Session smooth at midway point

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By Jay Miller

The Legislature is now in full swing. Committees are hearing many bills. Some now are reaching the floor and sessions are getting longer. But it will still be almost a month before the pace gets frantic in the final week of the session.
The first bill to reach the governor’s office for a signature always is the “feed bill,” which finances the session. No one gets paid until that is signed.
An early bill to reach Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk may be the informed consent bill that controls the liability of suppliers. The present tenant, Virgin Galactic already is covered but the two year delay in getting coverage for others has meant that Virgin Galactic still is our only tenant, and an unhappy one. It expected a bustling scene with many other space companies flying out of there.
In order to try to keep Virgin from alleging breach of contract, the bill it wants was introduced the first day of the session and may be to the governor’s desk by the time you read this.
Trial lawyers are taking a big hit for the two year delay. They don’t like to see liability limited. Gov. Martinez has to shoulder her share of blame for not keeping the project going at the same break-neck speed of the previous governor. Chalk that up to a steep learning curve.
Gov. Martinez’s steep learning curve may also have been a factor with the film business. The Albuquerque Journal reports that Moviemaker Magazine ranked Albuquerque as the best location in the nation to make movies back in 2010, former Gov. Bill Richardson’s last year in office. Since then, the city has fallen to second, third and now 8th best city to make movies.
The magazine reports that financial incentives have been the major factor in the change of rankings. New Mexico has dropped its incentives while other states have raised theirs. Of even more harm to our state is that we have talked of lowering our incentives even further.
State leaders are warming to the film business but the slide is likely to continue while the governor and Legislature continue to study whether the incentives are worth the cost.
Another problem is that this governor doesn’t have the hustle of our previous governor. Film lobbyists report that studio executives can’t get in to see the governor when they come to New Mexico. Gov. Richardson not only saw them, he invited them to the governor’s residence and did some arm twisting.
President Obama has been criticized recently for being too much of a homebody.
He prefers to spend evenings with his family rather than inviting people he can influence over to the house to enjoy the many entertainment activities the White House offers. It may be the same problem is occurring in New Mexico
Chief executives are free to do anything they want with their residence but it can be used as a ticket to private, informal conversations that might help move an agenda.
Also on the governor’s agenda again are bills to hold back third graders who can’t pass a standardized reading test and not issuing driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants.
Reportedly, Democratic leaders are agreeable to compromises that will give the governor everything she says she wants. For two years now, she has insisted on getting everything exactly as she proposes.
Ironically, the Illinois Legislature recently passed legislation allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Illinois sees it as a public safety issue. Gov. Martinez believes just the opposite.
Recently however, Gov. Martinez has given some indication that she might be willing to do a little compromising. What does that mean? Is she getting practical? Is she tired of losing?
Or does she want to appear to be having some real successes this year that she can brag about next year when she runs for reelection?

Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist based in Santa Fe.