Thursday, January 18, 2007

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: VISITING YOUR SENATORS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 18, 2007


A local antiwar activist says New Mexico’s two U.S. senators have different standards when it comes to listening to points of view contrary to their own.

Pat Getz, a 20-year Santa Fe resident who has worked as a therapist and real estate agent, was part of a group of about 60 people opposed to U.S. military actions in Iraq who visited local offices of Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman last week. Their goal was to express concern about President Bush’s plan to send 21,000 more troops to Iraq.

At the office of Bingaman — a Democrat who opposes the president’s approach regarding Iraq — Getz said they were allowed to come in and, in groups of five to seven, talk with a Bingaman assistant who “listened to each of our statements and took notes.”

However, later that day at the Santa Fe office of Domenici — a Republican who has been more supportive of the president’s policies — the antiwar group got a different reaction.

At the federal building where Domenici’s office is located, they were met by several police officers and security guards, Getz said. They were told by Maggie Murray, Domenici’s office manager, that only one person from the group would be permitted to come into the office.

The group chose Ken Mayers, president of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace.

“He went to the office flanked by two burly federal guards,” Getz said.

Noting the ages of the antiwar group, she said, “Most of us there were in our 50s or 60s, some in their 70s.”

Getz said she began to wonder if the different reactions to her group had anything to do with political views.

So she telephoned Domenici’s office, “using my best Texas accent,” and claimed to be part of a group that supports the escalation of troop levels. “Maggie asked when we could come and said we could bring five people,” Getz said.

“I hate lying, and I don’t want to have people think I do this all the time,” Getz said. “I’m a senior citizen and not out there to create a problem for anyone.”

Out of fairness, she said, she also called Bingaman’s office, claiming to be with a pro-war group. Bingaman’s office also agreed to meet with the group, Getz said.

However, Murray at Domenici’s office denied Wednesday that the senator’s staff has a double standard about meeting with pro-war and antiwar groups. “That’s just not true,” she said.

She said she agreed to meet with as many as five supposed pro-war people “because she called in advance.”

The visit by the antiwar group, Murray said, wasn’t arranged in advance.

Bully for bolos: Back in 1987, the state Legislature named the bolo tie the “official state tie or neckwear of New Mexico” in a memorial that declared that those who wear bolos “shall be welcomed at all events or occasions when the wearing of a tie is considered if not mandatory, then at least appropriate.”

However, the lonesome bolo is not listed in the same section of state law that lists the official state bird, state animal, state reptile, state butterfly, state question, state cookie, etc.

That could change if lawmakers approve Senate Bill 19, introduced Wednesday by Sen. Steve Komadina, R-Corrales.

However, it’s not clear whether the passage of the bill would mean that senators could legally wear bolos on the floor of the House. Two years ago, when trying to get into a joint session, a bolo-sporting Sen. Jack Ryan, R-Albuquerque, was stopped by sergeants at arms, who informed him he was violating House rules and would have to change into a cloth tie.

It’s not a session until ... I know the state constitution provides that the legislative session starts on the third Tuesday in January.

But those who have weathered a few sessions know there are other factors that determine when a session is really under way.

So in that spirit, it’s not really a session until ...

* The governor threatens to veto the budget bill.

* House members complain the Senate isn’t passing House bills or vice versa.

* Sen. John Pinto sings “The Potato Song.”

* A committee meeting goes past midnight.

* You need a “Guest of the Speaker” badge to go anywhere on the Capitol’s first floor.

* A lawmaker dramatically asks during a floor debate, “What kind of message are we sending to the children?”

* The governor threatens to call a special session.

* Sen. Joe Carraro sings “That’s Amore.”

* The governor threatens to run for president. (This session only.)

Some of you surely have others. E-mail them to me, and I’ll publish the best in a future column.

UPDATE: Here's the answer to my bolo question from the Associated Press:
The House has changed its rules for joint sessions only, and
Ryan wore a bolo to Gov. Bill Richardson’s opening address on
Tuesday.

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