SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Monday, lawmakers went over the merits and costs of extending the legislative session to 60 days every year. It would also allow the carry-over of bills from year to year so lawmakers wouldn’t have to start from scratch. Backers of the idea think it’s too difficult to get everything done in a 30-day session.

“New Mexicans deserve to have more informed legislators. More thoughtfully vetted and deliberately debated policy. And they deserve to have the full scope of their needs addressed in both of our legislative sessions,” says Representative Natalie Figueroa (D-Albuquerque), one of the sponsors of House Joint Resolution 2.

New Mexico’s legislature works on a biennium schedule, meaning in odd-numbered years it is 60 days, and in even-numbered years it is 30 days. This schedule was instituted in 1964, according to Figueroa.

Figueroa says New Mexico’s legislature’s schedule is the third shortest in the country. She says it’s time for change because the population has doubled since they took up this schedule, and legislators face more complex issues and a much larger budget.

The joint resolution also lets legislators consider all subject matter in both sessions, with stalled bills continuing on to the next session. It also gives lawmakers a five-business-day recess after the 30th day of the session. Sponsors of the bill say this is to allow them time to look into legislation and speak with their constituents and experts before debating or voting on bills.

Around 15 special interest groups spoke in support of this change at the House Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee hearing. “We support this bill because frankly we’re tired of watching good bills we think have the majority support and could become law die at the end of the session because there just isn’t time to get them through. Frankly, I’d be happier if this amendment changed it to 90 days. But, AT LEAST 60,” one person said.

Several Republican representatives on the committee raised their concerns. “There’s a good reason why legislation dies. And we need to start over in the next session. In the interim we have additional thoughts on the legislation and so I think it’s nice to start afresh,” said Representative Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque).

“I see it as being a big cost to the taxpayers,” said Representative Martin Zamora (R-Clovis). According to a Fiscal Impact Report, it would cost an extra three million dollars to lengthen the session.

House Joint Resolution 2 passed the committee in a 6 to 3 vote Monday. It is now headed to the House Judiciary Committee. If passed by both chambers, voters would have to sign off on the idea.