It's a good thing Gov. Richardson is dragging the Legislature back to work on his health care package. Too bad he couldn't demand they sit in those legislative seats until they got some other work done, too.
Imagine: The Legislative Session ended moments ago, and you're feeling proud of our state for passing a health care package that insures all New Mexicans; a measure creating an ethics board to investigate all those dirty deals that keep cropping up in our state; a bill allowing stem cell research; and a law affording rights to all unmarried couples, regardless of sexual orientation.
Imagine away, because none of that happened.
In fact, plenty of actual work didn't happen. Instead, we saw turf wars. Legislators rolled out the dreaded "lame duck" term in reference to our governor. Legislators blamed Richardson's presidential run for not being able to get off their behinds and do their jobs. It shouldn't take the governor's ability to accrue statewide political capital to turn proposals into reality. That's what people elected their state senators and representatives to do.
These are more than just pieces of paper to New Mexicans who suffer the consequences.
Whether you agree with all of the bills that could have been, we can all agree that a lazy Legislature makes for more of the same—the same halfhearted projects and wimpy rules.
Never mind wimpy rules, how about rules at all? The Legislature failed to pass a bill demanding campaign contribution limits. We are one of only five states without those caps. How about longer sentences for repeat drunk drivers? That bill was shot down, though Sen. Joseph Carraro's brought it to the table for the last seven years.
And Richardson's not innocent in this sluggish mess. He vetoed the capital outlay bill, saying three days wasn't long enough to consider the 332-page, $348 million measure. However, the Senate pulled together another capital outlay bill, which passed closer to the end of the session, giving the governor 20 days to sign or veto. The governor pulled funding from the junior budget, including moneys for trash can cleaning in Questa and Belen, while leaving that dough intact for Albuquerque and Portales. Smells like politics.
Legislators complained this 30-day session, which years ago was only used for building the annual budget, is too short to really get anything done. The Alibi says: Make it longer.
These are more than just pieces of paper to New Mexicans who suffer the consequences: dirty trash cans, repeat DWI offenders on the streets, unmarried couples pulling the short straw rights-wise, ethics breeches continuing unchecked, and politicians getting big bucks for their campaigns and owing big favors once they're in office. But as pieces of paper, the bills float from committee to committee, get shot out of the air, stuffed under the rug or torn in half during political tug-of-war.