Legislative Reform: A Hot Topic at the Roundhouse
There are currently two important bills that propose needed legislative reforms: SJR 7, Ethics Commission to Set Elected Official Salaries, CA and HM 32, Legislative Improvement Taskforce. a memorial establishing a task force to look at improving legislative processes–including legislator salary, staffing, session & interim, capital outlay reform, & conflicts of interest.
Currently, New Mexico is the only state left in the country that does not pay its legislators a salary. Instead, New Mexico legislators are paid a daily per diem and mileage when they are working in their official capacity.
The vast majority of New Mexicans believe that our elected officials are more influenced by special interests and lobbyists, than by their constituents and community needs. Between limited resources, limited staff, and limited time, this means that some lawmakers, who also work other full-time jobs, not only need to lean on the expertise of industry lobbyists on many policy issues, but they can also face many potential conflicts of interest.
HM 32 and SJR 7 both pursue a path to help remedy these issues.
Enabling our legislature to have paid staff to analyze legislation will also allow our elected officials take on larger roles in drafting our budget, as well as specific policy. Additionally, it will unburden our legislators of the potential conflicts of interest that are inherent in our current system and allow them to focus on the important business of our state.
By passing SJR 7, The State Ethics Commission would be enabled, as an independent agency, to hire appropriate staff to assess and set salaries for all of our state elected officials. This would include all state legislators, state-wide elected officials (such as the Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State) and district judges. Additionally, SJR 7 tasks the Ethics Commission to develop salaries for all county elected officials, including county commissioners, county clerks and sheriffs. If passed, this Constitutional Amendment would be placed on the November 2020 ballot for voters to approve before the Ethics Commission could begin their work. As currently written, the salaries for state and county elected officials would take effect in January of 2023.
By passing HM 32, Legislative Council would be asked to establish a taskforce to study methods to improve our legislative processes–including legislator salary, staffing, session & interim, capital outlay reform, & conflicts of interest. This taskforce would issue a report of their recommendations for the legislature to then act upon in the next legislative session. CCNM believes that a thorough assessment of our legislative process is a crucial step that is needed to help pave the way for a stronger future for New Mexico.
Tracking update for these bills:
- SJR 7 passed the Senate Rules committee on Wednesday, January 29th, and is awaiting scheduling in the Senate Judiciary.
- HM 32 was filed on Friday, January 31st, and is waiting to be scheduled for its first hearing in the House State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs committee .
Updates on legislation that CCNM is also supporting:
- HJR 3, Open Primaries for Unaffiliated Voters, CA passed House State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs committee and is headed to House Judiciary.
- SB 4, Complete Count in 2020 Census, passed unanimously out of the Senate, and is being transferred to the House for debate.
- SB 64, Public Records Pertaining to Certain Claims, passed unanimously out of the Senate Rules Committee on Friday, Jan. 31 and is waiting to be scheduled in the Senate Judiciary.
Coming up (so far) this week:
- SB 64, Public Records Pertaining to Certain Claims