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Gov. blames senators for failed bills

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By Carol A. Clark

SANTA FE — Bothered and belligerent at what he called the “least productive session since he’s been governor,” Bill Richardson vowed to call the Legislature into special session.The governor’s anger was evident after ethics reform, stem cell research, domestic partners, Railrunner tax and universal health care were all shot down during this year’s 30-day session, which ended Thursday. “Unfortunately, a handful of senators, including certain members of the Senate leadership and the Senate Finance Committee, were more focused on power, turf and personal agendas,” Richardson said during a post-session press conference. “There was no desire, no political will by certain members to do anything substantive about the health-care crisis,” he said.The special session, Richardson said, will focus on “health care, health care, health care” and could be held as early as Monday.Critics blamed the failure of the health-care bill and other bills on the governor, saying the 30-day session is a budget session and he should not have placed those items on the agenda – especially the complicated and costly health-care issue.Minority Floor Leader Tom Taylor, R-San Juan, and Minority Whip Dan Foley, R-Chaves, Lincoln and Otero, said from the onset of the session the health-care reform bill did not have consensus between the House and Senate and was too complicated to address in just 30 days.Neither leader believes a special session will result in passage of the bill, which aims to provide 400,000 New Mexicans health insurance beginning in 2010. “The governor should be praised for raising the level of discussion on health care because there are 112 legislators who are a lot smarter now than 30 days ago, but I would hope he doesn’t call a special session and lets us do it in the interim process,” Foley said Thursday in an interview following the session.During the same interview, Taylor agreed. “Calling a special session next week is not going to be a time that would work well for us,” he said. “It’s going to take more time to find solutions ... We need to work it in the interim session and be prepared to do it in the 60-day session.”During this session, Los Alamos narrowly escaped a major drop in state funding. HB 241, a school funding formula bill that would have changed how New Mexico pays for public education, failed to pass and would have cost Los Alamos Public Schools nearly $2 million in annual funding.During Thursday’s House Majority Leadership press conference, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said they spent two years and $1 million working on the formula. “It’s a bit of a slap in the face that the Senate Finance Committee would not even hear the bill,” Stewart said.House leaders promise to bring the bill back next year for another vote. “We’re going to take it all across the state, person to person and district to district and explain ... so when we come back next year we won’t be starting from scratch,” said Rep. Rick Miera, D-Bernallio.House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, described the 30-day session in positive terms, saying the minimum wage fix passed both the House and Senate quickly.“It shows what we can do when both chambers work together,” Lujan said.In addressing the health-care bill, he said, “We worked very hard to put it together, unfortunately it failed in the Senate.”Richardson blasted Senate leadership.“These senators were more interested in regaining power they feel they have lost to me during the past five years,” the governor said. “They were more interested in blocking my proposals than working for what’s best for New Mexicans. The result was no effective leadership in the Senate.”Richardson commended Lujan and members of the House for “not making excuses and working productively on behalf of the people of New Mexico.” He said he purposely limited the scope of the session to a handful of bold issues he believed were do-able:• health-care reform;• Electronic Medical Records Act;• domestic partners;• campaign finance reporting;• Energy Efficiency Act;• ignition interlock tampering;• domestic violence penalties;• Domestic Violence Treatment Fund;• Regional Transit District; and• Research Application Act (supercomputer).Tougher domestic violence penalties and progressive energy efficiency legislation did pass, as did House Joint Memorial 25, which requests the state’s congressional delegation to ensure federal recognition of its obligation to provide health care to veterans.Richardson vetoed the Legislature’s $348 million capital outlay package on Wednesday. Several hours later, the House approved a duplicate measure and sent it directly to the governor’s desk. The package includes financing for some 2,000 capital improvement projects across New Mexico. Richardson has until March 5 to sign or veto.“After five hugely successful sessions, this is the least productive session since I have been governor,” Richardson said. “The results are mediocre, at best ... We can still pass health care reform – we will pass health care reform. I will not stand by while 400,000 New Mexicans continue to struggle day to day without access to health care.”