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Momentum building for salaried Legislature in New Mexico

A raft of new commentary and news pieces in New Mexico are indicating some state leaders would prefer a salaried legislature.

An article in Las Cruces Sun-News, an editorial in the Albuquerque Journal, and commentary on NMPolitics.net point to a frustration by legislators, who say they are too tempted by corporate givings or represent a citizenry that has the financial means.

Moving towards a salaried Legislature would require a change to the state Constitution, but there appears to be political will and cross-party interest in pursuing that amendment.

From Las Cruces Sun-News:

The governor would receive support from certain Democrats if she pushed for legislation that would place restrictions on lobbying jobs for former officeholders or government employees.

“We need to do it because of the perception. The perception of corruption is what we need to get rid,” said Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque.

He said he favored a bill prohibiting legislators from becoming lobbyists for one year after they left office.

“I’m happy for Kent for getting that big-wheel job, but I think a one-year restriction would be the right thing to do,” Maestas said.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said he had greater concerns about legislative reform than when somebody can go to work as a lobbyist.

Smith said he was especially bothered by the fact that teachers from the Albuquerque Public Schools and certain school administrators can serve in the Legislature without a loss of pay.

He said these situations posed more significant day-to-day conflicts than former legislators taking lobbying jobs.

Lawmakers do receive stipends for the days they are in session, which last for 30 or 60 days depending on whether it is an election year.

The Las Cruces Sun-News also quoted a legislator saying an amendment could be proposed next year:

Maestas said Rep. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra, a 35-year member of the Legislature, could introduce such a bill in 2012.

“It would have to be somebody with the standing of Kiki. If any of the younger people tried it, it would be looked at as self-serving,” said Maestas, 43.

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