Monday, January 31, 2011

Stop Sam?

An antonymous Democrat -- at least he or she claims to be a Democrat -- has started a web site and Facebook page aimed at derailing Albuquerque lawyer Sam Bregman's bid for the chairmanship of the state Democratic Party.

I believe electing Sam Bregman as Democratic Chair is a mistake. Though he says he shares our values, he has been an on-record and public face defending corrupt officials and those implicated in pay-to-play scandals; corruption in not one of our values.
One only needs to take a quick look at the Bregman record to see the opportunity we’d be handing Republicans ... Everytime Sam attacks Susana and the GOP all they will have to say in return is," that's funny coming from the King of pay to play, the guy who has represented every corrupt official in New Mexico; Sam Bregman"

The site then lists the names of Robert Vigil, Marc Correra and other controversial clients, most of which I sited in my column a few weeks ago. Also included is state Rep. Sandra Jeff, (mistakenly listed as a "former" lawmaker, who indeed was involved in an altercation with Rep. Patty Lundstrom in late 2009, though no charges ever resulted.

The "Stop Sam" Facebook page only has 10 people who "like" it. Among them are former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya and Michael Segura, whose wife Letitia Montoya also is running for state Democratic Party chairman.

At least these folks aren't anonymous. If anyone indeed is going to "stop Sam," it won't be done anonymously. Even if Javier Gonzales doesn't seek re-election, as he indicated last week, I think this is an early indication of how nasty is contest is going to get.

It should be noted that one of my photos -- the above one with Bregman and Marc Correra is included on the Website. I have my FLICKR political photos copyrighted with a Creative Commons license, which means people can use them as long as they give me credit. I do that so bloggers, etc. can use shots they might need. (I "borrow" photos from others occasionally, though I give credit when possible.)   Needless to say, I had nothing to do with this site (nor any others who have used my pix, including the Club For Growth attack ad on Tom Udall a couple of years ago, which used a photo of mine without giving me credit, or anything)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Roundhouse Flies Turkish Flag

The familiar yellow flag with the red Zia symbol was missing from the state Capitol for the past two days, replaced by the flag of Turkey.

No, we're not trying to help the state budget problem by renting out  our flagpoles to other countries. Seven Turkish Congressmen are in town to meet with the governor, legislators and other state officials.

There was a "Turkish-New Mexican Friendship Reception" at La Fonda Wednesday. The hosting committee included several state officers and legislators.

So in the spirit of Turkish-American friendship, here's a great song from the 1950s:


Rev. Al Sharpton to Address the Legislature

He's a former Democratic presidential candidate, media pundit and former tour manager for James Brown and he's coming to the Roundhouse.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is scheduled to address the state Legislature on Friday, Feb. 11 as part of African-American Day.

No matter what you think of his politics and past controversies, Rev. Sharpton is a heck of a speaker. At the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston,  except for some state senator from Illinois, Sharpton  gave the only truly exciting speeches at the whole shindig -- as then Gov. Bill Richardson, who had to follow him found out.

Gov. Signs Feeds Bill But Criticizes Legislature for Spending

Gov. Susana Martinez & Chief of Staff Keith GardnerGov. Susana Martinez signed the Feed Bill (HB 1), which funds this session of the Legislature. However, she criticized lawmakers for not reducing its spending.

Here's the executive message:

I have signed this funding bill to demonstrate my Administration’s desire to work in a cooperative fashion with the Legislature. However, I must point out my disappointment at the level of appropriations provided in this legislation. While I cut my office budget 10% and that of the Governor’s residence by 55%, I would have liked to have seen some additional fiscal restraint on the part of the Legislature.


As you know, for your legislative agencies there are no reductions in these appropriations from the current operating budget level. I do commend you for reducing the session expenses from the original request but even those expenses are $1.2 million higher than the actual expenditures reported for the last 60-day session. Further, this bill calls for $1.5 million in an additional general fund appropriation for expenditures relating to redistricting and we certainly look forward to seeing the Legislature’s detailed plans for use of this funding.


The FY12 budget we are working on together is a matter of making choices, very difficult choices. Many of our Executive agencies will be facing serious budget cuts, reorganizations and additional cost efficiencies. Therefore, I would ask that the Legislature make a concerted effort to pare back its spending during the remainder of FY11 and into FY12 to share in the sacrifices we are all going to have to make.
HB1 passed without opposition in both the House and Senate.

House Speaker Ben Lujan responded on the floor that a major factor in legislative expenses is printing. He pointed to one bill -- I'm not sure which -- saying it costs $11,000 to print the number of copies that are legally required.

Yikes! Seems that some diligent lawmaker out there introduce a bill to change that requirement and instead require electronic copies for legislators and others. (If there is a bill out there like that, please point it out to me.)

Reports? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Reports!

Here's my story in today's New Mexican about the fact that after more than a week of big social events for the Legislature, only lobbyist has filed a required 48-hour report.  -- at least as of Wednesday afternoon.

That one law-abiding lobbyist is Roundhouse veteran Tom Horan. He reported two events paid for by his client Presbyterian Healthcare.

When I ran into Tom yesterday and pointed out that he was the only one to file so far, he said, " “I carried the Lobbyist Regulation Act, so I’d better do it.” Horan is a former legislator. His clients include the New Mexico Press Association, so he's well aware how us reporters like to report such things.

My story lists several social events from last week that I assume cost more than the $500. (Expenses more than $500 have to be reported within 48-hours.) But the Capitol social whirl goes on. You can check out upcoming events that you probably aren't invited to at the Legislature's Social Calendar.

Roundhouse Roundup: More on the Alex Jones Harrison Schmitt Interview

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 27, 2011



Radio host Alex Jones is a major name in the world of conspiracy theories. His syndicated radio show has featured “truthers” — people who believe that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were an “inside job” by the American government. He’s also discussed President Barack Obama’s plan to sterilize the populace through the water supply and the cloning of human-animal hybrids.

And in July 2009, he did a phone interview with former astronaut and U.S. Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt — Gov. Susana Martinez’s nominee for secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

In fairness, there’s nothing to indicate that Schmitt agrees with Jones on some of his wilder theories. But the former senator had some interesting theories of his own — such as an environmental-movement takeover by “communists” and public schools’ control by “opponents of liberty.”

I can never predict what state senators will or will not ask, but I suspect that some of Schmitt’s statements made on The Alex Jones Show might be brought up during his confirmation hearing. The Senate Rules Committee has yet to schedule hearings for any Cabinet secretary nominees.

Schmitt, who is firmly on record questioning whether climate change is man-made, didn’t dispute Jones when the host called global warming a “government hoax.” Talking about environmentalists, Schmitt said there are individuals. “and a fairly large number, who ... captured the environmental movement and turned it into what previously was considered the communist movement.”

Jones asked him about alleged plans for a “world government,” specifically if Schmitt had heard much talk about that kind of thing when he was in the U.S. Senate.

“It has clearly taken off in recent decades,” Schmitt said. “I think primarily because of the capture of the government school system by the opponents of liberty.”

And now a word from out sponsor: The interview pauses for a commercial for a company called Survival Seed Bank.com, which begins, “The New World Order beast is genetically modifying your food, mixing vegetables with animals and now experimenting with viruses. Without a long-term food solution, you will have just two options: Starve or surrender.”

