Thursday, January 31, 2013


UPDATE: 12:30 pm Friday. Mark Hummels has died.

This is the statement from my former colleague Mark Hummels' law firm Osborn Maledon:

Statement from Osborn Maledon:

Our friend and partner, Mark Hummels, was severely injured in yesterday’s senseless shooting. We have been informed that Mark will not survive from the shooting.
We are devastated at this news about our beloved friend. Our deepest sympathy and support pour out to his wife, Dana, and their two children. The trust and affection Mark inspired in every reach of our law firm and with his clients are a lasting testament we will always cherish.
We are sad beyond measure also to have lost our long‐time friend and client, Steven D. Singer, the CEO of Fusion Contact Centers, in this tragedy. Steve was a long‐time client of the firm and an accomplished entrepreneur. Our thoughts and prayers are with Steve’s family as well.
Mark Hummels is the best kind of lawyer – a man who is highly capable in his practice and caring to his core about his community. Still in the early years of his career, Mark has earned many accolades for his skill as an attorney. He is president of the Phoenix Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and highly regarded by the State and Federal bench. He was recognized by "Benchmark Litigation" as a "future star" in litigation. To judges, attorneys and other professionals, he is a trusted counselor in ethics and disciplinary proceedings.
Mark also has given back to the community at large, serving on the training committee for Arizona Town Hall and providing pro bono legal services to those who could not afford counsel. This giving spirit was enhanced during his early years as a reporter for the "Santa Fe New Mexican," an experience that honed his rare insights into people and our society.
Above all, Mark is the most decent of men. An adoring husband, dedicated father and true friend, Mark is what all of us aspire to be on our best days.
As has been reported, both Mark and Steve were engaged in a settlement conference before they were shot.
The loss of Mark and Steve in any circumstances would be a tragedy. For this to happen to them, while participating in a mediation, is beyond understanding, a terrible loss for us all

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Former New Mexican Reporter Injured in Phoenix Shooting

One of my former partners in the New Mexican Capitol Bureau was among the injured today in a shooting at a Phoenix office complex.

Hummels in 2001

Mark Hummels, who covered local and state government for the paper in the late 1990s and early 2000s, was among at least three shooting victims, according to a CBS affiliate in Phoenix

The station quoted a statement from Osborn Maledon, the law firm where Hummels now works.

“Our partner, Mark Hummels was representing a client in a mediation today when he was shot. We understand that other people also were injured. As the news has reported, Mark has been taken to John C. Lincoln hospital. We don’t have any further info at this time. At the appropriate time, additional information will be released by the authorities.
“Our concern right now is for Mark and his family. We ask the news media to respect their privacy in this difficult time.”

Colin Campbell, a Phoenix lawyer with Osborn Maledon, earlier told the Arizona Republic that a fellow lawyer in the firm was shot in his neck and lower back.

CNN reports:
Hummels in recent years
"A man described as a white male, possibly older, went into an office, got into some type of an altercation, and he shot three individuals," Thompson said. "He fled the scene, we believe, before we got there."Thompson said he did not believe the shootings were random. "We believe that this individual was probably known to the victims," he said. "We believe that this individual came to this location, for whatever purpose, got into an argument, which turned into gunfire."

After a stint as a reporter at the Albuquerque Journal North, Hummels, worked at the the New Mexican beginning in 1998. (He interned for us in 1997) He initially covered City Hall before moving to the paper’s Capitol Bureau.

The two of us covered the 2001 session of the Legislature.

He left the paper in 2001 to go to law school.

UPDATE 4:09 pm  Some good news.

The Arizona Republic has obtained an email from Andrea Marconi, a lawyer with Fennemore Craig and president-elect of the Federal Bar Association (Hummels currently is president of that organization) to members of the Phoenix legal community.

“The latest information I have is that Mark has a strong pulse after surgery and the doctors are optimistic about his recovery, so this is encouraging news,”  the e-mail said.

Warp Speed for Spaceport Bill

People who observe the Legislature often complain that the legislative process is way too slow. But that’s certainly not the case with the bill that would limit lawsuits against parts suppliers and manufacturers involved in building spacecraft used in Virgin Galactic’s operation at the $209 million spaceport in southern New Mexico.

After reaching agreement between the New Mexico Trail Lawyers Association and Virgin Galactic late last week, Senate Bill 240, sponsored by Senate President Pro-tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, zipped through the Senate at warp speed. After a quick and positive hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week the full Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously to pass it with no discussion.

The bill goes on to the House.

The liability issue has been a major hangup in Virgin beginning its New Mexico operation. Bills that would have prevented passengers who sign “informed consent” waivers from suing the suppliers and manufacturers have stalled in previous legislative sessions.

Papen’s bill would require suppliers and manufacturers to have $ 1 million in liability insurance for the suppliers and manufacturers. It also would extend the contract between the spaceport and Virgin to 2021. Currently, the contract expires in 2018. Negotiations between the company and the trial lawyers began last year at the urging of legislative leaders.

Even though Papen’s bill apparently is on the fast track, there are some serious issues between the state and Virgin Galactic.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that Virgin Galactic has agreed to start paying rent at the spaceport, but is doing so under protest and without waiving its right to walk away from the project

According to a Jan. 16 email to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority obtained by the wire service, Virgin Galactic said it does not believe the state has finished the work necessary to trigger activation of its $1 million annual rent obligation, and said if the work is not complete to its satisfaction by March 31, it ‘‘may either stop paying rent, pay reduced rent or give notice to terminate’’ its lease.

The company has publicly expressed concerns about the state’s inability to attract more businesses to the project and has hinted it could leave if lawmakers refuse for a third year in a row to expand liability exemptions for the commercial space industry.

