It is right, responsible, and also predictable, that a New Mexico legislator who missed the entire 2014 session has returned his per diem and mileage, nearly $5,100, to the state.
After all, Rep. Phillip Archuleta, D-Las Cruces, is seeking re-election this year.
And so it is perhaps not surprising that Rep. Ernest Chavez, D-Albuquerque, who also didn’t make it to the Roundhouse once in the 30-day session, has not.
Chavez isn’t seeking re-election.
Both men were seriously ill, and while their absences during the budget-centric session was regrettable, there is a real question whether it should have been compensable in the form of per diem payments.
The Constitution prohibits New Mexico’s part-time citizen legislators from receiving compensation beyond mileage for one round trip and per diem, which to most people means reimbursement for expenses incurred while traveling.
Since neither Archuleta nor Chavez left home, neither had to shell out for hotel rooms or pricey Santa Fe cuisine.
The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office has said it will conduct what it calls a preliminary investigation based on these money-for-nothing models, but taxpayers and constituents deserve more.
Attorney General Gary King should take it a step further and issue an opinion on the practice.
Because it is myopic that lawmakers focus on the first half of the Constitution’s language that they be paid per diem “for each day’s attendance during each session of the Legislature” and skip the second half about actually attending it.
And receiving round-trip mileage to the capital when you never even drove there should be a non-starter.
— Albuquerque Journal