Susana: He'll push my agenda: On Wednesday, I asked Gov. Susana Martinez about the interview. She said she hadn’t heard it.

“What’s important here is that (Schmitt) is a NASA scientist,” the governor said. “He is a graduate from Harvard, and what is important is that he is going to perform the agenda of my administration. We are going to ensure that we keep the environment safe, that we provide common sense for decisions that are being made, that we don’t make decisions based on politics and ideology.

“So I am confident that he will be pushing for my agenda and not any personal agenda he might have,” Martinez said.

Asked if she thought the environmental movement contains a large number of communists, the governor said, “No.”

Schmitt himself was out of state and couldn’t be reached for comment, a spokeswoman for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department said Wednesday.

Stooges for the moon hoax: But it’s not just environmentalists who don’t like Jones’ interview with Schmitt. At least one of Jones’ fellow conspiracy enthusiasts basically accuses Jones of being a running dog of the government, which has perpetrated the “hoax” of manned lunar landings.

 “Schmitt actually blamed the horrible education system in this country for people believing that the Apollo Moon missions were faked,” railed a website called RogueGovernment.com in an article posted in August 2009.

 “In actuality, it is the horrible education system in this country that has led most people to believe that the Apollo Moon missions were real. ... It is sad to see somebody like Jones serving as a gatekeeper and providing credibility to the official story of the Apollo missions by giving a softball interview to Schmitt who like all the other Apollo astronauts are liars and frauds.”

Here's the communist/environmentalist segment of the Jones interview again:



And here's the part where Schmitt defends the reality of the moon landings.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sam Officially in State Dem Race, Javier Might Not Run

While lawyer Sam Bregman, a former Albuquerque city councilor, announced Wednesday that he is running for chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, incumbent Chairman Javier Gonzales said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll run again.

Gonzales said he’s trying to decide whether he’d rather stay on as party chairman or keep his position as a regent at New Mexico State University. He is slated this year to become chairman of the Board of Regents.

“It would be difficult to continue wearing both hats,” Gonzales said. He said he’ll make his decision soon. The party’s central committee will chose its new chairman in late April.

Gonzales, a former Santa Fe county commissioner who has been chairman since 2009.

In a news release sent to reporters Wednesday, Bregman said, “Enough is enough,” apparently referring to the loss of the governorship and eight legislative races by Democrats in November’s election. “We need to rebuild our party, from the bottom up and regain strong majorities in both the State House and Senate. ... Every day, as State Chairman, I will stand up and speak out for our core Democratic values.”

 Bregman began his political career as a precinct chair when he was 18. He’s also worked as a prosecutor with the district attorney in Albuquerque. He was on the City Council from 1995 to 1999. Bregman worked as a deputy state auditor. In 2000 he ran in the Democratic primary for Congress. In 2004, Bregman was vice chairman of the state Democrats.

Letitia Montoya of Santa Fe also has been campaigning for the party position.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nunez Goes Indie


Rep. Andy Nunez of Hatch made it official this afternoon and switched party registration from Democrat to "Declined to State." He signed the papers in the Secretary of State's office. (Larry Dominguez of the SOS office looks on in the above photo.)

This is all fallout from the failed leadership coup in which Nunez vocally backed a proposed coalition between Republicans and southern Democrats. That cost Nunez his chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee as well as his membership on the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Asked why he did not want to join Republicans, Nunez said, "I'm just not that far right." His wife, however changed her registration from Democrat to Republican last week after Nunez lost his chairmanship.

Nunez becomes the first independent legislator in New Mexico in at least 30 years, but the sixth to change parties since 1983.

"At least I don't have to go to caucus meetings anymore," he joked.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.


Harrison Schmitt on Alex Jones

Conspiracy-theory rock star Alex Jones took time from his crusade to tell the "TRUTH" about Sept. 11 and warning the masses of Obama's Nightmarish Sterilization Plan to talk to former astronaut and U.S. Sen. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt about the communist ties of environmentalists.

Schmitt, who is Gov. Susana Martinez's nominee for secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources, shared with Jones his view that a “large number” of environmentalists are communists, and that our schools have been captured by “opponents of liberty.” I believe this interview is from 2009.

In fairness, there's nothing to indicate that Schmitt agrees with Jones on some of his wilder theories. But his confirmation hearings by the Senate Rules Committee might get pretty interesting.




UPDATE: I forgot to give a tip of the hat to the Chorizo Report for unearthing this video.

The Stink About the "Lovefest"

O.K., I'm used to having my stories and quotes from my stories used in political mailings, ads, whatever. But one recent example, coming from the first day of the Legislature has been completely misinterpreted, and I fear, has started to go viral.


After the vote on the Speaker of the House a week ago, I and other reporters asked House Republican Leader Tom Taylor what had happened to make the Joe Cervantes challenge fizzle.

Taylor underplayed the importance of the tea parties opposition to the proposed coalition of Republicans and southern Democrats.

... Taylor, who acknowledged he had been leaning toward supporting Cervantes, said the main reason for coming up with enough votes was that more Republicans were thinking of the political advantage of keeping Luján in the position rather than the "policy" advantages.


"He's the status quo," Taylor said of Luján. "There was a risk with Cervantes that we could have passed some great legislation and there'd be a love fest in the Legislature. ... It would be harder to run a negative campaign."

New House Republican Don Bratton agreed with Taylor's analysis. "I look at things from a policy standpoint," he said

I thought I made it clear that Taylor and Bratton were not advocating the political point of view. As Taylor said, he was leaning toward supporting the coalition and was in favor of passing "great legislation." He was bemoaning the "political" point of view that led to the failure of the coalition.

Dan Boyd of the Albuquerque Journal used that same basic quote in a Saturday story. I thought it was clear from his story also that Taylor wasn't endorsing the viewpoint of keeping Lujan around for the sake of negative ads.

But yesterday the state Democratic Party sent out a fundraising email using the quote to castigate Taylor. Theyt even evoke the tragedy in Tucson to make a point.

I know a lot of us hoped that after the tragedy in Tucson we would try to move our country forward in a more bi-partisan fashion. Clearly, Rep. Taylor is focused on seeking partisan advantage rather than moving the state forward.

And some blogger in Albuquerque picked up on that and engaged in a little finger-wagging.

Taylor can think that but it was not his role to say it out loud. He's not a political consultant. He's supposed to be talking about bipartisanship and passing "great" legislation to move the state forward, not blocking bills purely for political advantage.
Oh well. Nobody promised a lovefest.

Monday, January 24, 2011

R.I.P. Errol Chavez

Senate Republican leader Stuart Ingle just announced on the floor that Errol Chavez, who was last year's Republican candidate for state auditor, died last night.

Chavez, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent and former regional director of the New Mexico High Intensity Drag Trafficking Area, died of brain cancer, Ingle said.

Chavez was diagnosed with a brain tumor about a month before the election.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nunez Says He's "Seriously Debating" Switching Parties

The slim margin between Democrats and Republicans in the House might become even slimmer.

