Lobbyists report spending nearly $292K during session

Lobbyists reported spending nearly $292,000 during the 2017 legislative session, with more to be reported in May. Many of the final reports focused not on buying meals for lawmakers, but on campaigns to lobby them. Two groups, New Mexicans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions and Americans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions, spent spent nearly $16,900 on digital and newspaper advertising to encourage the Legislature to extend renewable energy tax credits. The bills the group supported didn’t make it out of committee. The American Federation of Teachers reported spending $10,000 for a consultant in “issue education for budget and revenue.”

The American Cancer Society Action Network lobbyist reported spending $9,591 on Facebook ads and phone calls urging support of a tax increase on tobacco products, an effort that failed.

Gov. threatens government shutdown, Dems slam her over jobs

The 2017 legislative session wrapped up at noon Saturday, but the work appears far from over. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez on Saturday afternoon said she would call state lawmakers back in for a special session after the Democratically controlled Legislature had failed to give her a responsible budget. . Exactly when she wouldn’t say. Calling a $6.1 billion spending plan and $350 million tax package the Legislature had sent her “reckless” and “irresponsible,” the governor spoke of a looming government shutdown and of potentially furloughing state workers.

Legislature passes House bill to restrict solitary confinement

Modest restrictions on the use of solitary confinement in New Mexico’s jails and prisons easily passed the state Senate Friday. The House concurred with Senate changes later in the day. House Bill 175 would forbid “restricted housing” — defined as 22 or more consecutive hours in a cell “without daily, meaningful and sustained human interaction” — for pregnant women in the state’s county jails and prisons and for children in juvenile lock-ups. The measure also would limit how corrections officers and administrators in the state’s 28 county jails and 11 prisons can use the controversial practice on people living with or exhibiting signs of mental illness. Early versions of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, placed a 48-hour cap on solitary for inmates with mental health issues.

UPDATED: Lawmakers race to finesse state ethics commission details as session winds down

— This article has been updated to reflect news developments. With 16 hours left in a 60-day session, the Legislature on Friday moved one step away from doing something it’s tried to do for a decade: Pass a state ethics commission proposal. And it took all day Friday to get it done. Then after multiple meetings, both chambers of the state legislature agreed late in the evening to place a measure on the 2018 ballot letting voters decide whether or not to place in the state constitution an independent ethics commission charged with investigating and prosecuting ethics complaints filed against public officials, state contractors and lobbyists, among others. How it played out on Friday

Members of the House of Representatives disagreed Thursday night with changes the Senate had made to House Joint Resolution 8, which would ask voters to enshrine an independent ethics commission in the state constitution.

In historic first, NM state senate passes ethics commission proposal

The state senate voted 30 to 9 early Thursday afternoon to ask voters next year to enshrine an independent ethics commission in the state constitution.

“This is a really big step for us in New Mexico,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces told his colleagues moments before asking his colleagues to support the proposal. “I think it will be healthy for democracy.”

Steinborn, who presented House Joint Resolution 8 to the Senate, was alluding to the decades-long effort to get to this moment: The New Mexico state Senate voting on a proposal that would move the state closer to joining more than 40 states that already have an ethics commission.

The senator might have spoken a bit too early, however.

The Legislature isn’t finished with the proposal yet. The House of Representatives must decide whether to agree or disagree to changes a senate committee made Wednesday to the proposal that the House passed 66-0 earlier this month.

Capital outlay reform transformed by Senate into three-year interim study

The New Mexico Senate on Thursday approved a watered-down measure to investigate why nearly $1 billion in infrastructure money remains unspent. Senate Bill 262 next moves to the House with less than two days to go in the 2017 legislative session. The committee in the original bill would have vetted projects that are placed in most annual capital outlay bills by individual lawmakers. But a Senate Finance Committee amendment took away that authority. And a floor amendment restricted the committee to a three-year term.

Ethics commission proposal clears perennial hurdle, heads to full Senate

On a 9 to 1 vote early Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Rules Committee, a perennial roadblock to ethics legislation, moved New Mexico closer than it has ever been to joining most U.S. states in creating an independent ethics commission.

But as sometimes happens in a decade-long quest a challenge can materialize just as success appears within sight. And so it was for House Joint Resolution 8.

Already in a race against the clock, HJR8 — which would enshrine an independent ethics commission in the state constitution should voters approve — must clear the full Senate before returning to the House, which gave its stamp of approval to HJR8 last week.

But that was before the Senate Rules Committee decided to remove language laying out how ethics commission members are appointed. Expunged too by the committee were requirements to make public all ethics complaints the commission receives, as well as the responses to them, and that it weigh evidence and rule on complaints in public hearings.

Infrastructure spending reform bill moves to Senate floor with little time to lose

A measure intended to reform infrastructure spending is headed to the Senate floor after Senate Finance Committee approval Tuesday. But there is limited time to get the measure through the full Legislature to the governor’s desk by the end of the 2017 session at noon on Saturday. An amendment to Senate Bill 262 removes references to a July 1 deadline for state agencies, lawmakers and others to submit projects for consideration. That would take away some of the teeth in what was originally aimed at ending a legislative pork-barrel process. It’s also unclear if the committee would actually rank projects by order of importance, although the amendment includes language prioritizing projects that “fill critical health and safety needs; create jobs” and more.

Ethics watchdog says bill before the Senate lacks teeth

State lawmakers would have too much power to decide who sits on an independent ethics commission under a proposal now being considered by the state Senate, a watchdog organization said Tuesday. New Mexico Ethics Watch, which leveled the criticism, disliked that the would-be commission in the proposal would not have sole authority to investigate and prosecute ethics complaints. “While it is important that the state have an Ethics Commission, it is more important that an Ethics Commission be properly constituted and protected from future meddling,” Ethics Watch Executive Director Douglas Carver said in a press release. “The version of the constitutional amendment creating an Ethics Commission that is before the Senate now is significantly flawed.”

New Mexico Ethics Watch, founded last year, is a non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life in New Mexico. Prior to Ethics Watch, Carver worked for five years as a staff attorney for the New Mexico Legislative Council Service, which included working with the Legislative Ethics Committee.

Legislature passes campaign finance reform years in the making

It’s now up to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez whether New Mexico’s campaign finance disclosure laws will be modernized. The Senate agreed to House amendments to Senate Bills 96 and 97 Tuesday. The House approved the two measures Monday night. SB 96 has the greater impact, aiming for more disclosure from independent spending groups during campaigns. But it also doubles the donation limits for legislators to $5,000 for each primary and general election cycle.