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At the Roundhouse: Snowball chances

originally posted online Thursday, March 7
At the Roundhouse: Snowball chances

It’s gotten to that impenetrable time.

Grit in your eyes. Hard to figure out what’s going on.

Ten days left in the New Mexico legislative session.

We’re seeing more close votes on key stuff.

No one seems altogether sure of who’s with them and who’s against them.

Members on the fence are everyone’s target.

Tension has replaced ebullience. Wariness has replaced glad-handing.

Wavering lawmakers are having to make up their minds or play their hands.

Most of the arguments have been made, and the pressure for decisions is on.

Approach at your own risk.

We saw all this Wednesday in House voting on the now 3-year-old battle over repealing New Mexico driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

We’re probably also going to see it on third-grade reading retention – another of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s ongoing struggles with the Democratic-dominated Legislature.

Although I’m trying to see through dust devils and smoke screens, it looks to me like Democrats will try to send Martinez their alternative versions of her key proposals – like the driver’s license and reading deals.

And then some. They’re also trying to send her a state minimum wage increase. I’m sure there will be some Democratic-tempered job creation measure.

Republicans still seem to be hanging together behind the governor’s agenda.

But Wednesday’s House voting on the driver’s license issue seemed to underscore that neither side has the votes to prevail outright on some prominent issues.

Just when I start to think things are immovable, though, surprises come.

I spoke to Democratic Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino last night about his recent tangle with the governor over proposed child abuse penalties.

As we parted ways outside his third-floor office, Ortiz y Pino headed up the stairs to the fourth floor. I asked why.

Off to see Keith Gardner, the governor’s chief of staff, he said. Gotta work out something on this health exchange legislation.

Five minutes earlier, I would have thought the chances of that meeting would be like those of a snowball in hell.

This time of the session, I start drifting outside to check the temperature and trees. Things are clearer out there.

On the east side, you can see buds on the Bradford pears.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal