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4-H members learn about state government firsthand during Roundhouse visit

SANTA FE, N.M. – 4-H youth from across state visited the New Mexico Capitol in Santa Fe during the recent legislative session and observed their state government in action.

Group of youth in green jackets with Gov. Susana Martienz in orange
New Mexico State 4-H Leadership Team was introduced to Gov. Susana Martinez by the Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte during a visit to the Santa Fe Roundhouse on New Mexico 4-H Day. Pictured are, from left, Witte, Ethan Grant, Lily Woodall, Allison Wilton, Makayla Richardson, Kylie Butterfield, Kaitlyn Eldred, Martinez, Wade Stearns, Sullivan Woodall, Brian Roberts and Wade Roberts. Front row, from left, are Kelsey Hayes, Sierra Baca and Kylie Hutchison.
Gov. Susana Martinez, in orange, surround by youth
Gov. Susana Martinez visits with 4-H members during their day at the Santa Fe Roundhouse. The youth were among 120 4-H members from across New Mexico to participate in the New Mexico 4-H Day activities that included visiting with legislators, watching the legislature in session and touring the Roundhouse. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

“This is a great opportunity for our 4-H members to learn about their government,” said Tom Dean, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service southwest district director and coordinator of the 4-H day activities. “They are the future leaders of our state, so it is good for them to see that what they are learning through their 4-H leadership will apply in the future.”

This year, 120 students from Bernalillo, De Baca, Dona Ana, Lincoln, Rio Arriba, Roosevelt, San Juan, Santa Fe, Socorro, Taos, Torrance, Union and Valencia counties attended the New Mexico 4-H Day activities.

Each year, the New Mexico Legislature passes a joint memorial declaring the day of the youths’ visit as New Mexico 4-H Day, and recognizes the youth development program that has more than 50,000 participants statewide.

As both legislative chambers heard the joint memorial, legislators shared how 4-H had impacted their lives, with many saying they learned life skills that they continue to use today.

While the legislative chambers accepted the joint memorial, the 4-H State Leadership Team was recognized on the floor of the Senate and the House, while their fellow club members watched from the gallery.

The group’s busy day included visits with Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Bernalillo; Rep. Paul A Pacheco, R-Bernalillo and Sandoval; Sen. Howie C. Morales, D-Catron, Grant and Socorro; and Sen. George K. Munoz, D-Cibola, McKinley and San Juan. They also took a tour of the Capitol, where they learned why it is called the Roundhouse, and watched the Senate and House of Representatives in session. Some of the students also visited with Gov. Susana Martinez.

“We were just able to have selected members meet the governor,” said Amy Zemler, 4-H youth activity specialist. “Our state leadership team presented her a gift that included a book with 4-H stories, Eunice the plush 4-H lamb, and many other 4-H logo items.”

During the meeting with the legislators, they talked about different aspects of being an elected official and how bills are written and moved through the Legislature. They explained how each legislator serves on two to four interim committees that meet during the year.

Hall explained that New Mexico has a unique citizen Legislature, in which none of its 112 members – 42 senators and 70 representatives – are paid.

“We receive a per diem allowance and mileage reimbursement set by state constitution,” Hall said. “Right now, we received $102 for every day we are in session and when we attend interim committees.”

The students learned that on even-numbered years, the Legislature only meets for 30 days, and then meets for 60 days on odd-numbered years.

“During the 30-day session, we are to focus on passing a balanced state budget,” said Munoz, who serves on the Senate Finance Committee. “Once the bill is approved by the members of the House, it moves to the Senate, where we can make changes or approve it as-is. If we make changes, it has to go back to the house for approval.”

Pacheco, a retired Albuquerque police officer, told the youth it takes good common sense to be a legislator. “You have to look beyond the issue and not create more problems when you are creating laws,” he said. “There’s no way a legislator can be an expert on all issues. We have a wide range of experiences among the legislators and we turn to them for information about topics within their expertise.”

Morales talked about how the things the young people learn in 4-H will be applicable during adult life. He told the 4-H members how he applies the 4-H Pledge to his life.

“I use my head for clearer thinking while working on bills and my hands for larger service when I help people as their senator,” he said. “But, the most important H of the pledge is heart. Legislators and politicians need to remember to be caring while they are serving the people.”