How To Have An Open Meeting Without Disclosing Anything

Taking the media for a ride

March 23, 2003 in New Mexico Politics | Comments (0)

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House Republican Leader Ted Hobbs, R-Albuquerque, apologized for a news release issued by his office that called House Democratic finance leaders “The Santa Fe Mafia.” Hobbs also was the sponsor of a resolution requiring that legislative conference committees, where members of each house meet to resolve differences, must be open to the public, except to discuss pending litigation.

The resolution failed, but you wonder what Hobbs imagined it would accomplish, given the secretive ways of the legislature, public meetings or not. The minutes taken from the tape of the first open conference committee meeting might go something like this. . .

The committee of law-abiding citizen legislators convened within the premises of the State Capitol, as required by the Hobbs Resolution. Representing the House was the Santa Fe Mafia. Representing the Senate were the godfather pro tempore, the majority conseglieri and the minority whip (enforcer).

The chairman, head of the Appropriations and Finance Family, called the meeting to order at 3 a.m. in the living room of his hybrid motor home, circling the undergroud parking garage of the Roundhouse. The governor was in the driver’s seat.

An investigative reporter flagged down the committee room as it approached the underground House entrance on the third lap. He demanded access under the Hobbs resolution. The driver let him in and gave him a big Cuban cigar.

The chairman made these opening remarks: “The killing has got to stop. I’ve invited the heads of the various families to meet like reasonable men to discuss our mutual interests. I know that some of you are getting into tobacco. I feel this is not good for legitimate business.

“But the killing has got to stop. My friends in the Senate have killed our bills, memorials and resolutions. We have killed certain items that are dear to the Senators. At this moment we are holding a number of Senate items hostage.”

The Senate consigliari lit up a Cuban cigar. He said, “I greatly respect the chairman and his family. He is long of tooth and curly of hair. But the future is in tobacco. Considerable funds are available, and if we do not take advantage of this business opportunity, our supremacy is in grave danger.”

The Senate minority enforcer said, “The respected consigliari is proposing a diversion of funds which is immoral, wrong and an axis of evil. . . .” (Remainder of remarks unintelligible due to prolonged honking of committee room horn.)

The chairman passed out copies of the 225 Senate budget amendments killed by the House. He said in round figures the original House budget bill proposed to spend $4 billion on various good things, and the Senate amendments were a waste of valuable wealth and would lead to bankruptcy, but they were open for reconsideration. He apologized for the lack of copies for the reporter, explaining that excess copies were inadvertantly left at the counter of a convenience store when the committee room was being refueled.
The Senate pro tem moved for agreement on Amendments 1 through 15, pertaining to large amounts of money. There being no objection, the amendments were accepted by the committee. The pro tem requested that the Senate consigliari put out his cigar in the interest of having a long and prosperous life.

The pro tem moved for approval of the remaining Senate Amendments, pertaining to even larger amounts of money. He noted for the record that the Senate consigliari had refused to put out his cigar. The chairman called for a vote but excluded Senate Amendment No. 132 for reasons he said were known to every member.

The Mouthpiece of the House addressed the conference committee as follows: “Tobacco will claim many lives if we do not settle the question like reasonable men. I agree with the esteemed chairman that the killing has got to stop. I believe I have an offer that cannot be refused.”

The Mouthpiece took three sea shells from his pocket. He put a dried pea under one shell and moved them all around on the carpet. He then removed the pea and put it in his pocket, saying, “The pea is tobacco money, gentlemen. We will put it under the reserves shell, move them all around, take it out, and everbody thinks it was a different one.”

The reporter raised his hand as if asking a question. At this point the pro tem coughed. He complained that the Senate consigiari’s smoke was causing him lung problems and that if this persisted he would sue the committee for secondary smoke damage.

The chairman asked that the comment be entered into the record. He declared that in view of the comment the meeting would have to be closed to discuss pending litigation. The committee room came to a sudden stop, and the reporter was ejected in the vicinity of the Senate entrance.

The committee proceeded to discuss the legal problem. The consigliari put out his cigar and said, “Speaking of legal problems, I move that we whack Hobbs and his writers.” There was no objection.

The chairman adjourned the meeting and driver took the committee room to a restaurant known for its really delicious green chile breakfast burritos.