Santa Fe Journal catches up on local buzz.

Legislature fiddles while budgetary shortfall burns. We are on day 52 of the "long" 60-day session in the New Mexico legislature. What is the controversial issue of the day? House Speaker Ben Lujan will appoint a subcommittee to look into webcasting. Those legislators opposed to webcasting said it might be used for political purposes--for example, by showing legislators taking a nap. Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, said, "They could use it if I'm sleeping, and I'm being recorded. It could be used as a political gain [by] my opponent.'' Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, took a different angle on the fear of embarrassment. He noted that senators sometimes get tired and "say the wrong thing."

Excise tax blues: As the state seeks ways to come up with more money for the government, the Motor Vehicle Division is cracking down on excise tax collection. The state imposes a three percent excise tax on sales of new and used vehicles.

Here's the change: MVD hopes to double collections from $6 million this fiscal year to $12 million next year by making sure that used cards and trucks are properly taxed when they're sold. In the past, the seller could write in a price lower than what was paid for the vehicle or even report the price as zero. Now MVD will check the stated sales price against average prices for that model of car as reported by the National Automobile Dealers Association--the blue book. The state will assess the tax on the stated value of the sale or eighty percent of the so called blue book value, whichever is higher.

Red-light camera blues: By March or April, Santa Fe drivers will be fined for traffic infractions recorded by automated traffic-enforcement equipment.

The state has worked out a deal with Arizona-based RedFlex Traffic Systems. Here's how the cameras work.

Green light for Green Code: the Public Works Committee has recommended passage of an ordinance in Santa Fe establishing a Green Building Code. If other city committees approve, the matter could be before the City Council for hearings in March.

Green lectures: The Santa Fe Botanical Garden is offering design lectures beginning February 5 with a talk on hillside gardening. Admission is $3; the lectures take place at Selby Fleetwood gallery, 600 Canyon Road, from 5:30 to 7 pm. Email info at santafebotanicalgaarden.org for reservations.

Portal Program: The Museum of New Mexico has decided not to pursue the idea of charging fees to American Indian vendors using the Palace of the Governors portal, which has 70 available spaces. Here's a link to the Portal Program.

Santa Fe New Mexican Letter of the Day:

I support domestic partnership legislation and I ask that New Mexico legislators do the same. As a lifelong resident of New Mexico, it hurts me to know that there are loving families who are not recognized or protected by te state. There's no good reason for this. When I say I'm from New Mexico, I want people to know that I come from a state this is not only diverse, but is confident in its diversity, and more importantly, a state that does not cower from the responsibility to take care of all its gente. --Todd M. Lopez, Santa Fe

The first hearing for the Domestic Partner Rights & Responsibilities Act (Senate Bill 12) happens today. Check out Kate Nash's excellent Green Chile Chatter more information.

A pave, we mean pain, in the neck: A resolution from Councilor Patti Bushee says the state Department of Transportation's practice of applying a higher asphalt layer on driving lanes of state highways than to their shoulders leaves a raised edge of pavement that can deflect a bike's front wheel and cause a crash when the cyclist tries to merge from shoulder into traffic. This extra layer of asphalt leads many bicyclists to ride in the traffic lane, which is its own kind of dangerous. New Mexico is one of the few states that still uses this method of paving.

Santa Fe Style Department

Bulletin Board Announcement of the Day to Help Perpetuate the Idea that Santa Fe Lives By Crystals, Tarot, and Aromatherapy:

"Discover which tarot archetypes are constellating in your personal field for 2009 and how you can best align with them." For women only. January 28, 6:30 to 8:30 at the Santa Fe Public Library - 2nd floor in the Pick Room. For further details, check out the Santa Fe Tarot Tribe website.

Our favorite new word is "constellating."