By Lance Chilton
Better Than Christmas?
As I write this, it’s fewer than two weeks until the Legislature is opened with a bang (of a gavel) and the governor’s State of the State address. We all wish her a rapid recovery from the knee surgery she’s undergoing before the session.
Speaking for myself, I really look forward to the annual legislative session. I’ve been going to Santa Fe for a score of years during the annual winter session, usually by the joyous route of the Railrunner (almost free for another three months!) to attend to the fun. And occasionally to testify. And recently to work.
This year, despite lingering echoes of the pandemic, life around the Roundhouse is likely to be almost back to normal. There’s the art in the Roundhouse of course (some have called it the best art museum in Santa Fe, which is a lot to say), the constant activity of committee meetings, floor sessions, lobby demonstrations and exhibits, and, my favorite, the people-watching: people from all over New Mexico, of every ethnic and racial group, every sex and sexual orientation, every occupation, every age from schoolkids to elderly… and then there are the legislators, who are doing their best for New Mexicans, work very hard, and generally stay out of the hallways.
Almost every day there is a themed celebration in the rotunda: exhibitors sit behind long tables laden with information and swag (not necessarily in that order) for such events as Ruidoso Valley Day or Mining Day or UNM Day. It’s almost better than Christmas!
There are many reasons to come to the Roundhouse in the next two months:
1) To see the sausage-making (Otto von Bismarck’s famous quote) of legislation-making
2) To testify in a committee on a bill of interest (check the bill number at nmlegis.gov/legislation and then look for the bill to come up on the committee’s docket where it is next to be heard; use nmlegis.gov/committees, click on the appropriate committee and look at the agendas coming up. Now that sounds cumbersome, doesn’t it? So here’s an alternative: call your legislator’s office, express interest in a particular bill, and ask that you be notified when it comes before each of the committees to be assigned. You can find your legislator’s Capitol phone number at nmlegis.gov/legislators, clicking on your own legislator’s smiling face to get to her/his webpage. Or you can just call the Capitol at 505-986-4300 and ask to be put through to Representative X or Senator Y. Or you can testify remotely by zoom. So many options!
3) Usually you can’t testify on the floor of the House or Senate, but the proceedings there are interesting anyway – often largely ceremonial at the beginning of the session and increasingly hurried toward the end. Bring a business card if you want to call your legislator off the floor for a brief talk; you can ask one of the sergeants-at-arms to find your legislator and bring him/her out into the hallway.
4) To see the artwork. Click on https://nmlegis.gov/Visitors and then see the video “Tour Capitol Art” to see what you can see.
5) To see the people – come any time and walk around.
6) To be part of a particular event, including that tabling and swag-bonanza. Look for when the event will occur at https://www.nmlegis.gov/Publications/Social_Calendar.
New over the past couple of years is a check for weapons before you enter (I’m glad for that), but at this point, it doesn’t appear as if either masks or vaccination against COVID will be required. And be prepared for an enjoyable experience – it’s almost better than Christmas! The excitement is contagious.