After nearly 3 hours, House approves bill funding legislative session

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SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s the second day of the legislative session, and while Wednesday’s agenda only included some operational measures, there were plenty of politics at play. It took hours to approve a funding bill for the session.

House Bill 1, otherwise known as the Feed Bill, outlines how much money is set aside for travel expenses, lawmaker per diems, staff worker salaries and other operational expenses.

HB 1 is calling for $11.7 million to cover everything this year.

Republicans said that’s too much. They pointed out it’s a 40% increase from the last 60-day session, and they were especially concerned with a $2.5 million appropriation to finish studying district staff offices for legislators.

“We don’t even know when the study is done if it takes legislative approval, so we don’t even know the next step,” said Republican Rep. Randall Pettigrew of Lea County. “112 legislators are going to be voting on a $2.5 million dollar expense and we don’t even know what the next step is.”

Republicans spent several hours picking apart just about every aspect of the proposal, and asserted that kind of measure should be placed in the general budget bill. Democrats disagreed – claiming the proposal will help many lawmakers better serve New Mexicans.

“I think the time is now,” said Rep. Susan K. Herrera, a Democrat representing Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos counties. ” I mean, why wait? We know this is needed, and I know those Republicans and Democrats from rural districts need a lot of help, and that’s not to say everybody else doesn’t need a lot of help too.”

After nearly three hours, the bill was passed along party lines. While this bill doesn’t directly affect most New Mexicans, the debate could be a sign of what’s to come during the session.