After being dumped as chairman of the Agriculture and Water Resources Committee -- and being completely removed from that and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee -- state Rep. Andy Nunez, D-Hatch says he's "seriously debating" switching parties.

"I'm going to let the dust settle a little for a week or so," he said in a telephone interview a few minutes ago.

"Whatever I decide (House Speaker Ben Lujan)'s not going to have much of my support on the floor for anything."

Lujan, who as speaker has complete power over House committee assignments, was put on the Education and Transportation committees.

"He's not vindictive," Nunez said sarcastically of Lujan.

Nunez said before the committee switch he and Lujan had a "good conversation" and Nunez aired his grievances about Lujan not sending certain bills to Nunez's committees, and givng Nunez's bills three committee assignments.

As noted in my previous post, Nunez told Heath Haussamen this week that if his vote would have made a difference, he would have voted for Republican Leader Tom Taylor over Lujan.

After losing eight seats in the last general election, Democrats have 37 members compared with 33 Republicans. If Nunez switches, the number would be 36-34.

Nunez Out, Egolf Gets Energy Committee Chairmanship

The rumors were true. Or at least some of them.

Santa Fe Democrat  Rep. Brian Egolf will chair the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He replaces Rep. Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, who will chair the House Agriculture and Water Resources committee.

That committee formerly was chaired by Rep. Andy Nunez, D-Hatch, the most vocal supporter of Rep. Joseph Cervantes' aborted challenge to House Speaker Ben Lujan, Nunez was the only House Democrat to not vote for Lujan as speaker. 

Most observers thought Nunez said sealed his fate when he voted  "Present" instead of voting  for Lujan. I did too, but I knew it was sealed after Nunez told Heath Haussemen  that if his vote would have made a difference, he would have voted for Republican Leader Tom Taylor over Lujan.

So here's another victory for the Tea Party. Because of their stance against the Cervantes challenge, perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the House has lost his seat and in the shuffle, one of the most progressive Democrats now chairs the Energy Committee.

But nobody can accuse Lujan of punishing everybody who backed Cervantes. He appointed Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces, who also was outspoken in her support of  Cervantes' in the Speaker race to be Chairwoman of the House Voters and Elections committee.

Garcia, who is Cervantes' aunt, was previously vice chairman of that committee, which was chaired by former Rep. Jose Campos. Campos, who ran for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor last year, did not seek re-election.

Campos ran for the Democratic lieutenant governor's nomination, but lost. He is the mayor of Santa Rosa.

Johnson "Tilting at Windmills" Sabato Says

Former Gov. Gary Johnson, who just about everyone believes will seek the Republican nomination for president, is "tilting at windows," national political pundit Larry Sabato says, though he adds that Johnson would "enrich the debate" if he runs

Sabato, who is director of the Virginia Center for Politics, included Johnson as one of 19 possible GOP candidates today in his "Crystal Ball" blog.

The contenders are in various stages of undress as the strip tease proceeds. So we begin with a catch-all listing of those clearly running (such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty); those seriously toying with running (Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour, etc.); those who might be persuaded to run (such as Chris Christie and Marco Rubio); and those who are running but tilting at windmills (Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, and so on)

(Now I have to clear my head of  the gruesome image of Romney, Huckabee, Gingrich etc. doing a strip tease. Thanks, Larry!)

Of Johnson, Sabato writes:

This two-term governor of New Mexico is almost totally unknown outside his home state. A wealthy businessman, he was something of a surprise winner in the Land of Enchantment during his years of service (1994 to 2002). Johnson is a most exceptional kind of Republican, a libertarian on many issues including drug legalization, and a Ron Paul supporter in 2008. He has practiced what he has preached, openly admitting to smoking marijuana with frequency for several recent years, as he sought to overcome residual pain from an accident. Much like John Bolton, but from a different direction, he will enrich the debate by being in the race. But Johnson’s chances of nomination are mighty slim, and that is putting it kindly. Johnson probably hopes for a Paul endorsement if the Texas congressman does not run again.

McSorley Dumped as Judicial Chair. Jennings: "It's Not About Policy."

As expected, the Senate Committee on Committees this morning voted to replace Senate Judiciary Chairman Cisco McSorley with Richard Martinez of Espanola. The vote was unanimous with virtually no discussion of the change.

Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, told reporters that the change had nothing to do with the fact that Martinez is more conservative than McSorley. "If anything, the committee got more liberal with the changes made," he said, pointing to the fact that liberal Sen. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque will replace Sen. Bernadette Sanchez on the committee. Sanchez has been opposed to some measures favored by progressives, such as the domestic partnership bill.

Another Judiciary change: Santa Fe Democrat Peter Wirth will be vice chairman of the committee. McSorley will  remain on the committee.

Jennings said the main reason for replacing McSorley was complaints about bills bottlenecking in the committee. There was a period during last year's session when Judiciary didn't meet at all, Jennings said.

Martinez thanked the committees committee for their vote. Without being specific  he said he knew that there had been some concerns about his ability to run Judiciary because of  "some of my actions in the past."

It's not clear whether he was referring to instances like his Senate floor tirade during a special session in October 2009 when he accused fellow legislators of abusing the per diem system. “There are some who come in right before lunch, sign the voucher, get their free lunch,” then leave," he said. "... I’ve been here nine years,” he said. “I’ve collected a list (of legislators who have abused per diems). It would be very embarrassing if I released this list to the media.”

I've asked for that list several times, with no luck.

Martinez said he has been frustrated because McSorley hadn't included him on decisions on organizing the committee.

Jennings told Martinez that everyone knew Martinez had been under stress. He didn't specify what stress he was under.

***

On the Senate floor moments ago both Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, who wasn't personally affected by the committee changes and Sen. Bernadette Sanchez, who was, protested that the Senate seniority rules were disregarded in the changes. Sanchez said she wasn't consulted about the change until after the decision had been made.

Roundhouse Roundup: Freedom of Speech Doesn't Mean Speeches are Free

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 20, 2011


So you want to have former Gov. Bill Richardson speak at your next Kiwanis Club luncheon or your kid’s upcoming Girl Scouts banquet?

You got $25,000 to $40,000?
I don't think Richardson charged anything for this speech.

That’s Richardson’s price range, according to the website of his speaker’s bureau.

In my last interview with Richardson, he told me that he had signed up with his old agency, the exclusive Washington Speaker Bureau, and planned to earn part of his income by giving paid speeches. “I’ve got several lined up,” he said.

But he didn’t say then how much he’d be paid.

On the WSB website, Richardson is listed as Level 5 with a fee scale ranging from $25,00.01 to $40,000.

That’s more money than a lot of people in Santa Fe make in a year. And it’s a lot of moolah for a guy who frequently included self-effacing laugh lines in his speeches, making fun of himself for being long-winded.

He’s hardly the most expensive orator listed with WSB. Other Level 5s include former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, retired Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka, journalist Bob Woodward, MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews and former White House aide and CNN commentator David Gergen.

When Gergen spoke in Santa Fe in 2009 to the Council of State Governments-West, he was paid $33,000 plus travel expenses.

But some command higher fees than Richardson. Level 6 speakers — whose fee scale is $40,000.01 and up — include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Nightline host Ted Koppel, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Nixon speech writer, actor and game-show host Ben Stein.