In an interview with The New Mexican last week, Virgin Galactic president and chief executive officer George Whitesides said his company wants to operate in New Mexico’s spaceport.

“What we have been saying for a long time is that the natural attributes of New Mexico make it a perfect leader for commercial space,” he said. “That includes everything from, obviously, the spaceport facility itself to the weather, to the altitude, the airspace, to the [proximity to] federal facilities. What is necessary is continued efforts by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to recruit additional businesses and, frankly, I think another big part of it is for us to get through the end of our development program and start operating.”

Whitesides said commercial space flights by Virgin Galactic using the spaceport could begin as soon as the end of the year — assuming the company’s test-flight program, currently taking place in Mojave, Calif., is successful.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.

UPDATE: 1:40 pm I clarified a line about the suppliers and manufacturers having to have $1 in liability insurance. (Thanks, Jim)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Setback for License Bills

In the first test this year of what has been the most contentious issue of driver's licenses in the past three legislative sessions, a House Committee voted along party lines to effectively kill a bill, backed by Gov. Susana Martinez that would repeal a 2003 law that allows the state to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The House Labor & Human Resources Committee took the vote on House Bill 132, sponsored by freshman Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, following a three-hour hearing. All five Democrats on the panel voted to table the bill while all four Republicans voted to keep it alive.

Following that debate, the committee also tabled HB 161, sponsored by Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque. His bill would have repealed the 2003 law. Unlike Pacheco's bill, it would have revoked all licenses already granted to illegal immigrants.

But while tabling a bill in committee normally means an issue is dead in a legislative session, that's probably not the case with the driver's license matter, which Martinez has made a key priority of her administration since taking office two years ago.

House Speaker Kenny Martinez, a member of the Labor committee, said during Tuesday's debate that the Legislature should seek a middle ground in solving problems with fraud brought up by Pacheco and Martinez's Tax & Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla.

Since the beginning of this session, Senate Republican Leader Stuart Ingle of Portales and Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, have said they are working on a compromise driver's license bill. The governor has indicated she might consider signing such a bill if she can't get a full repeal. Ingle and Smith have said their bill would be based on the Utah law that issues driver's permits to undocumented residents — but not driver's licenses that can be used for identification.

However neither senator has filed a driver's license bill yet.

One possibility is that bill supporters on the House floor could "blast" Pacheco's bill out of the committee for immediate debate by the full House. This happened in 2011 with a similar bill backed by the governor. That bill passed the House but died in the Senate. However since that time, Republicans have lost seats in the House, now controlled by Democrats by a 38-32 margin. It's not clear whether supporters would have the votes to go the "blasting" route.

More in Wednesday's New Mexican

Driver's License Dance Starts Today

Just one day after the marathon committee hearing about the gun control bill, today it's turn for another controversial -- stopping the issuance of New Mexico driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

The House Labor & Human Resources Committee is scheduled this afternoon to consider two such bills -- House Bill 132, sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque (this is the one Gov. Susana Martinez is backing), and HB 161, sponsored by Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. (right!) or after the House floor session is over.

Hopefully the Labor Committee will take a clue from the House Judiciary Committee yesterday and move the hearing to the House Chambers if a big crowd, as expected, shows up.

Monday, January 28, 2013

House Judiciary Committee Kills Gun Background Checks Bill

Following a four-and-a-half hour debate Monday, a House committee effectively killed a proposed law that would require the state Department of Public Safety to perform background checks on people buying firearms at gun shows or in private transactions.

House Bill 77, sponsored by Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque was introduced in response to last month’s shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Currently only those who buy weapons from licensed firearms dealers have to undergo background checks.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 8 to 8 to pass the bill. But because the bill wasn't backed by a majority, it failed. All Republicans on the committee plus Democratic Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan voted against the measure.

The bill was the first major controversial bill to be considered by this year's Legislature.

So many people showed up to attend the hearing, the committee meeting was moved from the regular committee room to the House Chambers.

Early in the hearing several people in the House gallery jeered Garcia when he mistakenly said that federal law requires  background checks only for people who buy handguns from licensed dealers. At least one person angrily yelled, "Lie!"

The committee chairman Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, threatened to have sergeants at arms remove anyone causing any further disturbance. No other such outbursts occurred.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican

Who's Paying for This Party?

Every year during the session I track the lobbyist expense reports, which, by law, are required to be  filed within 48 hours of spending $500 or more.

My first story on this was in Saturday's paper.

What I learned on Friday is that several events listed in the Legislature's social calendar that looked like they probably cost over $500 were not listed in the reports that have been filed so far.

There might be some legitimate reasons for these -- i.e. the group that put on the party doesn't have a registered lobbyist.

But if that's the case, shouldn't there be some kind of mechanism to track that? My feeling is that they're our representatives and we ought to know who's buying them drinks.

And remember, there's nothing illegal about lobbyists spending money on legislators as long as they keep within the limits and file their reports.

Watch this blog and The New Mexican for periodic updates on lobbyist spending.

UPDATE: 12:08 pm  I was just contacted by Bryan Wilcox of Presbyterian Health Services who informed me that he did filed an expense report to the Secretary of State's Office for a Legislative Appreciation Dinner on Jan. 16 at La Posada. The company spent $11,136 on that event.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Jan. 27, 2013

RIP Fabian Chavez. He took on giants.House Speaker Kenny Martinez said something that hit me last week at the Rotunda memorial service for the late Fábian Chávez. Martinez talked about how every year, Chávez, a former Senate majority leader, would drop by his office at the beginning of a session, usually sharing “really friendly, fatherly advice.”

Martinez added sadly, “I missed his visit this year.”

I did, too.

Until the past couple of years, Chávez was a frequent visitor to the Capitol newsroom. He loved to talk about his years in the Legislature in the ’50s and ’60s.

He made sure I knew of his impressive accomplishments — reforming state liquor laws, overhauling the corruption-tainted justice-of-the-peace system, passing the legislation to create the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. How he was a fierce advocate of civil rights back in the day when large segments of his own Democratic Party were not on board with that.

He loved to recount his campaign for governor. That was 1968, the year I moved to Santa Fe as a teen. I’ve said for years that my two favorite politicians were Chávez and David F. Cargo, the Republican who beat him by fewer than 3,000 votes.

Just a few years ago, on the first day of a legislative session, I bumped into the two rivals in the Roundhouse lobby, chatting like a couple of old pals. “We were talking about the last clean race in New Mexico,” Chávez said.

But Chavez didn’t just tell tales of the good old days. In fact, usually he was more concerned about what was going on in the present. Sometimes he even had a good news tip for me.

One of the first times I interviewed him was just before the 2004 Democratic presidential caucus in New Mexico. That year, some 900 requests for mail-in ballots were denied by the state party. The party said their names didn’t appear on the voter rolls in time to be included. One of these casualties was Chávez, who was going to be in Arizona on the day of the caucus.

“It breaks my heart, ” he told me. “I’ve voted in every election since 1944, when I was overseas and voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

One issue we talked about many times through the years was corruption. Chávez hated it. Intensely. He hated the very appearance of it. One time, he even went public in expressing concerns when a candidate for state office — an old friend whom he was backing — attended a fundraiser organized by someone Chávez thought was shady. “I want to raise money for him legitimately,” he told me.

The story I wrote certainly didn’t help his friend in the race. But Chávez believed it needed to be said.
He was even more concerned about political corruption in early 2009, when he not only was afraid that the corruption issue would cost the Democrats the Governor’s Office the next year. He was afraid it could be the beginning of a longer downward spiral for the party.
Fabian in 2008 at the Roundhouse

As usual, Chávez put it in historical perspective. “Between 1950 and 1962, no Democratic governor was elected to two consecutive terms, ” he said. (State office terms were two years back then.) “And the Democrats did it to ourselves. It was the hari-kari years for the Democrats in this state.”

He was afraid history would repeat itself. “It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the Republicans are taking the cue, and they’re going to run with all that stuff,” he said. “So, it’s incumbent upon the Democratic Party leadership to repair it. Someone has to recognize our weaknesses and do something about it.”

Indeed, Republican Susana Martinez used the corruption issue against the Democrats and won the governor’s race in 2010.

Declaring that the Democrats were headed for a return to “the hari-kari years” didn’t win Chávez any friends in the party hierarchy.

He didn’t care.

“Someone has to say it,” he told me.

Both Democrats and Republicans could use a few more tellers of hard truths like Fabian Chávez.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rep. Brown Revises Her Abortion Bill

After causing a national stir on Thursday, Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, has revised her bill, which in its original form appears to make criminals of rape and incest victims who get abortions.

Since yesterday morning, when the bill started receiving widespread attention, Brown has insisted that she never meant House Bill 206 to apply to the victims -- only to rapists and incest perpetrators who coerce their victims to get abortions.

Brown posted the new version of the bill on her personal website. In it she added a sentence saying "In no circumstance shall the mother of the fetus be charged under this subsection."

The original version can be found HERE

In another twist, Brown this morning told KNME reporter Matt Grubbs that she'd asked a bill analyst with the Legislative Council Service whether she should include the sentence about not charging the mother. She said she was told that it wouldn't be necessary and prosecutors would understand that.

KNME's video can be found HERE.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rep. Brown's Abortion Bill Gets National Attention


Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad introduced a bill yesterday that would classify as "tampering with evidence" a rape or incest victim having an abortion.

Her House Bill 206 says "Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime."

That's caught the eye of Slate blogger Dave Weigel as well as The Huffington Post.

Something tells me the national uproar over this could last longer than the meeting of the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee where it surely will get killed.

UPDATE1 pm Rep. Brown just told me that the intent of her bill is not to go after rape and incest victims but to prosecute rapists and incest perpetrators who coerce women into having abortions. She said the current version of the bill is incorrect -- apparently a drafting error -- and it is in the process of being fixed.
UPDATE 3:45 pm Earlier today I asked for comment from Gov. Susana Martinez. Her spokesman Enrique Knell told me a few minutes ago that Martinez, as a career prosecutor always tried to be a strong voice for crime victims. "She would never support a bill that re-victimized rape survivors," he said.

Let's Have Some Bills!

Looks like the Legislature is finally shifting out of its "Getting to Know You" phase and is about to get down to the business of actually considering bills.

Today in the House Labor Committee, Rep. Nate Gentry's House Bill 13, which would add sentencing enhancements for public officials convicted of corruption-related crimes, is on the agenda. I wrote about that bill and other ethics-related legislation earlier this week. The committee is scheduled to meet this afternoon.

Tomorrow afternoon, a couple of bills by Sen. Peter Wirth are on the Senate Public Affairs Committee agenda. There's Senate Bill 18, which would require labels on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients as well as his bill to outlaw texting while driving, SB 17.

You can find all committee and floor session agendas HERE (I don't see the Friday Public Affairs agenda yet, but I'm sure it'll be there later today.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Udall on Growing "Short List" for Interior Secretary?

REP. TOM UDALLThat's what a Washington Post blog is reporting.
Apparently they heard the same thing I did last week -- that outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar himself raised the possibility.

