New Mexico has the only remaining unsalaried legislature in the nation. Our so-called “Citizen Legislature” was to be representative and comprised of everyday people when the state constitution was drafted in 1912. Unfortunately, that framework no longer serves our state well. The complex issues we face now require a vibrant, diverse body with the tools necessary to find the right solutions for New Mexico.
We need a legislature that looks like our state and understands the needs of our people. The reality is that our unpaid legislature places limits on who can afford to serve as an elected official and hampers our legislative body. Currently it’s primarily wealthy or retired candidates who can afford to mount a campaign and have the time off and means to serve in an unpaid post. This amounts to a lack of ordinary New Mexicans representing our state and its diverse people.
Furthermore, New Mexico’s 30-day and 60-day sessions are among the shortest legislative sessions in the US . This results in debates that are curtailed and cut short in many instances. Worse yet, some of the priority legislation undertaken every year stalls simply because time runs out to advance the bills. If New Mexico is to keep pace with the rest of America, we need to allocate adequate time to write, debate and pass new laws.
Additionally, lawmakers in New Mexico do not have adequate year-round staff or district office space. This represents a huge deficit. Elected officials are limited in their abilities to understand complex issues and cannot serve their constituents effectively. With a lack of trained office staff, legislators are left to rely on the expertise of professional lobbyists, who can then exert undue influence.
We can fix this!
- Fairly compensate legislators
- Extend the length of sessions
- Provide legislators paid staff and office space
Reports and Resources:
- A Position Paper in Support of Legislative Modernization (New Mexico Ethics Watch)
- A Report on Legislative Professionalism for the State of New Mexico (Dr. Timothy Krebs and Dr. Michael Rocca, University of New Mexico)
- The University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) study to investigate legislative modernization, focusing on three primary topics: staffing resources, legislator compensation, and session length & scope
- New Mexico Legislative Structure And Process Study Task Force Final Report
- Common Cause New Mexico Public Polling Report (Nov. 2022)
Editorials and News Stories:
- New Mexico needs a more professional Legislature (Editorial by The Santa Fe New Mexican, Dec. 2022)
- New Mexico needs to modernize Legislature (Editorial by the Albuquerque Journal, March 2022)
- Democratic women eye changes to Legislature (Article by Dan McKay, Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 2022)
- Mario Jimenez, CCNM, polling interview (New Mexico In Focus, Dec. 2022)
- Dr. Michael Rocca, UNM Political Science Professor, study interview (Retake Our Democracy, Dec. 2022)
A modern New Mexico Legislature will afford our state the opportunity to grow and thrive. Our citizens deserve elected officials who are reflective of our population and have the necessary time and resources to tackle complex problems and find solutions to improve the lives of all New Mexicans.