As It Is: Griego attracting notice

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By David Giuliani

I’ll start out by giving state Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, some credit. The rest of our local legislative delegation operates rather quietly in Santa Fe. You don’t hear from them often, even though most of them are the more senior members of the Legislature.

Griego, however, does get his name in the papers. So he apparently is in the thick of the legislative battles. That’s good.

In recent days, Griego’s name appeared in stories in relation to a couple of good-government issues.

Last week, the Senate voted 34-8 to override Gov. Bill Richardson’s veto of legislation allowing lawmakers greater access to information about Medicaid and other state contracts.

Griego was quoted in the Albuquerque Journal as saying the override vote was a “gotcha, Governor” move aimed at embarrassing Richardson on his way out of office.

I asked the senator about this issue, wondering if he put the governor’s political fortunes ahead of the need for transparency.

Griego said the Legislative Finance Committee was created by the state constitution and that it had full subpoena powers. He said the committee could have gotten all of the information it wanted with that power.

He said some legislators were taking the issue “personally.”

Whatever the case, I believe the state Legislature is entitled to information related to these contracts. The state spends billions of dollars on Medicaid, and lawmakers say they haven’t been able to evaluate state contracts with health-care providers.

As it happens, the legislation wouldn’t apply to information that is confidential by law or exempt from the state Inspection of Public Records Act. So, in other words, the state had no right to keep such information from our lawmakers or the public in the first place.

In another action earlier this month, Griego was one of two senators to vote against legislation that would provide protection for whistleblowers — something that’s long overdue in New Mexico.

Many of Griego’s constituents work at state jobs here in Las Vegas, so this issue has particular importance locally.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Griego argued that the bill would encourage people to file frivolous lawsuits. The same could be said for any law, I suppose. However, it’s important to note that the federal government has long had such protections.

Griego told me that his vote was based on financial issues only. He is not against whistleblower protection.

He said the bill did not indicate who would have to pay for legal bills in cases where judges find that lawsuits are frivolous.

I’m glad that Griego explained his votes to me.

• • •

The eastern United States has had record snowfall so far this year. That is leading some global warming skeptics to argue that the whole theory of climate change is all wrong.

I’ve noticed plenty of comments on Facebook expressing doubt about global warming. A friend in north Texas wrote that climate change believers should come to her area and they would change their minds. A friend in Alamogordo sarcastically noted that his town got two inches of global warming.

Such comments show that people don’t understand what global warming is all about. The climate is gradually warming, but that doesn’t mean temperatures are rising with each passing day. As with any ecological trend, there are blips.

I’ve written drought stories during thunderstorms. But a little rain doesn’t mean a dry spell is over.

I hope that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are right that human-caused climate change is a figment of scientists’ imaginations. But I fear they are wrong.

Republican John McCain, who believes global warming is happening, was right in the last presidential election when he said that if scientists are wrong, efforts to combat pollution would still result in a cleaner planet.

If we have above-average snowfall this year, please don’t tell me that this is absolute proof that Al Gore and other climate change believers are nuts. Anecdotal evidence will not suffice.

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.