Video: Rep. Jim Dines says subpoena power important for ethics commission

New Mexico is one of the few states that doesn’t have a state ethics commission, and Rep. Jim Dines, R-Bernalillo, hopes to change that. House Joint Resolution 8 proposes an independent ethics commission that oversees complaints concerning state officers and employees, lobbyists, campaigns, and state contractors. Rep. Dines says the subpoena powers contained in the resolution are important. “It gives the commission the ability to obtain records that are out there that would be able to help end the investigation of a potential ethics complaint,” said Rep. Jim Dines. Co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. Jeff Seinborn (D- Doña Ana), Rep Nathan P. Small (D- Doña Ana), and Rep. Bill McCamley (D- Doña Ana).

Follow 2017 legislative session via NMID’s Ethics Tracker

Entering the third week of New Mexico’s 2017 legislative session, several ethics and campaign finance reform bills have cleared their first committee hearings. In the interest of reporting on these subjects in a comprehensive way, we’ve decided to share our internal “ethics tracker” publicly. Ethics and campaign finance are issue areas New Mexico In Depth has reported on for years. This year, two bills that would bring significant change to New Mexico seem to have more traction than in years past:

     Creation of an independent ethics commission, or similar entity.      Passage of an omnibus campaign finance reform bill.

Will independent ethics oversight catch on in 2017?

New Mexico’s lawmakers over the last decade have balked at creating an independent ethics commission even as a parade of elected and appointed public officials stood accused of corruption and, in some cases, were convicted of crimes. Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico and a perennial supporter of ethics legislation, reached back to 1990s American cinema for an analogy: Groundhog Day, a 1990s comedy classic in which the main character is forced to repeat the same day over and over again. “We are freakin’ Bill Murray,” Harrison said. Harrison hopes 2017 will break the cycle, however, and on the surface the odds in Santa Fe appear favorable. New Mexico’s lawmakers convene for the 2017 60-day legislative session with two supporters of the ethics legislation — Sen. Peter Wirth and Rep. Brian Egolf – in powerful leadership posts.

New Mexico In Depth Special Edition: 2017 Legislative Session

New Mexico In Depth’s coverage of the New Mexico 2017 Legislative Session kicks off with this special edition covering a range of issues:

Campaign finance reform, Capital Outlay, and Ethics Reform
Impact of budget crisis on child welfare programs
Cannabis legalization for adult recreational use
Demographics of the legislature

Newspapers around the state published this special edition the first week of the session: Santa Fe New Mexican, Las Cruces Sun-News, Farmington Daily Times, Carlsbad Current Argus, Alamogordo Daily News, Rio Grande Sun, Silver City Sun-News, Deming Headlight, and the Ruidoso News. Be sure to follow our coverage throughout the session, here on our site and as part of a special project called People, Power, and Democracy, in collaboration with our partners–KUNM Public Radio, New Mexico In Focus, and the UNM News Port.

Gov. Martinez Uses Speech to Encourage Government Reform

Just two days after former Secretary of State Dianna Duran was released from county jail, Gov. Susana Martinez used a small part of her fifth State of the State address to support government accountability efforts. The nod from the governor came on the same day that good government group Common Cause released the results of a statewide survey showing broad support for ethics and campaign finance reforms. About 85 percent of New Mexicans want the legislature to create an independent ethics commission, according to the poll, conducted in December by Research and Polling, Inc.

But poll numbers don’t offer reform advocates any assurance that their ideas will translate into votes of support or the governor’s signature. Bills that would create some form of ethics commission have languished in Santa Fe for years. In her hour-long address to state lawmakers, Martinez focused on fighting violent crime, improving education and advancing economic development proposals, but she specifically mentioned the need to improve campaign finance reporting and close the revolving door between lawmakers and lobbyists. She called for changes to the state’s much-maligned capital outlay process, saying: “We need to fix the way we spend infrastructure money, because the way projects are funded now leads to unmet regional and state needs, and a string of projects that haven’t been vetted and can’t be completed.” And she said there should be full disclosure by individual lawmakers of the projects they choose to fund with their personal pots of capital outlay money.