Richardson might take some satisfaction in knowing that his fee is higher than another former United Nations ambassador, John Bolton, who as a Level 4 gets between $15,000 and $25,000 per speech.

And there are some WSB clients — including former President George W. Bush, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan — whose fees aren’t listed.
For an extra $5,000 Richardson
 will create a magic circle of light.

“Fees vary based on event location,” their pages say.

The Richardson videos: According to the website, among the topics that Richardson can speak on are American politics, Asia, China, alternative energy, environmental issues, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and national security.

There are several videos on Richardson’s WSB page in which Richardson speaks about specific issues.And there’s a 4-minute introductory video in which he repeats his oft-told tale about his “psychological battle” with Saddam Hussein; talks about horseback riding with his wife; and discusses his two major heroes, John F. Kennedy and Mickey Mantle.

(Sorry, the WSB doesn't let you embed their videos on other sites.)

A lover of the arts: In the video, Richardson says that beneath his “rough exterior” and image as a guy who likes baseball, football, steaks and “American stuff,” he’s actually a lover of modern art and poetry.

He said that’s “a side that probably nobody associates with me.”

But he’s wrong.

The United States Conference of Mayors does. In fact, the group is bestowing the 2011 Public Leadership in the Arts Award on Richardson today in Washington, D.C.

The real question is, if he gives an acceptance speech for the award, will he charge his new fee?

Speaking of speeches: I haven’t done the math on how much the state paid for Gov. Susana Martinez’s State of the State address Tuesday, but I suspect it’s well under $25,000.

But one thing to consider for Republicans, pundits and late-night comics who have poked fun at President Barack Obama for using a teleprompter:

Martinez used one for her 38-minute speech Tuesday, a spokesman confirmed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is McSorley Getting the Boot from Senate Judiciary?

A version of this will be published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Jan. 20, 2011

Social conservatives may find it easier moving bills through the state Senate to bring back the death penalty and restrict gay rights if an anticipated change in the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee comes to pass.

State Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Espanola said Wednesday that Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, had asked him to take over the top position on Judiciary, which for the past six years has been chaired by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque — one of the most outspoken liberals in the Legislature.

McSorley, interviewed in his office Wednesday afternoon, said, “Right now I don’t know if I’m going to remain as Judiciary Committee chairman.”

Jennings said Wednesday, “I can’t respond now.” He said the decision on committee chairmanships and committee assignments will be decided today at the scheduled meeting of the Senate Committee on Committees.

Unlike the state House of Representatives, where one person — the speaker — determines who will chair and who will sit on each committee, in the Senate the Committee on Committees decides.

Both McSorley and Martinez, who has been deputy chairman of Senate Judiciary since McSorley became chairman, spoke no ill of one another.

But the two have dramatically different voting records on issues like the death penalty and gay rights. McSorley, a lawyer by profession, has been a champion of domestic partnership legislation and other bills affecting homosexuals. Martinez has been on the opposite side on these issues.

Gov. Susana  Martinez, a former Las Cruces prosecutor, has been a vocal advocate of bringing back the death penalty, which in 2009 was repealed by close votes in both chambers of the Legislature. She mentioned the issue as a priority in her State of the State address Tuesday.

While she has not stressed gay-related issues, Martinez has said she opposes a domestic partnership law and that she would sign a bill that would legally define marriage in New Mexico as the union of one man and one woman.

 Though there are more Democrats than Republicans in the Senate, Jennings was elected in 2009 by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats.

The Roundhouse rumor mill involving possible major committee changes was even busier Wednesday than the Capitol copy machines printing newly introduced bills.

There is much “palace intrigue” in the House, spurred mainly by the aborted challenge of House Speaker Ben Lujan by Rep. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces.

Many expect Rep. Andy Nunez, D-Hatch, to lose his chairmanship of the Water and Natural Resources Committee. Nunez, a conservative Democrat, was a vocal supporter of Cervantes and an outspoken critic of Lujan’s. He voted “present”  Tuesday instead of voting for Lujan or Republican Leader Tom Taylor of Farmington for speaker.

Another rumor involves Santa Fe’s Rep. Brian Egolf. According to one scenario, Egolf, a progressive Democrat who is beginning his second term, would become chairman of the House Energy Committee. Asked if it was true, Egolf replied in a text message, “Don’t know.”

Egolf denied another rumor that he was being named chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
Lujan has yet to announce any committee changes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why the Cervantes Challenge Fizzled

Rep. Joe Cervantes said that only two words explain the reason he couldn't get enough votes to topple House Speaker Ben Lujan: "Tea Party."

Lujan was re-elected with 36 votes. House Republican Leader Tom Taylor of Farmington, nominated symbolically as is the usual practice for the minority party, got 33 votes. Rep. Andy Nunez, D-Hatch, a Cervantes supporter, voted "present."

Many last week were predicting that Cervantes would have enough votes from Republicans and southern Democrats to win the speakership. But most of that talked stopped yesterday when news broke that several tea party organizations were urging Republicans not to back a coalition effort for Cervantes.

Taylor, talking to reporters after the vote, said he didn't believe the tea party opposition was the main reason for the failure of the coalition was that more Republicans were thinking of the political advantage of keeping Lujan in the position rather than the "policy' advantages.

"He's the status quo," Taylor said of Lujan. "There was a risk with Cervantes that we could have passed some great legislation and there'd be a lovefest in the Legislature. ... It would be harder to run a negative campaign."

If it wasn't obvious from his statement, Taylor acknowledged that he had been leaning toward supporting Cervantes.

New House Republican Don Bratton agreed with Taylor's analysis. "I look at things from a policy standpoint," he said.

Jerry Clark of the Las Cruces Sons of Liberty, a group that split off from the Las Cruces Tea Party last year, said his group agreed with the tea party opposition to Cervantes.

"We're from Las Cruces and we know Jose as a progressive," he said of Cervantes. "We thought Republicans should stand their ground. Even if Jose is an improvement over Ben Lujan, he's not really an improvement." He noted that Cervantes has voted for the "motor voter" law which makes it easier to get driver's licenses and against requiring picture identification for voting.

"We want Republicans to draw a line in the sand," he said.

Lujan, in his speech after the winning re-election, didn't mention the Cervantes challenge.

Has The Tea Party Saved Ben Lujan?

That's what some people think. "Tea Parties" from several New Mexico communities have been contacting Republican Legislators telling them not to get behind Rep. Joe Cervantes for House Speaker.

I spoke with Rep. Andy Nunez, D-Hatch this morning. He wasn't sounding nearly as optimistic as he has in the last couple of weeks.

Ironically, former Gov. Gary Johnson, who spoke at the Tea Party rally outside the Roundhouse this morning, told reporters he thinks that backing Cervantes would be good for "change." He recalled how in 2001 Senate Republicans united with a handful fo Democrats to oust Manny Aragon as Senate president pro tem.

We should know in a couple of hours.

Johnson's speech to the Tea Party was well received, especially his talk about tax cuts and shrinking government. But not everyone there was enthusiastic what Johnson had to say about issues such as immigration (Johnson favors work permits for Mexicans and opposes building a border fence), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, marijuana legalization.

