Senator Dede Feldman and Clifford Rees discussing modernization of the NM State Legislature

Air Dates: July 16-18, 2022

This week's guests on REPORT FROM SANTA FE are former NM State Senator Dede Feldman and Clifford Rees, former NM state government attorney, discussing ideas for modernizing New Mexico's legislature.

New Mexico’s current legislative culture and operations derives its structure from 1912, when the NM Constitution spelled out the idea of a citizen legislature.

Many feel that now is the time to modernize the legislature. This would make it look more like the present-day New Mexican citizenry (becoming more representative and younger), make it more effective (more powerful vis a vis the Governor and executive agencies), make it more accessible and transparent, and decrease conflicts of interest, and the power of lobbyists.

Important modernization efforts will focus on salaries, staff, and the length of the session.

The benefits of modernization would also include: more constituent services, more diversity in age, occupation, lifestyle, and ethnicity of lawmakers, and in longer sessions where there would be more time and the means to develop policy expertise.

At present, there are only 2 states with unpaid legislators and the length of the NM session is the third shortest in the nation. New Mexico staffing levels for legislative support are also among the lowest in the country.

Senator Dede Feldman served in the NM Senate for 16 years, representing District 13 in Albuquerque's North Valley. In addition to her work in journalism and public relations, Feldman is the author of three books: “Inside the NM Senate: Boots, Suits, and Citizens,” “Another Way Forward: Grassroots Solutions from New Mexico,” and “Ten More Doors: Politics & the Path to Change.”

Clifford Rees is a former NM state government attorney with 23 years of service at NM Dept. of Health and other important positions in all 3 branches of state government. When he retired in 2005 he was serving as general counsel at the NM Department of Finance and Administration. Rees is enjoying a very active retirement, serving as a Legislative analyst for the NM Senate from 2006-2018, acting as the Legislative Liaison for Lt. Governor Howie Morales from 2019-2020, and during the legislative sessions working with the Legislative Finance Committee drafting fiscal reports on legislation.