Good Night, Moon: On Feb. 1, President Obama released a 2011 budget that kills Constellation, the NASA program to send humans back to the moon by 2020. But Obama’s budget has a counter: $6 billion over five years to create a commercial space-taxi and extend the life of the International Space Station.
Such a boost seems designed to benefit Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic’s commercial launchpad in Las Cruces. Indeed, the budget “has been a very hot topic in the office this afternoon,” Bill Gutman, the technical director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, told SFR on Feb. 1. “But we basically don’t know enough to make a statement,” Gutman added.
Space taxis will be a far cry from Santa Fe’s pothole-savvy ones: Fares, the NMSA says, will start at $200,000 a trip. As the 2011 budget also repeals Bush-era tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000 a year, even the intergalactically inclined affluent better start saving.
Sur La Table: Deep in the belly of the Roundhouse, past once-stiff legislative chambers made friendlier by a video that went viral last week of Rep. Lucky Varela, D-Santa Fe, chatting up Val Kilmer on the subject of rapper 50 Cent, past “lobbyists” in micro-minis and over-caffeinated reporters, there is a dim, but comfortably furnished Senate lounge, where the real lawmaking happens.
On Friday, Jan. 29, the Senate Committees’ Committee, whose name belies its import, was discussing SB 215, the “Freeze Means Freeze Act.”
“It would enforce the governor’s hiring freeze to make it freeze what he froze,” Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Valencia, says, eliciting soft chuckles. The committee decides SB 215 is not germane to the budget-only session; it dies a quiet death on the drab carpet.
Next is SB 220, which “prevents the government from defending state employees when the government itself is the plaintiff,” Sen. John C Ryan, R-Bernalillo, explains.
SB 220’s ties to the budget are tenuous.
“Is it relevant to any messages?” Sen. Timothy Keller, D-Bernalillo, offers. (If a bill relates to a message from Gov. Bill Richardson, the Legislature must consider it.)
“I wrote him a letter last night,” Ryan replies; a single, unified guffaw escapes the semicircle of senators. Ryan smiles gamely.
“With all due respect to Sen. Ryan,” Sanchez says, “I don’t believe it’s germane. It’s a legal issue and it doesn’t fit within the scope of this session. Objections?”
There are none, and Ryan’s bill heads into legislative oblivion. And in less than 30 minutes, the redundantly named committee has eliminated three entire bills in a show of efficacy not often found in these halls.