Legislative Roundup, March 7, 2017
Days remaining in session: 12
Ethics commission: Another year, another chance for the New Mexico House of Representatives to act on what good government groups say would be a big step for ethics reform.
The House Judiciary Committee gave its unanimous support Monday to a proposal for establishing an independent ethics commission, sending the measure to a vote by the full House. And Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Monday he wants to get the bill to the Senate quickly.
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, House Joint Resolution 8 would ask voters to change the New Mexico constitution to create a bipartisan board with seven members who will investigate complaints of misconduct involving public officials across state government. The commission would also act as the state’s campaign finance watchdog and police lobbyists.
Campaign finance reform advocates have long pushed to establish such a commission, which would take responsibility for various facets of ethics oversight from various elected officials and place it under a single board.
But even after recent scandals in state government, lawmakers have shot down proposals like House Joint Resolution 8.
More than 30 pieces of legislation calling for an ethics commission have been introduced since 2007. And at least two have passed the House, only to die in the Senate.
Lobbyist report fix: The Senate on Monday voted to fix a loophole, created last year, that allows lobbyists to report fewer expenses than previously was required. By a vote of 30-9, the Senate passed Senate Bill 393, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque.
Last year the Legislature passed a bill related to lobbyists that did away with a requirement for lobbyists to report expenses of less than $100 spent on individual lawmakers. Before July 2016, lobbyists had to report all spending, itemizing expenses spent above $75 per legislator while reporting the cumulative amount of expenses below $75 per lawmaker.
Ivey-Soto told senators that he was to blame. As the sponsor of the bill that passed last year, he said, he failed to spot that change.
The bill goes now to the House of Representatives.
No credit check: The Senate Corporations Committee on Monday voted to recommend Senate Bill 280, which would prevent employers from demanding credit checks from employees as a condition of submitting their application.
“After the worst recession in living memory, too many New Mexicans had their life savings wiped out and their credit rating suffered,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque. “That fact shouldn’t be used against them as they try to rebuild their lives and find employment. Credit checks have been proven to have no bearing whatsoever on the ability of an employee to do their job. This is just another way to victimize New Mexicans who have fallen on hard times.”
A news release from Senate Democrats on Monday said a major national credit reporting company, Equifax, announced in 2009 that it would no longer sell reports to employers saying, “Information contained in a credit report has no correlation to job performance and credit reports do not provide meaningful insight into a candidate’s character, responsibility, or prospective job performance.”
The bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
No anonymous fliers either: A bill that would force organizations and people to disclose who they are if they spend over $500 in advertising during a school-board election campaign got a unanimous “do pass” vote by the House Education Committee on Monday. House Bill 466, co-sponsored by Rep. Linda Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, and a member of Santa Fe’s school board, was introduced in response to an anonymous campaign flier sent out to Santa Fe voters just days before the district’s recent election. That election gave voters the right to approve a $100 million general obligation bond for money to help renovate and build schools in the district, and the flier urged voters to reject the bond. Voters approved the bond.
The bill next goes to House Local Government, Elections, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs.
Looking ahead: As part of Española Day at the Legislature, three singers from the Sikh Community in Española will perform the national anthem Tuesday. Sada Sat Simran Singh Khalsa will be joined by his sister, Guru Sadhana Kaur Khalsa, and Guru Prakash Kaur Khalsa.
Quote of the day: “A Blake’s Lotaburger bag makes a fantastic farolito.” — Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, in off-the-cuff remarks to the House. Blake’s Lotaburger and the New Mexico Restaurant Association provided lunch for legislators on Monday.
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