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Politics necessary part of governing

State columnist

link Tom McDonald

Now that all the noise of the election is over, can we turn our attention back to governing?

We’ll soon see how Susana Martinez intends to run things in her second term. She certainly has a different dynamic going for her legislatively, now that the House is under the control of her own Republican Party. But since the Democrats still have the Senate, getting actual legislation passed and onto the governor’s desk for signing will continue to be a formidable challenge.

Will there be gridlock in Santa Fe? Perhaps. Or maybe they’ll figure out how to work together despite their political differences.

Interestingly, Martinez is now facing what Obama had to deal with for four years — only for the president it was an obstinate House that brought on the gridlock, while Martinez will be facing a Democratic Senate.

As divisive as New Mexico politics can be, I think it’s worse on the national stage. In fact, I actually expect some things to get done in the state’s upcoming legislative session, despite the partisanship.

Raising the minimum wage, for example, is actually do-able in 2015.

During the last legislative session, the Democrats blew it on this issue. Instead of going for the wage hike by way of a legislative Act, the Dems got behind a proposed constitutional amendment that would have tied the wage to the rate of inflation. But if they’d only presented the governor with a modest rate increase, she said she would have signed it.

In fairness, however, she only said that after the issue had been killed for the session. Still, the Dems should be able to take advantage of the situation in the coming session, by getting a modest minimum wage increase passed through both chambers en route to the governor’s “promised” signing.

As crazy as it sounds, I’ll wager that an increase in this state’s minimum wage will occur next year, with enough Republicans on board for such a bill to pass in the state House. Then, our governor will sign it and it’ll be touted as an example of how moderate Republicans still exist.

Still, with politically divided chambers in the upcoming 60-day session, it’ll be easy to kill legislation.

That bodes poorly for the Republicans, because they’ll be the ones to look bad if gridlock dominates the Roundhouse for the next two years. The Republicans, after all, rule the roost now, so it’s theirs to lose.

Moreover, unless Martinez is OK with a gubernatorial legacy that includes legislative ineptitude — like railing for years against driver’s licenses being given to undocumented aliens and getting absolutely nothing done about it — she’ll need to take advantage of the redrawn political lines.

During her first term in office, Martinez had a House and Senate dominated by the Dems, so she had an excuse for accomplishing so little legislatively. Now, she has the House in her corner, so she should be able to get more done. But how effective will she be at getting the Senate to work with her?

That brings us back to politics — the art of the compromise. It isn’t always pretty but, for better or worse, it’s a necessary part of governing. And that, fellow voters, is what we just set the stage for.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:


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