One audience member came up and had a short and heated -- though ultimately civil -- discussion with Johnson about the issue. Whatever you think of the issue or Johnson, I find it refreshing to see politicians facing their critics and debating like this.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Another TV Vet Working the Legislature

Last week I noted former television reporter Larry Behrens is handling press duties for the House Republicans.

Over on the Senate side, the Democratic leadership has hired veteran news anchor Greg Gurule for media relations.

Gurule has worked for both KRQE and KOB. Most recently he worked for KPHO in Phoenix.

Diane Kinderwater will continue doing press for the Senate Republicans.

Session starts in 25 hours.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Get Your Grube On!

Former State Sen. John Grubesic The Flabby King is gone but the "Outlaw Senator" is back! Former state Sen. John Grubesic is back. He's writing a weekly guest column for Capitol Report New Mexico.

His first outing is classic Grubesic. He discusses why he didn't do what many lawmakers do when they leave office -- become a lobbyist.

"Often, political retirement packages are funded by returning as a lobbyist. I faced two significant obstacles in launching a successful lobbying career.


"The first was my turbulent relationship with the sitting governor and the second was the idea of returning to curry the favor of people I had served with turned my stomach, caused me to have nightmares and started me drinking again. No, I did the drinking without needing a reason, but I did have a recurring nightmare that involved Tim Keller, Cisco McSorley, Dede Feldman, a broken calculator and an angry baboon that looked and sounded a lot like John (Wertheim)."
Pure gonzo. That's our Grube!

Grubesic is a Democrat who represented a Santa Fe district and now works in Albuquerque as a lawyer. He writes, " ... as a criminal defense attorney, I am bound to bump into some of my old comrades eventually."

Also doing a weekly guest column for Capitol Reports is Brigette Russell, who ran against Rep. Brian Egolf in the last election. She'll be working as a bill analyst for House Republicans this session.

The Circus is Coming to Town

My overview story on the upcoming Legislature (with the help of Trip Jennings, Kate Nash and Staci Matlock) can be found HERE.


My  annual "visitor's guide" to the Legislature is HERE


The New Mexican's Legislature page is HERE

The fun begins Tuesday.

Legislative News Leaders

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Don't Take Your Gun to Town, Adam.

Former Republican Congressional contender Adam Kokesh sent out this news release concerning his right to bear arms on a political talk show.
Adam Kokesh
Seems that the killjoys at UNM won't let Kokesh take his pistol into the KNME studio to tape The Line.

Don't worry Adam. I've done the show several times and nobody ever assaulted me. Marco Gonzales  looked at me funny once though.

Albuquerque – As a guest for a taping of “THE LINE” for KNME TV last week, Adam Kokesh was unknowingly in violation of state law and University of New Mexico policy when he (openly) carried his revolver into the studio. Adam Kokesh, an Iraq veteran, activist, former congressional candidate and host of Adam VS The Man on AM1550 KIVA, open carries on a daily basis. He says it is because, “I have received death threats in the past as a result of political speech and prefer to rely on myself for my personal protection rather than the government. After all, when seconds count, the police are just minutes away. I also believe that responsible gun ownership is in the best interest of public safety.”


Kokesh was scheduled to return each Thursday through the end of the month for three more tapings. On Tuesday, KNME producer Kevin McDonald emailed Kokesh to say, “I hadn’t faced it before, and wasn’t sure what the policies were ahead of time, so I didn’t say anything last week… but I have done my homework and have to let you know that you are not allowed to bring your gun into the station. We are technically part of the UNM campus, and they forbid it unless you are part of ROTC or a peace officer.” In that email, he included a link to the law and the UNM policy which forbids “weapons of any kind on campus.” He also pointed out, “I want you to know that no one complained about this last week.”


Kokesh responded by email, asking permission from UNM in accordance with state law. “In light of recent events in Tucson, I think it is particularly important for someone such as myself who has received death threats in the past to be able to carry a firearm for self defense. Unfortunately, I do not meet any of the criteria under the law that you point out. Neither would a deranged shooter, but they seem to have a pattern of ignoring just these kinds of laws. . . . I would like you to ask the university to approve me to be armed while on campus for the taping as a 'university approved program' as per section A.(4) of section 30-7-2.4 of New Mexico State law. Please let me know if the university will allow me to enter the campus armed before the taping tomorrow.”


According to McDonald's response by email, UNM Police denied his request. “I did talk to the UNM police finally and they said they would not approve an exception in this case, but said you are more than welcome to call the President’s office and try there. Without that permission from the President’s office, I’m afraid I’m just not going to be able to budge. I am sorry if all this puts a damper on your desire to participate, or even forces you to decide not to, but I completely understand if it does.”


Adam Kokesh plans to attend the taping tomorrow unarmed as he is willing to take what he described as a “small risk to spread the message of freedom” during his radio show last night. “While I do not expect this to be resolved before the taping tomorrow, I will continue to seek orderly resolution of this matter by personally contacting both the UNM police and the President's office.” The taping will take place at the KNME studios on the UNM campus at 1130 University Blvd NE at 4pm today.

UPDATE: 3:10 An hour or so before I posted this blog, KNME disinvited Kokesh to be on The Line. Here's the new statement from the Kokesh camp.


After sending out the press release (above), Iraq veteran, former congressional candidate, and host of Adam VS The Man on AM 1550 KIVA, Adam Kokesh was “uninvited” from participating in the scheduled taping of “The Line” today for KNME TV. Despite receiving death threats, Kokesh was originally denied his request to legally open carry at the studios on the University of New Mexico campus, then abruptly denied his opportunity to participate in this publicly sponsored political talk program. At 11am this morning, KNME Director of Content Franz Joachim called Kokesh to inform him that because of the previous press release he was no longer welcome.

Regarding this gross disregard for public safety and freedom of speech, Kokesh said, “No Iraqi ever threatened me, but I was given a gun and told to patrol Iraq to fight for our freedoms. When I came home, fellow Americans threatened me, and I was denied my basic right to self-defense. Having a government sponsored institution making people feel unsafe to speak out politically is unacceptable.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Lawyers Doing Their Jobs

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 13, 2011


Albuquerque lawyer Sam Bregman, who is challenging incumbent Javier Gonzales for the chairmanship of the state Democratic Party, has been in the news a lot in recent years.

Bregman, a former Albuquerque City Councilor, has been something of a go-to lawyer for Democrats in trouble. While I haven’t seen any public statements about this from Gonzales or the other candidate, Letitia Montoya, behind the scenes some Democrats are saying some of his controversial clients are baggage for Bregman.

I couldn’t get Bregman on the phone Wednesday. But in a recent video interview with Albuquerque blogger/journalist Peter St. Cyr, Bregman said, “I’m a lawyer doing my job. For someone to be that shortsighted is really silly.”

He’s right. He is a lawyer doing his job, and it’s unfair to judge a lawyer by his clients. All defendants, whether an accused murderer, or, say, a state treasurer accused of seeking bribes, deserve a good defender.

However, Bregman apparently didn’t feel that way when he was running for mayor of Albuquerque in 1997.
At the time, he was a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office. One of his opponents was former Gov. David Cargo, also a lawyer.

In August 1997, according to articles in The Albuquerque Tribune, Bregman said, “Going on four years now, I’ve gone into the courthouse trying to seek justice for victims and their families and trying to put criminals behind bars.

