Sen. Garcia collects per diem for meetings she barely attends
Posted 6/30/2006 02:15:00 PM
In a posting earlier this week about the proposal to pay legislators, I complained that some lawmakers attend committee meetings just to give quick speeches, collect per diem and leave.
I wasn’t planning to name names, until I read an article today in the Albuquerque Journal.
Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Doña Ana, collected $26,000 in per diem last year – the most of any legislator in the state.
“I take my committees very seriously,” Garcia told the Journal. “I belong to eight interim committees.”
That’s right, and she’s a member of an additional five permanent committees, bringing the grand total to 13.
Sen. Cynthia Nava, D-Las Cruces, belongs to six committees. Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, belongs to eight. And Sen. Leonard “Lee” Rawson, R-Las Cruces, belongs to nine.
One could argue that Garcia has overextended herself.
Lawmakers collect $144 per day in per diem on trips, and are also reimbursed for mileage at a rate of 44.5 cents per mile.
That’s fine, if you’re doing work for the state.
But I can’t tell you how many times in my eight years as a journalist in this area people have complained to me about Garcia arriving late to conference committee meetings, staying long enough to give five-minute speeches, signing per-diem forms and leaving early.
I’ve heard it from legislators. I’ve heard it from other politicians. I’ve heard it from political watchers.
If my tax dollars are going to pay for a legislator to eat out and stay in a hotel while attending a conference committee meeting, I want that legislator to attend the entire meeting and listen to others, not just say her piece. Committee meetings should be forums for discussion and places where lawmakers attempt to reach consensus.
Serving on a bunch of interim committees is nice, especially if you’re seeking visibility and self-promotion. Actually taking part in the work of those committees is a completely different matter.