Udall is the son of a former Interior Secretary, the late Stewart Udall, who served under JFK and LBJ.

But, as the In the Loop blog points out, there's lots of factors weighing against this appointment.

For one thing, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez would get to appoint the next senator to serve until the 2014 election. That alone tells you that this scenario won't play out.

But, hey, I guess it's nice to be considered for the job.

One Man, One Woman

Looks like there will be dueling constitutional amendments in the Legislature concerning same-sex marriage.

Last week I reported that Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, introduced House Joint Resolution 3, which would make marriage equality a constitutional right.

However, a group of Republican legislators just introduced House Joint Resolution 4, which sounds like a classic Defense of Marriage Act. It would define marriage in the state constitution  as being between one man and one woman.

In the past such legislation has failed in New Mexico. On the other hand, legislation expanding rights to same-sex couples also have failed here.

The tide of history seems to be on the side of marriage equality. President Obama even mentioned it in his inaugural address yesterday.

However, this is New Mexico, no neither side should take anything for granted.

Taping Private Conversations

One of the strangest political stories stories out of New Mexico last year was the infamous Keith Gardner tape.

Gardner, Gov. Susana Martinez's chief of staff, didn't realize when he was talking with an erstwhile friend that the guy was recording the conversation. There, Gardner called former Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings all sorts of nasty names, said that his hometown of Roswell was evil and sucking the life  out of him, and talked about how he used a private email account to do state business because his state email account was public record.
O'Neill's bill would put this man out of work

Jennings used clips from the tape in his re-election campaign. (But he still lost.)

However, that tempest never would have left the teapot had the state would have had a law like one being proposed in this year's Legislature by Sen. Bill O'Neill, D-Albuquerque.

Senate Bill 127 would prohibit the recording of "confidential conversations" without the permission of all parties.

And yes, O'Neill told me yesterday, this would apply to situations like Gardner's. In an email, the senator said:

A dozen other states have `all party consent' statutes (California, Illinois, Florida, etc.) Going back to my pre-Legislature days, I have always felt it creepy when people are recorded surreptitiously; I remember in particular such an incident that played out that way in a workplace situation, where a board member of the non-profit that I was employed with taped a phone conversation he had with my co-worker. In a political context, how can work in a bi-partisan way if we are worried about being secretly taped? How can we be effective as elected officials?

The Senate Rules Committee will get the first crack at this bill

Monday, January 21, 2013


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
January 20, 2013

After the voters of two states, including our neighbor, Colorado, decided to legalize marijuana last November, it was probably inevitable that lawmakers in New Mexico would want to take a serious look at following suit in the current session of the Legislature.

Sure enough, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, is looking at several options on the marijuana front. Though he hasn’t decided which route he’s going to take, Ortiz y Pino, who was just named chairman of the Senate Public Affairs Committee, told me Friday that he’s looking at three possible options, including an amendment to the state constitution, modeled after the law in Colorado, which would legalize weed for use by adults, regulate it and tax it.

If a proposed constitutional amendment passes both chambers of the Legislature, it would be put on the next general election ballot — 2014 — to let the voters decide.

Call it a “reeferendum.” And as long as we’re getting silly here, I have to point out that in the Legislature, constitutional amendments are introduced as joint resolutions. (Get it? Get it? OK, enough of that.)

Ortiz y Pino is realistic about the chances of such an amendment. “I don’t think we could pass it right now,” he said. “But it’s probably not a bad idea to be laying the groundwork.”

After all, it took Colorado advocates at least a couple of tries to persuade voters in that state to take the plunge.

Under the amendment Ortiz y Pino is considering, the state would license marijuana cultivation, product manufacturing and testing facilities, as well as retail stores.

The state would tax wholesale sales of marijuana. The first 20 percent of the tax proceeds would go to public education. Ten percent would go to lowering college tuition for state colleges and universities. The counties in which the marijuana was sold would get 10 percent of the tax collected. Other agencies and programs — Medicaid, mental-health programs, drug rehabilitation programs, prison and jails, would get a cut of the revenue as well.

Individual counties that did not want to legalize marijuana could opt out.

The constitutional route is just one of the options that Ortiz y Pino has been discussing with the Drug Policy Alliance, the organization that for years fought for the medical-marijuana law that finally became law a few years ago.

Another alternative is a decriminalization law that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession. That one could have a rocky future in the Roundhouse.

Just last month, an interim committee considered — but declined to endorse — such a proposal advocated by the Drug Policy Alliance. This bill would have allowed adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana with no penalty and called for civil fines — but no criminal charges — for possessing up to 8 ounces. Possessing more than 8 ounces would be a misdemeanor under that proposal. Currently, possession of up to 8 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor under state law.

The third option that Ortiz y Pino is considering is a memorial calling for the state to conduct a study of the costs and benefits of legalizing marijuana. “If we did that this year, we still could get the constitutional amendment on the ballot by 2014,” he said.

But one of Ortiz y Pino’s aides is pushing hard to go straight to the constitutional amendment. “I want to go for the Big Garbanzo,” said Harry Pavlides, a veteran New Mexico pollster and political consultant who is working in Ortiz y Pino’s office during the session.

“I don’t like the piecemeal decriminalization approach,” he said. With civil fines, etc., it implies there’s something bad about marijuana, he said. Plus, there would be no tax revenues without legalization.

Besides what he sees as the benefits of legalizing marijuana, there could be a political bump for Democrats as well. “This will increase voter turnout in an off-year if it’s on the ballot,” Pavlides said.

Ortiz y Pino said he probably will decide which path he’s going to take sometime this week.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

R.I.P. Fabian Chavez

One of the great old lions of New Mexico politics, Fabian Chavez, Jr. died this morning. He was 88.

