An unexpected early victory

House Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey shepherded through HB1 with bipartisan input and support, including a provision to study legislative staffing and district offices.

Read more about Common Cause’s work to modernize the legislature and additional CCNM priorities with quotes from Mario in the New Mexico Political Report.

The 2023 New Mexico Legislature is off to an encouraging start with a big win for constituents who need legislative district offices and staff to better serve them.

House Bill 1, sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey with input from both parties, is known as the “feed bill” and has passed both chambers of the legislature. 

HB1 is designed to fund the legislative session and the coming year’s interim committees and district work. This year, a provision was incorporated to fund a feasibility study regarding district offices and paid, full-time staff for all legislators. Currently, only leadership positions are allocated year-round staffers.

As it stands, New Mexico is one of only two states without full-time staff assigned to each legislator. Nevada is the other.

While some Republicans argued the provision was inappropriately included in HB1, others provided a different perspective, including Rep. Jason Harper (R-Sandoval) who spoke on the House floor in favor of staff for legislators, particularly for research and analysis of legislation.

We, at Common Cause, firmly believe that staffing and studies regarding staffing are entirely appropriate and properly included in HB1. Another benefit of the provision’s inclusion in the feed bill is that it carries an emergency clause.

Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Doña Ana) defended the measure during a Senate Finance Committee meeting. He said the lack of full-time staff for legislators required immediate action and was quoted in The Santa Fe New Mexican.

“New Mexicans are being shortchanged by the fact that they have at this point in time created a part-time volunteer Legislature without any staff to help work through very complex issues, help deliver the best services to New Mexico to help solve the really challenging issues that we need for our kids, for our crises, for our economic development future,” he said. “I feel like the reason it’s in this bill is so that we can get that funding and get that work started right away.”

HB1 passed in the House of Representatives by a count of Y:47 N:19, and in the Senate Y:33 N:5. The feed bill will go to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for signature.

It’s been a busy start to the session, and we will continue to keep you updated on our work to advance democracy in New Mexico!