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Let's talk about modernizing our state legislature

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Arianna Sena
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Creative Commons

Let’s Talk New Mexico 1/19 8am: The New Mexico legislature started its annual meeting this week. It’s an odd numbered year, so they’ll meet for 60 days instead of the 30 days assigned to even numbered years. The rules dictating these schedules allow legislators to consider laws that cover things other than spending in the longer sessions – but in even-numbered years when time is shorter, their hands are tied when it comes to things like gun violence, healthcare or countless other topics unless state money is involved. This is just one example of how the rules of the legislature seem out of touch to many lawmakers and activists.

Beyond the limits of the tight schedule, lawmakers are faced with the challenge of understanding dozens of bills each legislative session without having full-time staffers to help them. They often rely on industry insiders, lobbyists or activists for information on how proposed legislation will work. Furthermore, legislators do their work without a salary, earning only what they get for a per diem which is much too low to cover their stay in Santa Fe.

On this episode of “Let’s Talk New Mexico” we’ll discuss a movement to modernize our state legislature – from extending the annual meeting in the Roundhouse to creating a professional staff and offering a salary to legislators. Would you support paying politicians if the result was a more professional class of lawmaker? Would you consider running for office if you didn’t have to worry about keeping a job at the same time? Do you think the honor of public service is reward enough for legislators? Email us at LetsTalk@kunm.org or call in live during the show to (505) 277-5866.

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Kaveh Mowahed is a reporter with KUNM who follows government, public health and housing. Send story ideas to kaveh@kunm.org.