“Dave Cargo has spent that same time walking into the courthouse trying to keep criminals on the street. Dave Cargo has stood up for people who peddle drugs to our children, people who abuse our children, people who assault our police officers.”

To his credit, a couple of days after the controversy broke over his remarks, Bregman walked back a little, telling The Tribune, “Perhaps my comments were not in the appropriate context and perhaps the rhetoric was a little strong. ... I do not for one minute want to imply that defense attorneys do not have a very valuable place in our criminal justice system. I am certainly very supportive of a person’s right to have an attorney.”

Neither Bregman nor Cargo won that race. Jim Baca did.

Among Bregman’s most high-profile clients in recent years:

* Former state Treasurer Robert Vigil was facing multiple federal charges related to a kickback scheme involving state contractors. After two trials, Vigil was convicted of one count of attempted extortion but acquitted by a jury of 23 other extortion and racketeering charges. Vigil served 32 months in federal prison.

* Roberta Vigil, a former West Las Vegas school administrator — and related by marriage to the former treasurer — was convicted on state charges of fraud and conspiracy. She received three years of probation and was ordered to repay $13,856 in bilingual education funds to the school district.

* Marc Correra has not been charged with any crimes, but he was at the center of a state investment scandal. Between 2003 and 2008, Correra — whose father was close to then-Gov. Bill Richardson — shared in nearly $22 million in fees as a third-party placement agent to help money-management firms win investments with the State Investment Council and a state educational pension fund. Bregman represented Correra before the state Gaming Control Board when the broker was part of a team trying to start a race track and casino in Raton.

* Bruce Malott, the former chairman of New Mexico’s Educational Retirement Board, resigned in September over a questionable $350,000 loan from Anthony Correra (Marc Correra’s father). Malott has not been charged with any crime but has been named in civil suits, including those filed by Frank Foy, former cheif investment officer of the ERB.

* Alfred Lovato, a former state police guard of Richardson, was in the car driven by politically-connected lawyer Carlos Fierro when Fierro struck and killed pedestrian William Tenorio in Nov. 2008. Lovato initially was charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. But Bregman persuaded state District Judge Michael Vigil to drop the charges.

UPDATE 9:15 a.m.: The initial version of this column listed the wrong position for Frank Foy. That has been corrected.

Tom Taylor on the Speakership Battle

House Republican Leader Tom Taylor was interviewed this morning on KSNM-AM in Las Cruces by Michael Swickard and Jim Spence. Naturally the topic of Joe Cervantes' challenge of House Speaker Ben Lujan came up.

As Taylor told me when I talked to him late last week, Taylor wouldn't make any predictions as to how the House Republicans would vote and wouldn't say how he'd vote himself. "All I can say it's very close," he said. Taylor said the speaker's race will be "an 18th-hour decision."

There's a podcast of the show HERE. (Taylor comes on about 30 minutes into the segment and starts talking about the speaker's race about at the 35-minute mark.)

My latest story is HERE

Quotes of the Day

I figured I had the best quote of the day in New Mexico politics in my story on Joe Cervante's challenge to House Speaker Ben Lujan.

 I was  talking with Rep. Andy Nunez, a Cervantes supporter from Hatch, about the possible shift of power from Northern New Mexico to southern. Nunez told me with a chuckle, "Save your Confederate money, boy, the South's gonna rise again."

But I think I was topped in my colleague Robert Nott's story about a school board candidates forum.

There Donado Coviello, the artist formerly known as John Coventry, told the audience. "Even the people who vote you into office eventually hate you. Everybody already hates me, so why don't you save yourself some time and vote for me?"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Miss him? He's Back!


In his quest to become "anonymous and insignificant" former Gov. Bill Richardson today got himself appointed to be a "goodwill ambassador" for the Organization of American States.

Secretary General (José Miguel) Insulza asked former Governor Richardson to assume once again the charge of Special Envoy for Hemispheric Affairs, a position he held from 2006 to 2007. The meeting gave the North American politician an opportunity to share with the head of the hemispheric Organization his gratitude for the trust placed on his experience, which will allow him once again to confront the challenges of regional migration as OAS Special Envoy.


The Secretary General asserted that “in the next few weeks we will decide on the missions to be fulfilled by the Governor.” ...
The Secretary General named Richardson Special Envoy in 2006, and Richardson held this position until he ran for the presidency of the United States.

As a “goodwill ambassador,” the former governor of New Mexico will help promote dialogue on issues of importance to the region, soften positions between countries on some complex issues, and strengthen relations between countries.


According to their website, the OAS is "the premier regional forum for political discussion, policy analysis and decision-making in Western Hemisphere affairs."

Eric Witt Now Heads Movie Group

In today's New Mexican, I reported on former Bill Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley going back to his old employer, KOAT. Now we learn where another top Richardson aide has landed.

This morning the newly formed Motion Picture Association of New Mexico emailed this news release. Check out who's executive director:
Facing a potentially industry killing reduction, the Motion Picture Association of NM (MPANM) today defended the current 25% state incentive for the film industry. A ‘roll back’ to 15% is being proposed as part of the governor’s new budget.

“By getting into the film business early, New Mexico has gained a major strategic advantage over states that are just now adopting incentives like ours,” said MPANM Executive Director Eric Witt. “It would be unwise to eliminate that advantage now, when so many jobs in the state depend on every aspect of local filmmaking.”

Witt instead suggested a comprehensive study of the direct and indirect economic benefits involved in the incentive program.

“While I firmly believe the industry has a huge positive impact across many sectors of the state’s economy, there has been enough muddying of the waters in the media regarding so-called ‘competing’ studies to cause confusion,” said Witt. “Film has been the most successful new job growth and economic development sector in the state for many years. We need a thorough, accurate study conducted by an independent firm that all parties agree is reliable.”

Different studies in recent years have delivered greatly divergent assessments of the net cost or benefit to the state’s 25% film incentive.

“Ideally, we should use the upcoming forum to really focus attention on this issue and come to some consensus about the value of the film industry to jobs and tax revenues in New Mexico,” said Witt.

The film policy debate, jointly sponsored by the MPANM and the Rio Grande Foundation, is at 4 PM today at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.


The Motion Picture Association of New Mexico, according to the New Mexico Business Weekly, was started last year by former GOP gubernatorial hopeful Doug Turner and his brother Adam Turner.

Corrected 10-12-11:  The correct name of the the publication I linked to above is New Mexico Business Weekly, not the "New Mexico Business Journal" as originally stated. (Thanks, Harold!)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bregman vs. Gonzales

Covering a new governor and preparing for the upcoming Legislature, I haven't paid much attention to Sam Bregman's challenge to state Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales.


Below is a video interview Peter St. Cyr did with Bregman last week.

Bregman, Correra, MoldenhauerPeter asked him about what some see as political baggage -- that in recent years he's become best known as the lawyer who has defended Democrats involved in scandals -- former state Treasurer Robert Vigil, former Educational Retirement Board chairman Bruce Mallot, third-party marketer Marc Correra, etc.

(Bregman is the man sitting at the left in this photo. Correra is in the middle. This was at a 2009 meeting of the state Gaming Control Board.)

