Stripped-down lobbying disclosure goes to Senate

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IMG_6121After stalling in committee last month, a bill requiring more transparency from lobbyists cruised through the state House on Saturday after hitting only one last speed bump.

On Saturday, state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, failed to add back in requirements stripped out of the original proposal.

But with just two weeks left in the session, supporters of more transparency for lobbyists say even a stripped-down bill is an important first step.

“We don’t want to give up a good bill in search of a perfect bill,” Common Cause Executive Director Viki Harrison said Monday.

As written, the bill would give the public more information, such as what issues lobbyists are working on, and put it online in a format that makes it easier to search and download.

Most legislators know who most lobbyists are and what issues they’re lobbying for but sometimes we don’t know,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen. “The more information, the better transparency—and it’s great for the public.”

The bill (HB 155) was tabled by the House Regulatory and Public Affairs committee in February, then reworked and moved forward. By the time it got to the House floor the requirement that lobbyists reveal how much money they make or exactly how much money they’re spending and on whom was gone.

They were among the elements of the proposal that were deemed too onerous for those seeking to influence government.

Although few lobbyists spoke out in committee meetings, several said in private conversations that they thought it was unfair to force them to divulge how much (or how little) they earned.

Sponsor Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, told the People Power and Democracy Project then that his goal was to give the public more information about the relationship between lobbyists and government.

“Right now citizens don’t know anything and have no basis for understanding the influence of the army of lobbyists here,” he said.

As New Mexico in Depth has reported, there’s a lot of money involved. Individual lobbyists spent at least $1.6 million on lawmakers between 2011 through 2014, and 36 nonprofit and faith groups, trade associations, oil companies, unions and businesses spent more than $379,000, NMID’s analysis of lobbyist spending showed.

To listen to an audio version that ran on NMID’s media partner KUNM, click here.

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