Friday, November 19, 2010

"Openly" ... In Caucus

State Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, is a serious, dedicated and very intelligent lawmaker, and one of the all-time leading champions of transparency and open government in the Roundhouse.

Still, I have to give her a hard time for what might just be a bad choice of words, or might be an example of thinking like a legislator instead of like a regular human.

In a commentary she published today over on Heath's site, Feldman talks about that wild opening day of the 2001 Legislature when three Senate Democrats joined with Republicans to dump Manny Aragon as Senate president pro-tem. (I remember that well. It was my very first session to cover.)

Feldman is drawing comparisons witht he current situation in the House in which four Dems could join with Republicans to oust Speaker Ben Lujan.

Looking back at the Senate in 2001, Feldman wrote, "Could the `coalition' have been forestalled? Yes, if the Democrats had dealt with their differences over leadership openly in their caucus and chosen a leader that might not be the first choice, but with whom we could all live."

In reality caucuses by their very nature are not "open." If the House Democrats "deal openly" with their leadership questions tomorrow, it sure won't be open to me and any of you readers who aren't elected House Democrats.

What actually happened in 2001 was that the three maverick Senate Dems took the leadership battle to the Senate floor, which was open to the public. (though let's not kid ourselves -- there was a lot of backroom stuff going on too.)

I guess I'm a little sensitive to closed caucuses because it seems to me that ever since the Legislature opened  the conference committees a couple of years ago, a lot more time has been spent behind closed caucus doors. (In fairness, some other reporters as well as lawmakers don't agree with me.)

But despite my quibble here, Feldman makes some interesting points in her commentary