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Updated: At the Roundhouse — The Git-Go

Update: Why all the excitement over the election of new leaders when the Legislature convened Tuesday?

Power and influence are the easy answers. There’s some history intertwined.

In the Senate, Mary Kay Papen, a Las Cruces Democrat, was elected president pro tem. It’s a key position, because of the pro tem’s influence over committee member appointments and chairmanships.

By Senate rule, the pro tem chairs the Senate’s Committees’ Committee — a silly-sounding but powerful outfit.

The membership of the 11-member committee, by rule, includes the five top officers of the Senate — the pro tem and the majority and minority floor leaders and whips — but also six members chosen by the pro tem with the consent of the Senate.

This Committees’ Committee, with the pro tem in the catbird seat, appoints members of all the Senate’s standing committees, plus their chairs.

In recent years, the majority leader, who controls bill traffic in the Senate, often has been the more prominent Senate leader. But influence over committee structure keeps the pro tem position an important role.

The Senate president pro tem still is not as powerful as the speaker of the House — a job won Tuesday by Rep. Ken Martinez, a Grants Democrat.

The speaker position is the most powerful job in the whole Legislature. The speaker alone makes House committee assignments and names chairs, in addition to controlling the referral of bills to the committees.

Trends: Martinez, by the way, is the son of the late House Speaker Walter K. Martinez, who headed the chamber from 1971 to 1979, when he was displaced by the Cowboy Coalition. The son, a lawyer like his father, has long seem destined to pick up the gavel of the 70-member chamber.

Martinez, like his father, is polite, reserved and soft-spoken. I have trouble imagining him presiding over the sometimes unruly House, but his father was a skillful and respected speaker, and the job certainly is in his bloodline.

Papen is the wife of the late Sen. Frank Papen, a Las Cruces banker who died in 1996 after serving in the House in 1957 and 1958 and in the Senate from 1969 through 1984.

But Papen, a former auto dealer, might also represent the continuing ascendancy of Las Cruces, New Mexico’s second-largest city, in state politics.

Gov. Susana Martinez came to Santa Fe from Las Cruces, where she was a longtime state prosecutor.

Meanwhile, former Rep. Joseph Cervantes, a Las Cruces Democrat and a lawyer, won election to the state Senate in November and, I expect, soon will become a key part of the Senate Democrats’ brain trust.

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Update: Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, has been elected president pro tem of the New Mexico Senate, and Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, has been elected speaker of the House.

Gov. Susana Martinez is now giving her State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature.

See the latest online posts from Journal staff on each of these developments at ABQjournal.com.

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The Legislature has to get its own houses in order today before turning to New Mexico’s other needs.

At The Roundhouse  The House and Senate, where Democrats continue to have decades-long advantages, will at least start on their elections of new leaders before asking Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to come to the House floor and give her third State of the State address of her four-year term.

The Legislature convenes at noon, and the start of the governor’s talk usually comes a little after 1 p.m.

The governor’s speech is being streamed live, in cooperation with KNME-TV, on her websites at http://governor.state.nm.us and http://www.nemexico.gov.

Journal reporters Deborah Baker, Dan Boyd and Jim Monteleone will be at the Roundhouse to cover the governor and the opening day leadership elections. Journal photographers Eddie Moore and Roberto Rosales will be their there to chronicle it all in pictures.

Click to the Journal website at ABQjournal.com for updates on the action today as it happens.

Meanwhile, both online and in print editions of the Journal today, you can read Jim Monteleone’s explanation of what’s expected to be renewed wrangling over the issue of legal liabilities at the Spaceport in southern New Mexico — wrangling in which the future of the Spaceport could hang in the balance.  Here’s Jim’s story: http://www.abqjournal.com/2013/01/15/news/spaceport-legislation-take-off-or-fizzle.html

Over in the House: Not a whole lot of mystery here. It’s expected that Rep. Ken Martinez, a Democrat and lawyer from Grants, will be elected speaker of the House.

Although not surprising, this is a big deal in a historic sense: Martinez’s father, Walter K. Martinez, was House speaker from 1971 until 1979, when he was displaced by the Cowboy Coalition.

Martinez is polite, reserved and soft-spoken, like his father, so it’s a little hard to imagine him presiding over the sometimes unruly House.

But the job certainly is in his bloodlines, and it’s been a long time coming. He made a stab at going for speaker once during the reign of the late House Speaker Ben Lujan. Somehow, he returned, delayed but politically undamaged, to his majority floor leader position, and there’s never been much doubt since that he would one day succeed Lujan — and his father.

Check the Journal in the next couple of days for a profile of the new House leader by Journal staff writer Deborah Baker.

In the Senate: The big deal over here today is the election of a Senate president pro tem to replace Sen. Tim Jennings, a Roswell Democrat defeated in the general election.

Why is it a big deal? Because of the pro tem’s influence over committee appointments and chairmanships.

The pro tem, by Senate rule, chairs the Senate’s Committees‘ Committee — silly sounding but powerful.

The membership of the 11-member Committees’ Committee includes the five top officers of the Senate but also six members selected by the pro tem.

The Committees’ Committee, with this key role for the pro tem, then appoints members of all the Senate’s standing committees, plus their chairs.

The pro tem gig is not quite as heavy-duty as the speaker of the House position — the most powerful job in the whole Legislature. The speaker singlehandedly makes House committee assignments and names chairs, in addition to controlling the referral of bills to the committees.

The Senate majority leader controls the  flow of bills in the Senate, but the pro tem’s influence over the committees that consider them helps sets up the jury pools for which bills live and die.

The candidates for pro tem today apparently will be two Democrats: Sen. Pete Campos of Las Vegas and Sen. Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces.

Campos, president of Luna Community College in private life, is the pick of the Democratic caucus. Papen, wife of the late Las Cruces Sen. Frank Papen, reportedly has the support of a handful of the chamber’s Democrats as well as its Republicans.

Watch ABQjournal.com later today for updates on the pro tem and speaker elections.

Journal reporters will be there to let you know what happens as soon as it happens.

Note to copy editors and English teachers: My dictionaries tell me “git” is an acceptable, regional variant of “get,” thus my “Git-go” headline this morning. And “get” ain’t how you pronounce it  anyhows.

 

 

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