denied Domenici is at the center of the investigation.
“The investigation exists, but it’s not focused on Sen. Domenici to the exclusion of others,” Washington lawyer Lee Blalack told me.
According to the Muckraker report, the grand jury is investigating whether Domenici and others attempted to improperly press former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to bring a criminal prosecution against “New Mexico Democrats” — namely former state Sen. Manny Aragon — prior to the 2006 elections. This is attributed to unnamed “legal sources close to the investigation and private attorneys representing officials who prosecutors want to question”
“Investigators appear to be scrutinizing Iglesias' firing in the context of whether he was fired in retaliation because Domenici and others believed that he would not manipulate the timing of prosecutions to help Republicans,” the article said.
Iglesias has said he received phone calls about the Aragon investigation from both Domenici and former Congresswoman Heather Wilson shortly before the election in which Wilson was facing a tough challenge. Wilson didn’t seek re-election in 2008. Aragon eventually was indicted in a kickback scandal and eventually pleaded guilty. He’s awaiting sentencing.
Domenici, who did not seek re-election last year because of health problems, was heavily criticized in a Justice Department report for not cooperating with its investigation.
The grand jury investigation is currently being led by Nora Dannehy, the acting U.S. attorney in Connecticut, Blalack said. He declined to discuss details of the case.
A few minutes after our encounter, Kilmer appeared on the rostrum of the House, where House Speaker Ben Lujan introduced him.
Kilmer, who has portrayed Batman, Jim Morrison, Billy the Kid and "Big" John Holmes in the movies -- would neither confirm nor deny that he's planning on a run for governor. "I don't have anything planned," he said, "I'm just looking to be more active."
Asked about that Associated Press story, which revealed Kilmer had never voted in New Mexico before 2008, Kilmer said, "It's true I haven't voted much, which I regret." Would that hurt him in a political race?
"No, I think we're a forgiving people," he said.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
He spoke a lot about ethics bills. He said he understands the Senate Rules Committee plans to roll several of the proposed ethics bills -- including establishing an ethics commission, campaign contribution limits, and bills dealing with contributions by state contractors -- into one big ethics bill. Sanchez said he doesn't think there's enough support this year for including public campaign financing, mainly because of the budget crisis.
Sanchez also said he's heard rumblings of a possible amendment or separate bill that would require non-profit groups -- such as the Center for Civic Policy -- to disclose its contributors. We could dub that the Shannon's Revenge Act.
Sanchez said he believes there's a very good chance a serious ethics bill will pass the Legislature this year.
He also said he believes the bill to abolish the death penalty has the best chance it ever had. But he quickly added, "I thought the same thing about domestic partnerships." He admitted the death penalty bill could run into trouble -- again -- in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which yesterday failed to pass the domestic partnership bill.
Another bill Sanchez said has a good chance of passing is the bill to open conference committees -- even though Sanchez himself opposes that move. He said opening conference committees would encourage members to get together away from the Capitol to decide on the bills that go to conference.
Like most people this year, Sanchez said he's seen very little of Gov. Bill Richardson. "He hasn't call me up to his office," Sanchez said. "I'm not one of the people he usually calls."
Read Kate Nash's story about that HERE.
And check out her blog about the shouting match that took place at the news conference when lawyers for other defendants showed up.
* HB272, sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey, which would eliminate exemptions from campaign finance reporting and would mandate quarterly reporting of campaign finances in off-election years. Currently candidates only have to report once a year during off years.
* HB507, sponsored by Rep. Ken Martinez. This would expand the Inspection of Public Records Act, which would reduce the response time to public record requests from 14 to 10 days. (As it stands now, 14 days is supposed to be the maximum time allowed. However, in recent years, state government frequently takes the max time for even simple requests.) The bill also would establish a "double-check redaction system "oriented toward openness." Denish's news release says this is intended to reduce the number of redactions. (I've yet to study this bill, so I'll reserve judgement on whether it actually would reduce blacked-out information.)
* A bill, to be dropped today by Rep. Al Park, that would require all contractors doing business with the state to be listed in an online, searchable database tha would include the company's name, the contract and how much it's worth. (This would make it easier for us to compare with campaign contributions. In fact, if I was a legislator, I'd offer an amendment to include all campaign contributions as part of this database.)
Denish said she expects these bills to do well in the House, but said they will have a tougher time in the Senate -- which long-time observers know is the place they send ethics bills to die lonesome deaths.
Read more about this in Wednesday's New Mexican.
UPDATE: Park's bill has been dropped. It's HB546. (It's on on the Legislature Web site yet, but check HERE later.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Denish's office sent out a correction on the number of days to respond to open records requests in HB507. I made the change above.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Apparently lawyers in the Foy lawsuit -- that's the one dealing with the alleged Vanderbilt pay-to-play scandal -- will reveal on Tuesday the identity of "John Doe #2," who allegedly pressed ERB members to invest with Chicago-based Vanderbilt Financial.
Here's some possibilities:
Five senators -- sponsor Cisco McSorley, Peter Wirth, Michael Sanchez ,Linda Lopez and Tim Eichenberg, all Democrats -- voted to give Senate Bill 12 a do-pass recommendation. However, the four committee Republicans -- Bill Payne, John Ryan, Clint Harden and Sander Rue, were joined by Democrat Richard Martinez, D-Espanola to vote no.
The bill needed a majority to get the do-pass.
Another Democrat, Sen. Bernadette Sanchez of Albuquerque, who missed the vote, said later that she would have voted no. “Because that’s what my constituents want,” she told reporters. Sanchez entered the committee room only moments after the vote. She denied "taking a walk" on the vote, saying she had to answer two important phone calls.
Eric Witt, a legislative liaison for Gov. Bill Richardson, who supports the bill, said the governor will be meeting with legislators “who don’t currently support the bill” to get them to change their minds. Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, is carrying a similar bill, HB 21, in the House.
The committee room was packed with supporters and opponents of SB 12.
In webcasting news, Beverly Garcia of New Mexico Legislative Reports has set up a new Web site for audio streaming of both the House and Senate. Check it HERE. Right now the audio still is being tested, but I bet it's up before long. Beverly also has posted the agendas for both chambers, which is nice and convenient.