Chavez probably best is known for his 1968 campaign for governor in 1968 when he lost to incumbent Gov. David F. Cargo by less than 3,000 votes. That race earned him the nickname "The Damn-Near Governor."

But he had built a respectable career as a reformer in the Legislature beginning in the 1950s. Chavez fought price fixing in the state's liquor industry and fought to replace the corrupt old justice-of-the-peace system. He also was an early champion of the civil rights movement.

His stances on these issues gained him several political enemies, which probably ruined his chances to be elected to Congress.

Chavez continued his public service well in his golden years. He served as state tourism director and state insurance superintendent. During the Jimmy Carter administration, Chavez got a federal job, working as assistant secretary of commerce and director of travel and tourism.

Chavez, until just a few years ago, was frequently seen around the state Capitol, especially during legislative sessions. He often came by my office just to yack about politics. Back in 2009 he came by my office to express concern about the future of the Democratic Party. He was worried about all the corruption cases involving prominent state Democrats, saying if the party didn't move quick to act against corruption, it would seriously wound them at the polls.

Chavez's biography Taking on Giants, was written by my friend and former colleague, David Roybal. Besides all the behind-the-scenes political stuff, Roybal tells some wonderful anecdotes about the man, such as the time he hitchhiked to Hollywood at the age of 12 and how he lied about his age to join the Army to fight in World War II.

We'll miss you, Fabian.

UPDATE: Here's Tom Sharpe's obit of Chavez published in Monday's New Mexican.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Heinrich Supports Udall's Filibuster Reform

Heinrich & Udall say this is the way
filibusters should be done
New U.S. Sen. Heinrich is backing New Mexico's other senator, Tom Udall's efforts to reform the filibuster.

Heinrich just released this statement:

“The abuse of the filibuster over the last decade has prevented vital legislation like the DREAM Act and the American Jobs Act from even being considered on the Senate floor. This fair and simple proposal clears a path to debate and requires senators who wish to filibuster to actually speak on the floor. I am proud to join Sen. Udall in helping to alleviate dysfunction and increase accountability in the Senate, and look forward to really making a difference in the lives of the people of New Mexico.

“The purpose of the filibuster is to protect the rights of the minority. It should never not be used in the cavalier manner we have seen all too frequently in recent years, and it should never be anonymous. If you are going to filibuster, you should hold the floor and explain your obstructionism to the American people."

The Senate could vote on the measure as early as next week.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Egolf Pushes Marriage Equality Amendment

New Mexico voters would decide whether same-sex couples could get married in the state if the Legislature approves a proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by state Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.

“It’s time to recognize all the families in New Mexico who are headed by same-sex couples,” Egolf said earlier today.

The proposal probably won’t have an easy time in the Legislature. Lawmakers in recent years haven’t even been able to pass legislation calling for state-recognized domestic partnership agreements.

However, since the last attempt to pass such a bill here, measures have won approval in several states, including New York, in which the Legislature passed and the governor signed a marriage-equality bill, and in Maine, Maryland and Washington, where voters last year approved same-sex marriage referendums. Various public opinion polls have shown growing support for gay marriage in recent years.

Egolf’s House Joint Resolution 3 says, “The issuance of a marriage license shall not be denied on the basis that the sex of both applicants is the same. No church or religious institution shall be required to perform a marriage ceremony or recognize a marriage for religious purposes that conflicts with the church’s or religious institution’s beliefs.”

The measure, whose co-sponsors include Rep. Stephen Easley, D-Santa Fe, will first be heard in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.

Bregman Running for Dem State Chairmanship

UPDATED: 1:15 p.m. to make it clear that the run for state chairman means Bregman isn't running for governor.

It's official: Albuquerque lawyer and longtime  Democratic activist Sam Bregman is running for state Democratic Party chairman again.

Sam Bregman
Bregman speaking to Dem Central Committee in 2011
He kicked off his campaign with a typically pointed attack on Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

“This governor is a miserable failure on creating jobs. What has she done to create one, single job? Absolutely nothing.  Meanwhile, she blames Washington, plays politics and fails to lead. Step aside governor, Democrats are ready to move forward and commit resources to give people hope and create jobs.  The Democratic Party exists for one reason—to provide opportunities for the poor and middle class, who work hard, play by the rules and dream of a better future for their kids.”

Bregman lost a close contest two years ago to Chairman Javier Gonzales. Gonzales isn't seeking re-election.

“No one cares about personal political agendas or how to tear down your opponent in the next election—they care about providing a home to their children, good schools, safe streets and holding on to the American dream.  Those are Democratic priorities,” Bregman continued.

The New Mexico Democratic State Central Committee election will be held in April 2013.

Bregman had been considering running for governor next year. Asked whether running for chair meant he wouldn't be running against Martinez, a spokesman for Bregman said, "Mr. Bregman does not plan to run for Governor--he wants to be chair of the state party."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What Lawmakers Should Know About the Evil Media

I just checked out a page on the Legislature's website especially for new members. (The place is crawling with them this year.)

Among the many links on the page is a 16-page article by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation called "Working With the Media."

It's got some good points, actually. These include:

* The Media is an Essential Element of Democracy. (Yeah, and don't forget it!)

* It is Not the Responsibility of the Media to Make You Look Good. (Ditto)

* Reporters Assigned to Cover the Legislature Will Have Various Levels of Understanding of the Legislative Process. (This is my 13th regular session and I still don't understand "rolling the clock.")

