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House leader seeks anti-discrimination rules for Legislature

February 26, 2021 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf says he wants to add new provisions to legislative ethics rules that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender and sexual identity.

Egolf, who is confronting a conflict-of-interest complaint before the State Ethics Commission, told news media on Thursday that he will ask a panel of leading lawmakers to incorporate elements of New Mexico’s Human Rights Act into rules that apply to the Legislature and its staff.

He said the request to the Legislative Council committee cannot be made until late spring after the March 20 conclusion of the current legislative session because of procedural constraints.

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“I want to be sure that if we have concerns from the public or from members or the staff that there are inappropriate things occurring that would constitute a violation of Human Rights Act, that the appropriate body be able to look at that conduct and issue a recommendation to the full House or the full Senate to consider taking action if a member’s behavior is inappropriate,” Egolf said.

New Mexico established an independent State Ethics Commission by popular vote that last year began vetting concerns about compliance with state regulations on campaign finances, government contracting, gifts from lobbyists and more.

At the same time, the Legislature maintains its own authority to investigate misconduct and reprimand, censure or expel members. Complaints are not publicly disclosed by the State Ethics Commission or Legislature without a finding of probable cause.

Egolf is confronting a complaint before the State Ethics Commission about charges he failed to inform the public about his work on civil rights reforms that might benefit his law practice.

Egolf said the complaint from retired former district attorney and retired judge Sandra Price is a deliberate distraction. There has been no finding of probable cause.

Egolf is a co-sponsor of a bill to allow civil rights lawsuits in state court and rein in police immunity from prosecution.