Bregman calls this criticism "silly, saying "I’m a lawyer doing my job. For someone to be that shortsighted is really silly."

Here's the video



Though I don't believe she's officially announced, as I reported last month, former SOS Mary Herrera ally Letita Montoya also has been campaigning for the state chairman job.

UPDATE 12 noon: I should clarify that neither Correra nor Mallot have been charged with any crimes. Mallot has been named in civil suits, including Frank Foy's whistleblower suit claiming there was political pressure on the ERB to make certain investments.

Corrected: 10-11 - I corrected my reference to the ERB. Got my alphabet soup mixed up.

Former TV News Reporter New House GOP Flack

Former Action 7 News reporter Larry Behrens has been hired by the House Republicans to be their spokesman for the upcoming Legislative Session.

Behrens last year was one of the 347-or-so reporters and bloggers covered the Legislature for the New Mexico Independent back when it was a going concern.

He's since worked for KKOB radio's news effort.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What? No Mark Boitano Building in the Works?

Sen. Mark Boitano, R-Albuquerque says he's going to introduce a bill to stop the relatively recent practice of naming public buildings after living, or at least sitting public officials.

“Public buildings with gigantic names sprawled across them of sitting public officials are basically free advertising for the officials. It is at the taxpayers’ expense and with no public approval. It is not right or fair,” Boitano said in a press release.

He have the examples of  the gym at Pojoaque Valley High School named for House Speaker Ben Lujan and the African American Performing Arts Center named for state Rep. Sheryl M. Williams, D-Albuquerque at the state fairgrounds.

"In the case of the building named after Speaker Lujan, voters on election day see that huge billboard when they enter the gym that is used as a polling place. While his name is plastered right on the polling place, his opponent cannot have any signs within 100 feet of it. That is not right or fair,” Boitano said.

“The free advertising is a double whammy against current law. We’ve taken steps towards campaign reform by limiting campaign contributions and gifts that can be accepted from lobbiests. We need to take the next step to stop taxpayer money being used for 24/7 advertising. It uses public money inappropriately by giving the free advertisements. State dollars have been and could continue to be used being used to promote the sitting official over challengers."

Boitano says he'll pre-file a bill next week to put into law criteria outlining how a public building is named and specifically requires that no public building built with state monies be named for any elected official while they are still in public office.

UPDATE  10 am Saturday I got House Speaker Ben Lujan's response to Boitano's proposal:


“How come they’re not saying anything about the Manuel Lujan (Exhibit Complex) at the state fair or all the things named after Pete Domenici? ”he  said, citing two prominent Republicans. Domenici, a former U.S. senator, is the namesake of a federal courthouse in downtown Albuquerque. Manuel Lujan is a former congressman and secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“We have better things to work on than this bill,” the speaker said.

Boitano when I spoke to him yesterday, said he’s not criticizing Luján, Williams or anyone else with a public building named after them. “I don’t think they went around asking to have buildings named after them,” he said. “I’m sure it was done by independent third parties.” But he said having a building named for a sitting politician is virtually "free advertising. "

Also, a spokesman for Gov. Martinez said she's on board with Boitano's bill and looks forward to signing it into law.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Susana: Repealing Medical Marijuana Law Not a Priority

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 7, 2011


Although she still opposes the idea of allowing medical use of marijuana, Gov. Susana Martinez said Thursday that repealing the state’s medical cannabis program will not be a priority for her in the upcoming legislative session.

“I oppose medical marijuana,” Martinez said at a news conference, repeating a campaign statement that the program puts state employees in the position of violating federal drug laws.

But when asked if she’d seek legislation to repeal the law passed in 2007, Martinez said, “We have bigger issues we have to deal with, like balancing the $450 million budget deficit and reviving the economy.”

About 3,000 patients are enrolled in the New Mexico program.

Indeed, it appears that medical marijuana won’t be an issue in the upcoming 60-day session of the Legislature.


State Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, a retired police detective who has been vocal in his opposition to medical marijuana, said in a phone interview Thursday that he probably won’t be leading any charge to repeal the program.

Rehm said it’s possible that a repeal bill could clear the House, but it would be hard to get it through the Senate.

A 2007 vote in the House was close, but the Senate passed the “Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act” by a margin of 32-3.

Proponents of medical marijuana were happy with Martinez’s statement.

“I see this program staying intact over the next four years,” said Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, who sponsored several medical marijuana bills over the past decade. “I feel the program we have, with all its checks and balances, has become a model for the nation. There’s things in the program we need to change and improve. But it’s a long-term experiment.”

Under the law, patients suffering specific medical conditions have to be recommended to the program by a doctor. They can legally obtain marijuana for treatment by growing their own or buying from a licensed provider. There currently are 25 nonprofit providers, though McSorley said that number needs to double to meet demand.

McSorley said that none of the “horrible things” predicted by opponents of the law during the years it was debated in the Legislature have come to pass.

Rehm, however, noted that in the short time the program has been in place, the number of conditions that qualify a patient for the program has expanded.

Currently there are 15 qualifying conditions — among them cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, severe chronic pain and post traumatic stress disorder. Those with PTSD need a psychiatrist’s diagnosis to qualify.

Sheila Lewis, interim director of the state’s Drug Policy Alliance — a group that lobbied for years to pass the medical marijuana bill — also said she was glad that Martinez said she won’t focus on repealing the medical marijuana law. Referring to various polls that show support for medical marijuana, Lewis said the governor is following the will of the people.

Some proponents have expressed the fear that even if the Legislature doesn’t rescind the law, Martinez could administratively weaken the program — cutting its budget or establishing administrative regulations that would make it difficult for patients or providers to participate.

Lewis said recently passed regulations that raised fees on marijuana producers will help keep the program self-sufficient. The new fees, adopted by the Health Department last month, are $5,000 for producers licensed less than one year, $10,000 for more than one year, $20,000 for more than two years and $30,000 for more than three years.

Many producers complained that the fees were too high and would make it more expensive for the patients. Lewis said the fact the Health Department raised the number of plants the providers can have to 150 from 95 would help ease the increased financial burden on the providers.

A Health Department spokeswoman, said last month the program needs to take in about $700,000 a year to be self-sufficient.

In addition to the nonprofit marijuana providers, there are about 1,400 patients who are licensed to produce their own supply of marijuana for their treatment. These patients are allowed to have four mature plants and 12 seedlings.

Harrison "Jack" Schmitt to Be New Energy Secretary

Gov. Susana Martinez has tapped a former astronaut and former U.S. senator to be her new secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources.

Schmitt, 75, was on the last manned flight to the moon in 1972. He was the 12th and last -- or let's be optimistic and say "most recent" man to set foot on the moon. (But, as he pointed out in this morning's press conference, his crewmate Gene Cernan was the last to get back into the Apollo 17 lunar module.)

Republican Schmitt, a New Mexico native who grew up in Silver City, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1976. He beat incumbent Democrat Joe Montoya. Many believe the turning point in that race came when Montoya gave a speech mocking Schmitt, saying a monkey could be trained to go into space.

