A Day at the Legislature

By Shayla Blatchford

On a day like this, just near the halfway mark of the legislative session, there is never a dull moment at the State Capitol (Roundhouse) in Santa Fe, NM. The happenings range from union workers taking a stand and confronting their senators outside the Chamber House doors, to the continuous inside jokes that run through the mailroom during the dispersing of bills. In addition to the constant waves of people flowing from one committee hearing to the next, the Roundhouse has also made time to celebrate its culture and history later this afternoon.

It may seem like a stiff environment when looking in from the outside, but once you get to know how accessible everyone is, especially within the senate, you begin to realize how you can truly be heard as an individual. The ties and suits may seem a little intimidating at first, but those who work within the Capital are just doing their jobs like the rest of us—except some of them are doing it for close to nothing. Per diems, for some, don’t always cover the cost of lunch and just to give you an idea, you can buy the cheapest B.L.T. in Santa Fe at the Roundhouse for close to $2.50. In addition to paying for a hotel for up to two months and getting by on a few dollars for meals, the hours are long and there are no breaks. Outside the double doors, it’s hard not to notice the group of men in their cowboy hats, boots and belt buckles and you start to wonder who these men are. They’re not in suits sitting behind a desk reviewing bills or taking a breather in the exclusive lounge located behind the Chamber House doors.  They look like a football team of oil tycoons lurking at the end of the hall in a huddle discussing firearms. This may be an assumption, but it could also be the fear creeping in—a reminder that these guys might be shaping the laws we live by as our peers attend yoga classes and sip coffee while milking the free wi-fi down the street.

After backpedaling out from the dead-end hallway, the mood is altered by the echoes of mariachi music coming from the Chamber floor. Local performers have dressed up in traditional Mexican folk attire, including a few women working at the Roundhouse as the assistant chief clerks. As the musicians and dancers perform and sing, the entire room of representatives, senators, security guards – are singing and smiling ear to ear. It appears to be Speaker of the House Ken Martinez’s birthday, and the band breaks into another celebratory song and images of balloons rise up from the large monitors on the wall. “Only in Santa Fe” is stated over the loud speaker as the celebration comes to an end and everyone takes their seat again before they House goes back into session.

There’s something to be appreciated when politics can still be taken seriously but still have a connection to its history and culture. It may be The Land of Mañana but I’m still eager to embrace the culture of Santa Fe and how it weaves its way into somewhere as foreign as the Capitol.