* Bad News is More Newsworthy Than Good News. (This section starts out explaining that media companies have to make a profit and the public is more attracted to bad news etc. Implying we seek out negative stories to sell papers. I can tell you right now that most reporters I've met are fairly ignorant of the business side of our companies. We don't get paid on commission and normally don't get bonuses for unflattering stories on politicians. These days we rarely get bonuses for anything. But this section finally makes a good point: "... it is expected that a legislature and individual members will do the job that they were elected to do. So it is considered more newsworthy when legislators fail to do their job when something goes awry."

* The Media's Schedule and Deadlines are Different Than Those of the Legislature. (Especially late in the session when late-night committee meetings and floor sessions start becoming commonplace.)

* Reporters Will Always Want to Talk to The Person or Persons Closest to the Story They Are Pursuing. (I have to say this hasn't been a major problem the Legislature at least since I've been here. Most leaders, committee chairs etc are fairly accessible. )

* Reporters' Personal Values are an Inevitable and Necessary Element of Every News Story. (The article makes a good point here. "Every decision about what to report -- which facts are important, which portions of a speech to quote, which answers to include from an interview -- requires personal value-laden judgment on the part of reporters and editors."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Papen Elected Unanimously

UPDATE: 8:45 Wednesday 1-16-13 Check my story in today's New Mexican about Sen. Papen not being as conservative as you might think.

In a surprise move Tuesday, state Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, nominated his rival Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, for the position of Senate president pro-tem then moved to elect her by acclamation.

The Senate elected her unanimously.

Campos had been nominated for the position by the Senate’s Democratic caucus last month. However, Papen organized a coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans to back her for the position. By last week, Papen was saying publicly that she’d gotten enough Democrats to win.

Campos told senators said he nominated Papen so the Senate can “act in unison.” He choked up when he said, “I love this institution and every one of you.”

Papen thanked Campos, saying, “We will be a unified body. … We are a family. We need to stick together. We’re going to disagree at times, but let’s agree more than we disagree.”

The major duty of the Senate president pro-tem is to preside over the panel that selects committee chairs and members.

This is the second time in recent history that the Democratic Caucus nominated a northern New Mexico senator for the pro-tem position, only to see a conservative southern Democrat form a coalition with Republicans to win.

That’s what happened in 2008 when Sen. Tim Jennings of Roswell defeated Sen. Carlos Cisneros of Questa to become Senate president pro-tem.

Jennings was defeated for re-election last year.

On the House side, as expected Rep. Kenny Martinez was elected House Speaker.

Roundhouse Comedy

When I saw the phrase "Roundhouse Comedy Revue" in an email from former state Sen. Eric Griego, I though it was commentary on state politics.

Actually it's a show by high school kids. Check out the flyer:

The comedy I came for at the Capitol starts at noon.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Conrad James Appointed to UNM Board of Regents

Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed former state Rep. Conrad James to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents.

In a news release, the governor said James, “is an outstanding public servant and has demonstrated a valuable knowledge of the University of New Mexico and the Albuquerque community. I am confident that he will help to guide the university to new levels of success.”

James, a Republican, represented District 24 in Albuquerque, but was defeated for re-election last year by Democrat Liz Thomson.

According to Martinez's news release, James has worked as a research engineer at Sandia National Laboratories since 2002. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Notre Dame and received his master’s degree and Ph.D. in applied and engineering physics from Cornell University.

James will replace Don Chalmers, who recently resigned from the Board of Regents.

Which Party Has Ruled the Legislature 1912-2013

Here's a handy little document I just noticed on the Legislature's website. It tells you, year by year since statehood, which party has ruled the state House of Representatives and state Senate.

It's a pretty good history lesson. Here's some factoids that stand out.

* The Democrats have controlled the state House since 1929, except the 1953-54 session.

* There were two years in the '80s when Republicans actually had a 22-20 majority in the Senate.
Otherwise, Democrats have controlled the Senate every year since 1933.

* Republicans controlled the Senate every year from 1912 (the first year of statehood) until 1933.

* The GOP controlled the House every year from 1912 through 1923. Power see-sawed between the parties during the Roaring '20s..

* With the exception of Independent Andy Nunez in 2011, there have not been members of any party except Democrats and Republicans since 1916. According to Tracey Kimball of the Legislative Council Service, there were five New Mexico lawmakers who were "progressive Republicans," aka Bull Moose Party members between 1912 and 1916. And there was one real live socialist elected to the House during the early years. W. C. Tharp House served in the 1915 and 1916. He represented a district in Curry County, which, at least in recent years, is not considered a hotbed of socialism.

Have a look at the chart: (Enlarge for the sake of your eyeballs)

Correction 4:56 p.m.: Andy Nunez is an independent, not "interdependent" as I had in the first version of this. That's been corrected in the text. (Thanks, Tom.)

UPDATE: 6:25 pm As promised, I updated info on third-party members in the Legislature and also corrected hte text to reflect the fact that Republicans actually controlled the House in 1953. (Thanks Fred)

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Robots Gain and Santa Fe Lose Clout in Roundhouse

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Jan.13, 2013

Why does Rep. Jim Smith want to unleash
this on innocent New Mexicans?

Looking at the 100-plus bills that have been pre-filed this session, you see some good ideas, you see some bad ideas, you see familiar ideas that seem to come back every year, and you see a lot of boring, technical bills.

But definitely the coolest bill introduced so far is House Bill 25, which has the intriguing title “ENMU Robot Workshops.”

This legislation would appropriate $300,000 to Eastern New Mexico University for the purpose of managing and conducting statewide robot workshops “and subsequent international robot competition.”

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park. No, Smith is not a mad scientist. Just a good-natured high school science teacher looking to get kids interested in science in general and an emerging technology in particular.