Schmitt lost his re-election bid to Jeff Bingaman in 1982.
JACK SCHMITT WITH GOV. SUSANA MARTINEZ
In recent years, he said, he has worked as a consultant and has served on various boards of energy companies and other businesses. He also has been an adjunct professor in the Department of Engineering Physics of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In a 2009 interview in The New Mexican, Schmitt said he did not believe humans were to blame for global warming.

We're very skeptical about the crisis that people are proclaiming in global warming," he told my colleague Tom Sharpe. "Not that the planet hasn't warmed. We know it has or we'd all still be in the Ice Age. But it has not reached a crisis proportion and, even among us skeptics, there's disagreement about how much man has been responsible for that warming."

Though it wasn't listed in the press release, Schmitt also is a pretty good photographer (see below).

Over Under Sideways Down

I've had two people, including one who I know, tell me that they got copies of new state Blue Book in which the "Fallen Heroes" section -- a list of New Mexico military members killed in Afghanistan and Iraq -- was printed upside down and backwards!

Oh man, I joked in my column today that the new Blue Books were collectors item because fewer were printed this year. But these are REAL collector's items! I'm jealous because mine is all rightside up.

I wonder if the state can get any refund of that $44,000 the book cost to print.

Oh well, here's The Yardbirds with a comment:

Bingaman Safe "For Now," Sabato Says

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, just made his first round of ratings of 2012 (it's almost here!) U.S. Senate races.
At Democratic Party election night gathering Hotel Andaluz, Albuquerque
Here's what he said.

New Mexico: Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman has become something of an institution in his state since his first election in 1982. He says he is running again, despite earlier retirement rumors, and if that is so, he will be a substantial favorite. However, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson is seriously considering a candidacy to oppose Bingaman. Despite her defeat for the other Senate seat in 2008, she would be an impressive candidate. Naturally, Wilson hopes that Bingaman steps down and she will have an open seat.

Now officially, Bingaman hasn't made his decision to run for re-election yet. That announcement is expected in February or March. But his spokeswoman Jude McCartin pointed out to me a couple of months ago that the senator had recently had a fundraiser in which he brought in about $400,000.

State ACLU Weighs in on King's Domestic-Partner Opinion

They like it.

Executive Director Peter Simonson said in a news release that even though the legal opinion does not have the force of law, it's "an important step towards achieving basic relationship fairness here in New Mexico.Recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages would be a powerful acknowledgement that marriage matters to gay people in similar ways that it matters to everyone. Gay and lesbian couples want to get married in order to make a lifetime commitment to the person they love.”

Referring to the same-sex couples who have been married in other states and countries, the ACLU-NM press release said, "Extending the legal and economic protections of marriage to these couples in this state would significantly increase their families’ security, stability and status in the community."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Blue Book Blues

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 6, 2011



The much-maligned, already obsolete New Mexico Blue Book 2009-2010 has hit the stands — well, the reference book is available at the Secretary of State’s Office — and it’s even more fun than I thought it would be.

I picked up a copy on Wednesday. I felt like I was nabbing a collector’s item. For one thing, there’s fewer copies available than previous editions. Only 5,000 copies were printed, compared with 15,000 in previous years.

Also, the new Blue Book has been in the news a lot more than previous volumes.

Published in the waning days of 2010, the Blue Book contains pictures of and information about all the state officers who left office at the end of the year. Outgoing Secretary of State Mary Herrera, a Democrat who was defeated by Republican Dianna Duran, was criticized by some for publishing the 367-page book, which cost $44,000 to print during the depths of a budget crisis.
But Herrera has argued that it was important to print the book, even if the information was dated shortly after it rolled off the press.

“When I took office in 2007, I continued distributing the Blue Books in stock, which included Rebecca Vigil Giron for a year,” she told me in an e-mail last year, referring to her predecessor. “It did not matter because it is the History and data that matters.”

Pictures? Did someone say pictures? Channel 13 anchorman Dick Knipfing on Tuesday quipped that the Blue Book could double as “The Mary Herrera Yearbook.” The face of the former SOS pops up everywhere, including a full-color, full-page portrait near the front of the book (which is a tradition for secretaries of state) and a full-color, full-page photo of Herrera with President Barack Obama. You’ll find her with U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and with Prince Felipe of Spain.

I counted nine photos of Herrera so far (though in one of them her back is to the camera and in two others she’s pictured as one of dozens of SOS employees.)
Her deputy, Don Francisco Trujillo, also has plenty of pictures in the Blue Book, including one with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a grip-and-grin shot with Vice President Joe Biden.

The section on the secretary of state is eight pages — compared to six pages for the governor. But in fairness, in the 2005-2006 edition, Vigil-Giron’s last Blue Book, the SOS also got two more pages than the governor.

And there are photos of now-departed officials like Gov. Bill Richardson, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and Land Commissioner Pat Lyons.

In the section on the Public Regulation Commission, one might think at first glance the commission has six members instead of five. There’s a photo of former Commissioner Carol Sloan — who left office after being convicted of felony burglary and battery charges — alongside her replacement, Theresa Becenti-Aguilar. The book mentions that Sloan left office but doesn’t state why.

New Gov. Susana Martinez and new Secretary of State Duran do appear in the book. Martinez is right there on page 238, pictured with all the other district attorneys in the state. (She was the DA in Doña Ana County until last Saturday.) Her election to governor last November is mentioned as the last item in the state history section.

Duran is there on page 209 in her former role as a state senator.

This is NOT in the Blue Book
Blue notes: While the book includes the music to the state song, the state bilingual song and the state ballad, there’s not even a mention of the official state cowboy song, “Under New Mexico Skies” by Syd Masters. And there’s nothing about the state guitar (the Pimentel Sunrise guitar). Both became official in 2009.

But there is something for music fans. In the back of the book there’s a feature on the “Godfather of New Mexico Music,” Al Hurricane — who played at Herrera’s birthday party last year — as well as one on his son, Al Hurricane Jr., and singers Gonzalo and Dynette Marie.

(The photo at left is NOT in the Blue Book!)

In Case You Were an Exempt State Employee and Didn't Get This ...

Here's the memo.

(I deleted Brian Moore's email address because it appeared to be his personal email)


Termination Letter to Exempts

Will New Gov Keep Domestic Partners Benefits for State Workers?

Well, the short answer is "I don't know."

Here's a look at what might happen to former Gov. Bill Richardson's 2003 executive order to allow such benefits. CLICK HERE.

Also here's my story on AG Gary King's legal opinion that same-sex marriages for couples who were married in states or countries that allow it. CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Susana Axes NM Environmental Improvement Board

Looks like members of the state Environmental Improvement Board got the same news from Gov. Martinez today as the Governor's Mansion chefs: You're out of here!

According to a news release from the Gov's Office, the decision to terminate all appointed members of the board was a result of the board's support of cap-and-trade regulations. "The EIB moved forward with the cap-and-trade regulatory program after state lawmakers rejected the proposal during the legislative process," a news release said.

Martinez's office sent a copy of the letter:

January 5, 2011


Dear (Member):


Thank you for your service to the State of New Mexico by serving on the Environmental Improvement Board. This letter is to inform you that I am removing you as a member of the Environmental Improvement Board. Your removal is effective immediately.


Again, thank you for your service to our state.


Best regards,
(signed)
Susana Martinez
Governor