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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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Day two of David Pecker testimony wraps in NY Trump trial; Supreme Court hears arguments on Idaho's near-total abortion ban; ND sees a flurry of campaigning among Native candidates; and NH lags behind other states in restricting firearms at polling sites.

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The Senate moves forward with a foreign aid package. A North Carolina judge overturns an aged law penalizing released felons. And child protection groups call a Texas immigration policy traumatic for kids.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Women in NM Legislature make the case for an annual salary

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Monday, February 26, 2024   

New Mexico's Legislature is becoming more diverse but its lawmakers are still the only ones unpaid in the nation, limiting who can afford to serve, and some lawmakers want voters to change it.

For several years a group of legislators -- all women and all Democrats -- have advocated for modernizing the system to provide lawmakers with a base salary.

Rep. Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque, said many women and people of color don't have jobs allowing them to serve, which is why until recently, both chambers were primarily dominated by wealthy white men.

"It doesn't look like that anymore, but there's so many people that would be excellent legislators, but they can't quit their jobs - there's not the kind of support that they need."

Garratt said the bill to pay lawmakers a salary saw some traction in 2023 but this year's short, 30-day session stalled efforts.

If it is successful next year, the bill would send a constitutional amendment to voters to decide. Legislators' pay amounts would then be determined by a citizens' commission, which Republican lawmakers have said could be dangerous unless there is a salary cap.

Some argued without a salary, it is difficult to govern effectively with committee meetings, planning sessions, calls and emails coming in all year. When Garratt was elected, she was still teaching school but said her union contract allowed professional leave for legislative duties.

While lawmakers receive a per diem rate of about $200 per day to cover some expenses, Garratt believes a salary might make running for office a feasible option for parents and other full-time workers.

"We're not California with $112,000 salaries; we're not New York with $146,000, we're New Mexico," Garratt stressed. "We're not looking for this elaborate salary but we're looking for more of a living wage-type salary."

Garratt would like to see a separate referendum passed to make all legislative sessions 60 days. New Mexico's are among the shortest legislative sessions in the U.S.


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