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NM’s big problems need longer sessions for answers

It never fails. Each year as our legislative sessions come to a close, we read desperate appeals similar to the Journal’s March 8 editorial, “NM needs guardianship reforms across finish line.” Year in and year out, too many desperately needed bills fail to make it to the governor’s desk for signature into law.

This isn’t surprising considering 500-600 bills are introduced into each chamber annually and our Legislature has only 30-60 days to move these through committee, then conference, before reaching the governor’s desk.

It’s fine and good, to a point, to take pride in our quaint and rustic “citizen’s legislature.” Unfortunately, the state’s current problems are anything but quaint and rustic. The breadth and complexity of New Mexico’s problems match those of any other state. Embracing our past is a luxury we can no longer afford.

New Mexico’s limited legislative sessions are a relic that impedes our state’s rightful ascendancy to prosperity and a hopeful future. No wonder we seem trapped in a cycle of (poor rankings) in child poverty, per capita income, new business investment and percentage population on Medicaid!

By keeping legislative sessions short, we are trapping our state senators and representatives in an impossible situation. It’s all some sort of sinister and twisted “game”: Let’s see how manic and crazy things can become as we put our legislators through hell in a pressure cooker. I don’t know too many legislators who come out of it in one piece and without a bad taste in their mouth for all the important work left undone!

Let’s extend our legislative sessions to make them commensurate to the tasks at hand, and to make them respectful of the noble ideals of our legislators.

If we lengthen legislative sessions to the 6-7 months common to state legislatures nationally, it is only fair that we begin paying legislators a salary. What other professions do you know of that pay only per diem expenses? Would you trust your health to physicians who have never been paid for their work? The health of New Mexico is no less important!

Furthermore, paying legislators a salary is ultimately more democratic. Even with our current 30- or 60-day sessions, many highly capable citizens cannot afford to leave their jobs and hold office. … How can the very wealthiest among us be counted on to re-build our middle class and bridge the widening gap between the haves and have nots?

It’s time to get real. Achieving New Mexico’s full potential is a full-time job. Let’s give our Legislature the basic tools it needs to address New Mexico’s pressing problems!

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