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Ethics And Transparency In The 2017 Legislature

Mar 22, 2017

These are some of the major ethics and transparency measures that flew or floundered during this year's 60-day legislative session.

Public Accountability Act-HB10

  • Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto’s (D-Albuquerque) bill would have created an independent accountability board to oversee local and state lawmakers. The board would review ethics issues previously handled by the secretary of state and the state attorney general. The board would keep complaints private and this raised concerns about secrecy.  The bill died in committee.

State Ethics Commission-SB218

  • Sen. Linda Lopez’s (D-Albuquerque) bill would have create a commission to draft a code of ethics and review ethical violations by elected officials, public employees, government contractors and lobbyists. The bill includes strict penalties for privacy violations. If someone discloses confidential complaints, he/she could get a $10,000 fine, civil penalties of up to $25,000 and up to a year of jail time. The penalties and the secrecy are part of the reason some government transparency advocates didn’t like this measure. The bill died in committee.

State Ethics Commission-HJR8

  • Rep. Jim Dines (R-Bernalillo) offered another proposal for an ethics commission. Under HJR 8, voters in 2018 could approve a constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics commission. Complaints would be public record. Similar proposals have been put forward in the past, but have not made it past both chambers. Good government groups supported this measure because it provides more transparency than other ethics bills. The resolution is the first proposed ethics commission that was passed in both chambers. It will now go before voters in 2018.

Original Story: Bill To Create State Ethics Commission Moves Forward

Estimated Lobbyist Expense Report Filing-SB225

  • Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces) has long been a proponent of transparency in lobbying. His bill would have require lobbyists or their employers to report their expenses, how much they spent pushing for a law and post them online. The bill was postponed and could be incorporated with SB393.

Original Story: Proposals Would Require More Information from Lobbyists

Lobbyist Reporting Requirements-SB393

  • This bill fixes a loophole created in the 2016 session allowing lobbyists not to report expenditures under $100 per transaction. It passed and was the only major lobbying bill to make it through the session. It awaits the governor’s signature.

Post Session Lobbyist Report-SB228

  • Another measure from Sen. Steinborn, SB 228, would compel lobbyists or their employers to disclose which pieces of legislation they pushed during a session. This measure entered bureaucratic limbo, and didn’t advance.

Original Story: Proposals Would Require More Information from Lobbyist

Campaign Finance Fixes-SB96

  • Sen. Peter Wirth’s (D-Santa Fe) measure would amend some parts of the Campaign Finance Act. It would increase transparency for independent groups that donate money to campaigns before a primary or general election. It also doubles the amount of money lawmakers can donate to $5,000. It passed both houses and now awaits the governor’s signature.

Public Financing of Campaign Fixes-SB97

  • Another campaign finance reform from Sen. Wirth, SB 97, would reduce public financing for judicial and Public Regulation Commission candidates who are running unopposed. It also increases restriction on how public financing money can be spent. It passed both houses and now awaits the governor’s signature.

Legislative Public Works Committee-SB262

  • A proposal from Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Doña Ana County) would have created an 18-member committee to oversee projects funded by severance tax bonds. The current system has lawmakers deciding on which projects to spend money, but critics say it results in unspent money. The proposal died on the House floor.

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The People, Power and Democracy project examines ethics, transparency and accountability in state government. The project is funded by the Thornburg Foundation and by contributions from KUNM listeners.