Smith's bill will need
some safeguards
Maybe the Legislature could amend it so the international competition could include killer robot death matches. That could become a high-tech substitute for cockfighting.

(Hey, I just realize that I wrote about the danger of a robot uprising in New Mexico this very column back in 2006. You can find that HERE. Somebody book me on Alex Jones!)

Is Santa Fe losing clout in the Legislature? Sometimes the Legislature seems like a big game of Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots. And with the death of longtime House Speaker Ben Luján of Nambé, you have to wonder whether Santa Fe has lost some of its punch at the Roundhouse.

Luján almost certainly will be replaced as speaker by Kenny Martinez. There’s no evidence that Martinez is hostile toward the area. But he’s from Grants, so it just won’t be the same as having Daddy Ben looking out for us.

None of the other House leaders are from these parts either. Both Rick Miera, elected by the Democrats last month to replace Martinez as majority leader and Antonio “Moe” Maestas, the new Democratic whip, are from Albuquerque.

In the Senate, Santa Fe hasn’t had anyone in a leadership position since the days of Eddie Lopez back in the ’90s. Lopez was majority leader when he died in 1996.

Sen. Pete Campos of Las Vegas was chosen by the Senate’s Democratic Caucus to replace Tim Jennings as Senate president pro-tem. However, he’s being challenged by Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces, who has told me and several other reporters that she’s got enough votes from conservative Democrats to build a coalition with Republicans to take that post. We should know that outcome of that by Tuesday afternoon.

None of the other Senate leaders — Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen and Majority Whip Tim Keller of Albuquerque — call Santa Fe home.

(Yes, I’m ignoring the Republicans here because all of Santa Fe’s delegation are Democrats.)

But this isn’t to say that Santa Fe is completely lost in the Legislature. Several of our locals are in powerful positions when it comes to committees.

Unless the new speaker has some radical ideas about cleaning house in the House, Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela of Santa Fe will remain as co-chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee and deputy chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Jim Trujillo of Santa Fe, as vice chairman of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee, has been the major dude when it comes to capital outlay. And Rep. Brian Egolf, for the past two sessions, has served as chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

In the Senate, the only Santa Fe area committee chairman is Sen. Phil Griego of San José. He bangs the gavel at the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. But Santa Fe’s other two senators have decent committee assignments. Sen. Peter Wirth is vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, while Sen. Nancy Rodriquez is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Of course Senate committee chairmanships and committee assignments also could change. That will be up to the weirdly named Committees Committee (I’m not kidding), which will be appointed by and presided over by then new president pro-tem. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: First Shot Fired in Driver's License Battle

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 6, 2013

Once again, it appears that the state Legislature will take up the issue of immigrants here illegally being able to obtain driver's licenses legally in the state.

For good or for ill, that's the major issue with which Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has become associated. However, the first shot fired in what's become an annual battle has been fired by Democrats.

Sen. Campos
Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, whom Senate Democrats have nominated to become the next Senate president pro-tem, last week sent reporters an opinion piece in which he endorsed establishing a new level of driver's licenses. The new license would meet the requirements of the federal Real ID Act, requiring documentation proving the licensee is a citizen of these United States.

"New Mexicans who want to use their driver's license rather than a passport card or other federally approved identification to board an airplane could apply for the Real ID-compliant license by providing the various proof-of-citizenship documentation required by the federal government ..." Campos said in his article.

He said that the fee for the Real ID might be higher than the regular old license, but would be cheaper than the $55 fee for a passport card, which is valid for 10 years.

"New Mexicans who don't need or want the Real ID-compliant license, or are not eligible for it because they are not here legally, could stick with the standard, less expensive license, " Campos said.

Tax and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla, who oversees the Motor Vehicles Division, said the administration won't be backing such a bill. "The reality is that it doesn't address the public-safety problems I've talked about, " she said.

Martinez raised the issue of Real ID a few months ago in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. At that point, the deadline for states to comply with the act was Jan. 13. But the agency eventually announced that the deadline for states to comply with the act would be pushed back again.

So far, only 13 states have complied with the act. Meanwhile, 17 states have gone the other way, adopting laws prohibiting complying with the Real ID Act.

A star in Iowa: Campos pointed out that other states have or are considering a two-tiered license system. The day after Campos sent his op-ed, The Des Moines Register reported that the state of Iowa would soon be giving residents who are renewing their licenses a choice: "Submit additional documentation as necessary to obtain a Real ID or continue to use a standard-issued license or ID card ..."

One big difference though: first-time applicants for driver's licenses or state identification cards in Iowa will have to submit all the documentation required for Real ID.

The two types of cards in Iowa will look pretty much like the current driver's license there. "The only difference will be a star verification mark appearing in the upper-right corner of the card." That will tell federal officials that the person's identity has been verified according to the act's standards.

"Issuing more than one type of license ensures that all drivers, whether they are in the country legally or not, have passed a driving test, have good driving records and are properly insured, " Campos wrote.

Could this pass in New Mexico? Campos gave his piece the subject line "Compromise Is Possible on Driver's License Issue." He could be right.

During the past two sessions, the House passed the bill to repeal the 2003 driver's license bill. The Senate responded by passing bills to still allow driver's licenses for undocumented residents but added more restrictions. Martinez staunchly opposed the Senate version. And at the time, there wasn't enough support in the House to go along with the Senate changes.

It's not hard to imagine the Senate going for a bill such as the one Campos suggests. The House might be more iffy.

But it would be interesting to see whether Martinez would actually veto a measure that would get the state in compliance with the federal law.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The 1st Gun-Control Bill of the Upcoming Legislature.

As many have predicted, gun control will be an issue discussed in the upcoming legislative session.

Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, announced Friday that he will introduce a bill that would require background checks on anyone purchasing guns at gun shows or in private transactions.

Garcia said his bill is meant to stop convicted felons and the mentally incompetent from purchasing guns. Current law requires background checks for people trying to buy guns from licensed dealers. But there is no such requirement for those buying guns from others selling guns.

“Our Wild West days are over,” the Democrat told reporters at a Capitol news conference. “Our no-questions-asked days are over.”

Garcia said his bill “will help curb the flow of readily available guns and assault weapons to individuals most capable of inflicting needless injury and fatality to our unexpecting, innocent and law-abiding residents in New Mexico.”

Since last month’s shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., in which a man with mental health issues gunned down 20 children and six adults in an elementary school, there has been an emotional national debate over gun control. Much of the discussion has been over how to keep guns out of the hands of the unstable.

Garcia conceded that he will have a tough time passing the Legislature and getting it signed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

A spokesman for Martinez said the governor hasn’t seen Garcia’s bill. “It’s something that we’ll obviously look at. We understand that part of Rep. Garcia’s bill addresses keeping weapons away from people who have been found to be mentally ill." 

Martinez, spokesman Enrique Knell said, plans to introduce legislation "to make sure the state is properly reporting information to the FBI about individuals found to be mentally ill by a court.”

Steve Aikens, a Clovis firearms instructor who frequently testifies before the Legislature on gun issues, said he would oppose a bill like Garcia’s, saying it would infringe upon people’s rights to handle their property and guns.

“That’s outside of our constitution,” Aikens said. “Bills like that are well-intentioned but not well thought out.”

Garcia said his bill wouldn’t apply to parents buying guns for their children. The bill would give immunity from liability to gun sellers “who followed the rules.”

The Department of Public Safety would be responsible for conducting the background checks. The fee would be $35 for sales at a gun show and $25 for other private transactions. Failure to conduct background checks would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Garcia said he hadn’t yet calculated the cost of the proposed law.

In recent years, the Legislature has been more inclined to expand gun rights rather than restrict them.

A decade ago, lawmakers passed a law allowing people to have concealed-carry licenses and have since amended that law to allow license holders to carry guns into restaurants with beer-and-wine licenses.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.

The draft of the bill is below

Gun Show Bill Draft

FOG Publishes Position on Government Using Private Email

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government today published its official position on government officials conducting business on private email accounts.

The issue came up last summer after members of the governor's staff were caught communicating about official business on private accounts. Within a few days Gov. Susana Martinez ordered executive branch employees under her control to conduct all business on state-issued email accounts.

Martinez's supporters quickly pointed out that other officials including many legislators and the attorney general also had used private accounts to conduct business.

Here's what FOG has to say.

• If a document sitting in a public official’s desktop computer at work qualifies as a public record under the definition in IPRA, then it’s still a public record when it’s stored on that official’s personal laptop at home. Similarly, a document relating to public business that is sent or received by email is subject to inspection under IPRA no matter what kind of account—official or private—is used. 
• This applies to everyone who creates public records in the course of doing public business, including public employees, volunteer members of boards and commissions, and elected officials of representative bodies such as state legislators, city councilors and school board members.
• Just as records custodians are responsible for documents that may not be in the right filing cabinet, they are also responsible for public records held in private email accounts belonging to members of that body.

Because storing public records in private email accounts can make it difficult for records custodians to access those records, and because records custodians’ conscientious efforts to retrieve public records from such accounts will inevitably impinge on public officials’ legitimate privacy interests, FOG strongly recommends that all emails related to public business are sent using official accounts.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pearce Votes Against Boehner

Embattled U.S. House Speaker John Boehner won re-election as speaker today on the first day of the new session of Congress. However he didn't get unanimous support from House Republicans.

Nine House Republicans voted for other candidates. New Mexico's Steve Pearce was one of those. He voted for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Asked why Pearce voted that way, his spokesman Eric Layer replied in an email:

“Congressman Pearce is looking for a new direction for the Republican-led House, and a new voice in future negotiations. He was unable to support the tax plan brought before the House on Tuesday, believing that it sent the wrong message that raising taxes is the solution when it is clear we have a spending problem not a tax problem. Instead of the same old Washington politics, Congressman Pearce believes it is time for both parties to step forward and boldly solve the country’s problems.”

The Fix, the Washington Post's political blog summed up the reasons for Pearce's vote in two words: "Very Conservative."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

R.I.P. Jacobo Martinez, Father of Governor

Gov. Susana Martinez's father, Jacobo "Jake" Martinez, died Monday at the age of  80.  He had suffered Alzheimer’s for years.

Jake Martinez, a Korean war veteran, was known in the 1950s as a Golden Gloves boxing champion. He served as a deputy sheriff in El Paso County, Texas, and started his own security company, where Susana Martinez worked as a young woman.

State chairmen of both major political parties offered sympathies to the governor's family on Sunday night.

“The (New Mexico Republican Party) staff, officers, and I offer our deepest sympathies and condolences to Governor Martinez and her family," said GOP Chairman John Billingsly in a statement. "We will continue to keep them in our prayers during this difficult time, and we appreciate Jacobo Martinez's service to our nation and to his community."

"I was deeply saddened today to hear about Susana Martinez’s loss," Democratic Chairman Javier Gonzales said in a statement. "Although we’ve had our disagreements on many things, we are all part of the same New Mexican family, and the governor and her family are in our prayers tonight."

The Governor’s office told the Associated Press that her father will be buried at Ft. Bliss in Texas. In lieu of flowers, Gov. Martinez suggests people make memorial contributions to the Alzheimer’s Association.