Boots, Suits and Citizens...
...It’s the subtitle of the book I’ve just wrapped up about the NM Senate. It will be out in January (UNM Press) and I hope you’ll pick up a copy. Writing isn’t quite as glamorous as it looks in this picture, though… it’s all about research and rewriting…. and sweating blood. That’s been my summer. The “Suits” in the title refer to the lobbyists who play a major role at the Roundhouse—for better and worse. They’re also the subject of an interview I did for the NM Mercury recently. You can access it here http://newmexicomercury.com/blog/comments/insight_new_mexico_dede_feldman
All Politics is Local
Wow. If anyone thought local elections were not as important as state and national ones, think again. It was the down ballot officials-- County Clerks and District Court Judges-- who began cracking cultural barriers to same sex marriage when they started issuing licenses a few weeks ago. Who would have thunk it! A relatively unknown, grandfatherly County Clerk from Dona Ana County started the ball rolling and it was picked up by both Republican and Democratic clerks in Valencia, Santa Fe and elsewhere (but not Los Alamos). It will be hard to stop until the state Supreme Court issues its long awaited ruling. Don’t hold your breath for the legislature, though—which is the non-solution suggested by Republican opponents. We’ve been there, and not done that. Gridlock prevails on the issue in the Roundhouse, with Republicans unable to pass DOMA and Democrats unable to pass domestic partnerships. I saw the impasse in person—for 16 years.
Meanwhile, Operation Rescue has gotten enough signatures to get its anti-abortion measure on the city ballot in November. It’s another example of how both the left and the right are attempting to make policy at the local level since other avenues are blocked. But while it’s ostensibly a local effort, Operation Rescue and its ally, “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” has brought in outsiders to harass doctors and their families. One of their actions was in Dietz Farms, where aggressive, chanting picketers carrying megaphones and photos of unborn babies engulfed a UNM doctor’s home. Supporters of women’s health and the right to choose say it’s the kind of action that preceded the assassination of an abortion doctor in Kansas. The city has a law prohibiting this kind of demonstration in front of peoples’ houses, but Dietz Farms is in Los Ranchos, which has none. Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins have now introduced a county ordinance, with a vote scheduled for mid-Oct. For more information and to help defeat the abortion ban, which has only very narrow exceptions for the mother’s health, go to www.respectABQwomen.com.
…. In other Culture Shifts
AG Eric Holder has told the states that the feds will not interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws or the outright legalization of pot in Colorado and Washington. That’s good news for the approximately 9000 New Mexicans now on the program who have been living in fear that they or their providers could be busted by federal law enforcement. (It happened in Carlsbad some years ago). Now the threat is not from the feds but from the NM Medical Board, which earlier this summer tried to enact regulations that would have a chilling effect on doctors who issue recommendations for medical marijuana. Aimed at a few errant doctors, I believe the board over-reached, trying to trump regulations that we charged the Department of Health with issuing and enforcing. Apparently others felt that way too, and the Board of Medicine had to cancel a hearing on the proposed regs because 400 people signed up for the hearing. It has not been rescheduled, and it looks like the Board may be pulling back on many of its new regs. The Medical Marijuana bill back in 2007 was a bipartisan triumph for suffering patients, and this is a step backwards taken, some say, at the behest of one vocal doctor who opposed the use of medical marijuana for PTSD. Stay tuned (http://www.nmmb.state.nm.us.)