Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

New Mexico’s Citizen Legislature

The New Mexico Legislature is a “citizen legislature.” What that means is the Legislators are not paid a salary.  As a consequence most Legislators are either wealthy, retired or have flexible jobs that allow them the time off during the Session. They are paid a modest per diem, but no salary. 

Some argue this is just fine since the Legislature only meets alternatively either 60 days a year or 30 starting in mid January. The reality is the conscientious  Legislators work hard and work year round, assisting their constituents, attending interim committee meetings or working the Session. I am mentioning all this because the 60 day 2013 Legislature is now in Session.

I worked as  media liason for the Majority Office of the House of  Representatives for several years. I had the opportunity to see the Legislators in action and some days in in-action. The 60 day Sessions are brutal. In addition to working on the state’s budget, any Legislator can introduce a bill on any topic, and they do. The 30 day Sessions are no day at the beach, even if we had a beach, but at least the topics of the bills are limited to the budget and whatever is on the Governor’s list.

Some days the bills debated are more on the light hearted side, but they still can take hours to pass a Chamber since everyone wants to put in his or her two cents.  For example, I was present when the House voted to make the hot air balloon the state aircraft, the bolo tie the state tie and the state cowboy song “Under New Mexico Skies.” Actually, my recollection is the cowboy song took several Sessions and several versions of the song to pass. All of these bills became law.

I took a look at the list of some of New Mexico’s other official state symbols. I am going to share them with you because I think, taken as a whole, they do tell you quite a bit about the Land of Enchantment. So here you go:

Fish: cutthroat trout

Motto: It grows as it goes.

Cookie: bizcochito

Amphibian: New Mexico spadefoot toad

Gem: turquoise

Animal: black bear

Flower: yucca

Bird: roadrunner

Vegetable…….refried beans with chile pepper

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