This is my new office. Yes, it’s the Roundhouse, home of the New Mexico State Legislature. No, they didn’t do a recount and discover I’d won the election after all. I’m working as a bill analyst, poring over every piece of proposed education legislation proposed in the House and producing analyses for the Republican members.
The Democrats have their own analysts – yes, that’s analysts plural. Because they’re in the majority, they get two analysts to go over education bills, while the minority Republicans get no one but me. Just in case you were worried that enough of your tax dollars weren’t being spent on this, rest assured that there are also analysts that work for the House committee as a whole as well (hired by the Democratic majority, naturally). Now multiply this by every committee in the House (you can see the committees here once the assignments are published to the website, probably tomorrow). And then — what, you thought I was finished? — there’s the same exact set-up over on the senate side.
A hundred years ago, the men who wrote the Constitution of the State of New Mexico set up a part-time, unpaid citizen legislature. They figured the lawmakers would come to Santa Fe for a month or two, pass a budget, introduce and vote on a couple of laws most of them agreed were necessary, and then go back to their farms and ranches and mines and shops. They figured the lawmakers would write their own bills and read each others’ bills without the assistance of an army of analysts.
The more things change, the more they…change, in this case. Life has gotten complicated over the past century, and government even more so. It’s something our Founding Fathers saw coming more than two centuries ago. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 62,
It will be of little avail to the people that the laws be made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.
If I sound as though I’m biting that hand that feeds me, albeit temporarily (my position is only for the 60 days of the legislative session), I’m only trying to be honest. The fact is, the NM legislative machinery has become so cumbersome that the legislators can’t get along without analysts, secretaries and all manner of other support staff.
Without this army of state employees, they’d have to stop passing so many laws, and such complicated laws. That would mean drastically streamlining the state government, since the bureaucratic behemoth with which we are presently saddled could not function without those laws. This is all completely hypothetical, of course, since we all know something like that is even more unlikely than getting a new Speaker of the House.