ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — A New Mexico Lawmaker is proposing major changes to the state’s legislative sessions in the future. Lawmakers spoke with News 13 Wednesday and said they are divided on the suggested changes.
The lawmaker behind this said the ultimate goal is to have more time to look at bills.
“Time is the thing we lack most. This gives legislators more time to be really considerate and thoughtful of all of the bills, and the entire budget which is over $8 billion, plus additional money,” explained Representative Joy Garratt (D-Albuquerque).
Lawmakers are familiar with the thought behind House Joint Resolution 2. The proposed constitutional amendment would call for a 60-day session every year, instead of every other year, and keep bills alive that don’t make it to the finish line. State Representative Natalie Figueroa sponsored the resolution.
“Like 27 other states, this would propose that bills freeze after the first year where they end at the 60-day session and then pick up at that spot in the second 60-day session the following year,” Figueroa said. This would stop forcing lawmakers to start from scratch on hundreds of bills the next time around.
The resolution also calls for a five-day paid break halfway through the session, which is the deadline for filing bills.
“At that point, all proposals are on the table and that recess with no committee meeting, and no floor sessions would allow legislators and New Mexicans—our stakeholders and our constituents—to hunker down with these bills, read them, provide feedback, and let their legislators know what they want to happen,” Figueroa explained.
Some lawmakers with were split on the proposal.
“Currently, in the 30-day session, the governor, it’s according to her call that non-fiscal, non-budget bills can be considered. In this bill, it balances the power of the legislature because we get to decide on our bills. It’s not up to the governor,” Garratt said.
In a statement, Representative Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe) weighed in on the resolution, saying: “The system is currently broken, doing a disservice to the People of New Mexico. Our state deserves a legislature that meets more often and throughout the year to do the People’s work. Whether or not this proposal is the best one to get us to that is what we will deliberate upon this Session. I’m very much looking forward to it.”
“I really see this as a detriment. You know, bills don’t pass because they shouldn’t pass, and that’s why they didn’t pass, and so if they run out of time, just take it as a hint that it’s not a good bill,” said State Senator Cliff Pirtle, (R-Roswell).
Pirtle also has concerns about the extra costs for five-day breaks and 60-day sessions every year: “It’s gonna cost the taxpayers five more days of per diem per member to pay us to do nothing. I think the public already thinks we do plenty of nothing as it is. I like, just get the 60 days, get up there, get it done, I gotta get back to the farm and get back to work.”
“The per diem follows the intent. The intent of the recess is that legislators are still working. But instead of being tied up in committees and floor sessions, they’re working with their constituents, with each other, to read through these bills and make changes in a timely fashion,” Figueroa said.
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If both the House and the Senate pass the resolution, it would go on the 2024 ballot for voters to decide. Representative Figueroa said the last time the session lengths were changed was in 1964.
“Imagine how much the world has changed. Our population, our industries: science, technology, healthcare, our water issues have all become incredibly complex; and so, policy proposals are equally complex. Legislators and New Mexicans need time to look at these issues and to weigh in, and we can avoid rushing things through; at least that’s the intent with this bill – to give us time to do thoughtful, and deliberate, and careful policy to serve New Mexico,” Figueroa said.