Observations, predictions for a new year

Let’s pull out my nonexistent crystal ball and take a look at what’s in store for the state of New Mexico in the year about to unfold.

All predictions are based on scientific data, keen observation, brilliant insights and my own roll of the dice—all of which guarantee accuracy in my predictions, except when they don’t.

• It’s going to be a brutal winter. Winter Storm Goliath by itself makes it a memorable one (though it technically fell into 2015) but I’m certain more is to follow.

If you don’t believe me, and you’re not one to discard climatology as a vast left wing conspiracy, consider the science behind forecasting. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been saying for months that this region of the country will experience a wetter- and colder-than-average winter, citing as the great disrupter one of the strongest El Niños on record.

Of course, such winter translates to lots of snowpack in the mountains, which will create an abundance of spring runoff. If summertime temperatures don’t reach too high, the state could have a very good growing season in 2016.

• Everyone will be sick of elections by the end of the year. It’ll begin with municipal elections on March 1 (with filings already this week), but the races will be tame compared to what follows.

The state will have a lively primary season, but not because of the national scene. By the time our June primaries are held, Hillary Clinton will have the Democratic nomination wrapped up and the Republicans will be brokering a deal to keep a fight off the convention floor. New Mexican voters won’t likely have a say in who wins the party nominations for president, though we could carry some weight in the general election as a swing state in a close race.

In state politics, however, expect some interesting legislative races in the party primaries, followed by some real dogfights in the general election. A dethroned secretary of state and an inebriated-sounding governor have put kinks in the Republican armor, and Democrats will do their best to take advantage. The Dems might even win back the state House; they only need a net gain of three seats to do so.

• In the upcoming legislative session, expect three, and only three, things to get done:

First, our lawmakers will pass and budget, since they’re mandated by law to do so. And second, they’ll pass a capital outlay bill and save face after last year’s failure to do so in regular session.

The third accomplishment is a long time in coming. It’s been a bone of contention for years that you don’t need proof of citizenship or legal residency to get a New Mexico license, and Homeland Security is now saying that has to end. Already compromise legislation is being discussed, and while there will be some pushback from the left, something’s bound to pass this session.

• Meanwhile, Think New Mexico’s push to reform the state’s capital outlay process won’t likely get far this session. It should get serious consideration in 2017, when the session will be longer and lacking in election-year posturing.

• Same goes for how we evaluate public education in New Mexico; nothing will change this year. It seems that nobody likes the standardized tests being imposed, nor does the state’s method of grading individual schools have support from educators (unless their schools got high grades), but these are the measures our schools are operating under nowadays and I see nothing changing in 2016.

• Then there’s Gov. Susana Martinez’s 911 call from a Santa Fe hotel and how it will play out this year among the citizenry. The audiotapes, which are available online, has Martinez sounding drunk, condescending and overstepping her authority.

The recordings will probably throw her out of contention as a vice-presidential contender, but she says she’s not interested in that anyway, so it probably doesn’t matter.

Surely the state Republican Party will be widely forgiving while Democrats will condemn her for such bad behavior. The question is, will the less partisan centrists consider it a big deal?

Personally, I think it takes a bit of the shine off her clean public persona. But that’s sort of like the shine on a new year—it’s bound to fade after a while.

Let’s just hope that, beneath the shine and despite the politics, it’ll be a good year anyway.

Tom McDonald is founder and editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He may be reached at tmcdonald@gazettemediaservices.com or tmcdonald@rdrnews.com.