Session may prove moot

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Governor and legislators are all but strangers

By Jay Miller

Little may happen this legislative session. It reminds me of two heavyweights feeling each other out in the first round of a boxing match.
Since Gov. Susana Martinez is new to the game and since she is new to nearly all legislators, it takes awhile to get a feel for each other. We saw much the same situation during former Gov. Gary Johnson’s first year.
The difference with Johnson was that he hadn’t promised a bold agenda — just limited government. So there weren’t expectations of much happening. That didn’t come until 20 days after the session adjourned when Johnson set the first of many veto records.
Martinez has promised bold change but she is having to get organized first. Her cabinet appointments essentially are complete now. But it will take awhile to get everyone on the right page and, of course, they all have to be confirmed.
The confirmation process should go fairly quickly. Governors should be allowed to put together the team they think will work best. But there always are one or two who become controversial.
The time schedule of legislative sessions is unfortunate for new governors. At the longer, 60-day sessions any topic is germane. In next year’s 30-day session budget-related items are the only topics that automatically are germane.
Governors always can declare other items germane but if they add too many items, lawmakers run out of time to consider everything in just one month. So it will be 2013 before Gov. Martinez is fully prepared for a long session. And then her first term ends the following year.
The situation was very different with former Gov. Bill Richardson. He took office fully prepared. He had his cabinet appointed quickly and on the first day of the session his bold initiatives were being introduced.
Richardson led off with a tax cut and, if memory serves correctly, it had passed by this time in that 2003 session. The cut endeared him to Republicans all the way up to Rush Limbaugh. And Richardson’s honeymoon got a big boost.
The tax cut was followed quickly by the Rail Runner, Spaceport America, Hollywood, Eclipse airplanes and solar start up projects. It was an amazing session and there were high hopes that our economy would take off like those in neighboring states such as Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.
But eight years later little seems to have changed. During his presidential campaign, Gov. Richardson touted the exciting initiatives he had started here. But the millionaires and the industries didn’t follow.
The Rail Runner was finished in record time but it has been a money drain, not a spigot. Eclipse folded, we have a little solar and the Spaceport still is a question mark.
Hollywood has been the most successful venture but our new governor is going after it.
Money for education was given a boost but few results are apparent. Gov. Martinez has raised some hopes for school improvement, with a new approach promised, but that will be slow.
We may be wise to hope that Martinez’s bold changes come more slowly than Richardson’s, affording us an opportunity to look at them and judge based on past experience  — and cost.
Much of Martinez’s activity thus far has been in the arena of law enforcement, which is her one area of experience.
She has been traveling the state quite a bit. One report says she was in Roswell three times in January.
Since she has ditched the airplane, those trips appear to be taking a full day of her time.
She has slightly downsized her SUV from the one Richardson had. But she says this one has a desk. So evidently Martinez works and studies during her trips.
She’s probably also tutored.
And she surely has the necessary equipment to communicate with whomever she wants. And she is able to avoid all those with whom she doesn’t want to communicate.

Jay Miller