Public disclosure of legislation a lobbyist works on moves forward

Lobbyist Tom Horan talks to the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee about why he opposes a lobbyist disclosure bill during the 2019 legislative session. An effort to require more transparency from lobbyists passed its first hurdle in the House. The idea behind HB 131 is pretty simple: lobbyists would report a few weeks after a legislative session ends what bills they worked on, including their position on each bill, if they had one. One of the bill co-sponsors said the measure aimed to help the public have a greater understanding of how policy is made. “We’re approached in the hallway, approached in the bar, people talk to you at a reception,” Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, told the House’s State Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee Monday.

Senate committee keeps ‘funding theater’ of capital outlay alive

The Senate Rules Committee killed a bill today to make public the capital outlay funding decisions of individual legislators. Currently, New Mexico’s capital outlay system allows lawmakers to divvy up a pot of money among themselves to then give out to projects as they see fit, and to keep that information secret. For instance, if a lawmaker has $100,000 to allocate and divvies it up among five different projects, the public is denied access to a list showing which projects, out of many requests, the lawmaker funded. Each legislator has to specifically give permission to legislative staff in order to allow release of that information. By the same token, the projects the legislator chose not to fund are also not known by the public.

Effort continues to make “super secret” capital outlay list public

The House made quick work last week passing a measure that would lift a veil of secrecy on how individual lawmakers allocate capital infrastructure money under their control. Currently, New Mexico is the only state in the nation that allows legislators to divvy up among themselves a big chunk of infrastructure money to direct to projects as they see fit. And it allows them to keep secret which projects they choose to fund, although the information is readily available in an existing database. Sen. Sander Rue discusses capital outlay transparency with the Senate Rules committee in 2018, during which rural legislators explained their reservations about the measure. Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, called it the “super-secret private list which is the one that actually appropriates the money” last year during a Senate Rules Committee debate on the issue.

Lobbyist loophole fix heads to gov. as lobbyists spend nearly $90K

A bill requiring full disclosure of lobbyist expenditures is heading to the governor’s desk after being fast-tracked through the Legislature as part of the “rocket docket,” a set of bills prioritized after gaining legislative approval in previous sessions only to be vetoed by former governor Susana Martinez. Meanwhile, lobbyists or their employers have already reported spending almost $90,000 during the session. SB 191 fixes a mistake made by legislators in 2016 when they inadvertently got rid of a requirement that lobbyists and their employers report a total of smaller lobbying expenses. Transparency advocates characterized it as a step backward in an ongoing effort to create more transparent government. If Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs the bill, which she has indicated she will, all expenditures will have to be reported in the future, including the total of individual expenses under $100.

Lawmakers aim to make voter registration automatic, more convenient

A group of legislators want to ensure more New Mexicans can vote by making registration easier. They’re proposing automatic voter registration when a person gets a driver’s license and they also want to allow registration right at the polls. Eligible voters already can register or update their registration when applying for or renewing a driver’s license or identification at the Motor Vehicle Division. House Bill 84 would make that process automatic, with an opt-out option for those who don’t want to register. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Democratic representatives from Albuquerque and Corrales — Daymon Ely, Debra Sariñana, Patricia Roybal Caballero and Joy Garratt.

Money greases wheels of political machine, while legislative process is shrouded in secrecy

Each year, a small group of lawmakers doggedly push for improvements in the state’s disclosure laws related to campaign finance, lobbying, and discretionary infrastructure money available to lawmakers. Here are key initiatives New Mexico In Depth continues to follow. Steinborn works toward full disclosure of lobbyist spending on lawmakers, bills

For New Mexico’s volunteer legislators, campaign contributions provide more than just dollars to run an election. The money allows them to crisscross the state to meet constituents or go to legislative meetings. They can pay for telephone costs, stamps, conference travel out of state, and they can be donated to charities the candidate selects.

New Mexico doesn’t disappoint in Year of the Woman

New Mexico voters are sending the nation’s first Native American woman, Deb Haaland, to Congress. In what was arguably the hottest statewide race, voters also for the first time chose a woman, Stephanie Garcia Richard, to lead the State Land Office. And after electing the nation’s first Latina governor in 2010, voters again elected another Latina on Tuesday night, selecting Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham over Republican Steve Pearce to replace outgoing GOP Gov. Susana Martinez. That wasn’t all. Women appeared poised to take eight of 10 spots on the state’s second-most powerful court where females have never held a majority.

Ethics proposal could double as business recruiting tool, supporters say

Voters could make New Mexico history tomorrow. Yes, the state likely will make U.S. history, too, sending the first Native American woman to Congress. But New Mexico could join more than 40 other states if voters approve constitutional amendment question No. 2 that would create an independent state ethics commission. Approval, which would come after more than a decade of unsuccessful attempts, might be viewed as New Mexicans’ response to the state’s long-suffering reputation for corruption.

Hot Statewide races continue money trends

It’s no surprise that candidates in New Mexico’s two hottest statewide races brought in the most money in October. Campaign reports were filed with the Secretary of State yesterday, and once again Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham left every other candidate in the dust when it came to fundraising, including her rival, Republican Steve Pearce. And in the race for state land commissioner, Republican Pat Lyons continued to have a slight edge over Democratic opponent Stephanie Garcia Richard. That said, while Lujan Grisham outstripped Pearce in fundraising, he spent almost as much in October. And numerous other statewide candidates and a swath of Court of Appeals candidates outspent Lyons and Garcia Richard.