Lawmakers are pushing for salaries and a longer legislative session
New Mexico is in the middle of its 30-day session – one of the shortest in the entire nation. It also has the only unpaid lawmakers. Advocates say legislators should be compensated and sessions should be longer so there is enough time to pass bills.
House Joint Resolution 5sponsored by Rep. Natalie Figueroa (D-Bernalillo) would make each annual session 60 days long, rather than every other year.
Mason Graham, Policy Director for Common Cause said this change will help more bills be heard. “In this short 30 day session, only bills where the governor has given a message are deemed germane,” he said. “So when we switch to a 60/60 day model, all bills will be available to be on the table. So legislators will be able to complete more work without restrictions from the executive.”
Graham said legislators are limited on how much they can finish under the current system.
House Joint Resolution 7 sponsored by Rep. Angelica Rubio (D-Doña Ana) would create an independent commission to set and limit legislative salaries.
This new commission would not create salaries for legislators but instead create a new state government agency that will grant them a salary.
Currently lawmakers are not paid for their work during the legislative session. They receive a daily allowance during the session and interim committee hearings.
Graham said that although the Legislature is quite diverse, the current laws create a financial barrier for people considering running for office.
“I don't like to say a joke, but a line that is, the New Mexico Legislature is made up of the three R's. So you're either rich, retired, or resourceful,” he said.
Graham said it’s important to have everyday people at the Legislature
“By removing that financial barrier, we're hoping that we can open up these chambers to more candidates that look like New Mexicans.”
Two other resolutions, HJR1 and HJR2, sponsored by Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Santa Fe) would eliminate pocket vetoes and create two 45-day sessions rather than a 60-day session and a 30-day budget session.
If these amendments pass the House and Senate chambers, they do not need the governor's signature and will go to the voters for approval in the fall. However, similar efforts in last year’s session failed.
Support for this coverage comes from the Thornburg Foundation.