One lawmaker says citizen Legislature prevents most from running
One of the daily discussions in the Legislature is how higher qualifications to serve on the state Public Regulation Commission will prohibit most people from running for that office.
During discussion about a PRC bill, state Rep. Antonio Maestas told a hard truth about limited competition in another public body -- the 112-member Legislature itself.
Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said most New Mexicans are unable to run for the Legislature. Money and an inability to get off work for 30 or 60 days a year, plus dozens of days for other committee meetings, are the main reasons.
New Mexico lawmakers receive a daily expense allowance and they qualify for pensions after five years of service, but they are not paid a salary.
That enables retirees and various public employees -- teachers, school administrators, a firefighter and a community college president -- to serve in the Legislature.
Those with no job or a public employer who allows them time off work have a tremendous advantage in winning legislative seats. People who might be better candidates cannot take time from business or their bosses will not hold jobs for them for months at a time.
There is another fact of life about legislative participation.
Even some of the retirees used to be on the public payroll. One was a teacher and a school administrator. Another was a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy. A third was an Albuquerque police officer.
Maestas, 44, an attorney in private practice, is among those without a built-in advantage to win a legislative seat.
Even so, he sees the citizen Legislature for what it is -- an institution that favors a few, not the many.