Finance chair: Lawmaker pay unlikely to pass

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said the chances lawmakers will approve a proposal to ask voters to pay them are “very tough.” Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, made the comment after a lengthy morning debate about the pros and cons of House Joint Resolution 8, which would allow voters to approve a constitutional amendment to create a citizens’ commission to study the issue of paying lawmakers. The commission would also suggest salary ranges for lawmakers, though the salaries would not kick in until July 2024. Among other issues, Muñoz questioned whether the current Legislature could constitutionally bind a future Legislature to be paid. He also said the resolution does not clarify how lawmaker salaries would impact pension plans for former state employees who now serve as lawmakers.

Legislative salaries still possible, but extended legislative sessions unlikely

By Robert Nott and Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

It was one of the top priorities for lawmakers during this year’s 60-day session: a resolution asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment “professionalizing” or “modernizing” the Legislature. With just a few days to go, at least one of two proposals appears dead and the outlook of the other remains questionable. “I’d say it’s dead,” Rep. Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, wrote in a text message about House Joint Resolution 2, which would lead to 60-day legislative sessions every year, with voter approval. 

Lawmakers now meet for 60 days in odd-numbered years and 30 days in even-numbered years, which some say limits how much they can get done. Rep. Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque, a co-sponsor of SJR 2, said in an interview this week there were a number of discussions among lawmakers about the measure, and “there are diverse opinions.” Like Rubio, she indicated the resolution, which made its way through two House committees and now awaits a vote on the House floor, is unlikely to go any further this year. 

While she would have liked to see the resolution pass, she said, “Maybe we’ll do it next year.”

Committee advances proposal to pay legislators

New Mexico is the only state in the nation that does not pay its legislators a salary. However, a proposed constitutional amendment would change that and allow for legislators to be paid up to the state’s median income advanced from a committee on Saturday afternoon. Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces, brought the proposal forward the House, Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee sent it to the House Judiciary Committee with no recommendation. “Most of us, if not all of us are dependent on an outside stream of income,” McMillan said while explaining why he brought forward the bill. These outside funds could be a retirement fund, business interests or otherwise.