(Published in the Santa Fe New Mexican on Jan. 3, 2010.)
Gov. Richardson has made a eminently sensible proposal—a statewide ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. He said he’ll introduce a bill when the Legislature convenes in January.
Well, as everyone knows, New Mexico government is structured in such a way that very little gets done except when the Legislature meets (and some might say very little gets done then anyway). And so everything is crammed into a 30-day or a 60-day session—or isn’t acted on at all.
I’d like to suggest that we hold a constitutional convention and bring New Mexico’s governing structure into the 21st century.
What changes would I propose?
We might have a fulltime legislature, meeting or on call from the day after Labor Day until the day before Memorial Day. That way we don’t have to wait for the annual session to have problems addressed (and solved—or not).
If for some reason, the Legislature must convene beyond Memorial Day, the legislators work for free. There’s no such thing as overtime pay, not even per diem. Get the people’s work done in nine months and go home.
I’d also suggest that the new legislature be unicameral like Nebraska, which has about 200,000 fewer residents than New Mexico and does just fine with a one-house legislature and 49 senators (compared to 112 legislators for New Mexico). Checks and balances will occur naturally, even within a one-party structure. (Think Democrats and health care reform.)
And one more thing: term limits. Eight years is enough. It works at the county level; why can’t it work at the state level?
(R Thomas Berner, a former town councilman in another state, now lives in Santa Fe.)
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