Should NM “professionalize” the Legislature?

Bills (mostly amending the NM Constitution) are going to be considered in the upcoming legislative session on whether  to change certain aspects of the Legislature. Ideas include:

  • Paying members some kind of salary;
  • Extending the length of sessions beyond the current 30/60 days;
  • Hiring more paid professional staff.

In summary of the arguments supporting the idea, the Santa Fe New Mexican editorializes, “A professional Legislature, with lawmakers from all walks of life with staff help, would produce better governing.”

We couldn’t agree more that the New Mexico Legislature does a poor job of governing, but voters could change that situation quite easily and they haven’t.   That being said while we’re skeptical about paying them (more) and the merits of longer sessions, anything to shake up the current situation is worth discussing.

Ideally, the legislative pension would be on the chopping block for elimination in favor of increased pay for work done in the here and now.

Ironically enough the New Mexican (a liberal editorial board) uses the COVID 19 situation to justify a more “professional” Legislature but actually highlights our view. They editorialize, “Coronavirus-related emergency orders, for example, came from the governor. There was little consultation with the Legislature — it wasn’t in session most of the pandemic, and emergency action had to be taken. The law authorizing the governor to act in a public health crisis or other emergency didn’t foresee a crisis lasting years rather than days, either.”

Again, the Democrat-controlled Legislature COULD HAVE had a seat at the table, but their party loyalty has motivated them to take a “hands-off” approach. There is no doubt that a Republican Gov. would have been treated differently and the GOP would also have implemented time limits on emergencies.

Committee advances salary proposal for lawmakers | The NM Political Report