KRWG

Will our wishes come true this session? (Some already have!)

Jan 22, 2016

  Sometimes wishes are granted.

Sometimes the outcome is close.

Sometimes a bill might fit the bill.

In November, New Mexico In Depth offered up a money-in-politics wish list of sorts.

Two months later, we’re seeing movement, some of it significant, that could potentially move New Mexico up from the D- it recently received on integrity in a national study.

Here’s a look at a few things that have been accomplished:

The Secretary of State’s campaign finance website now provides for bulk downloads of data on lobbyists, candidates and PACs. Search fields also have been enhanced on the site, making it more user-friendly.

Lobbyists now may specify the client who wrote a campaign contribution check in their filings. Despite this improvement and some specific new guidelines from the Secretary of State, the lobbyist team of Dan Weaks and Marla Shoats still filed duplicate donations in their most recent report (so deduct $9,200 from the totals reported on the website).

Some more specific lobbyist reporting on spending on public officials resulted from the new SOS guidelines. But there’s still a ways to go. As NMID reported this week, there are plenty of lobbyists still reporting aggregate sums instead of details.

But sometimes there’s a bill for that:

House Bill 137 would require more specific expense reporting by lobbyists. Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, is the bill sponsor.

House Bill 105 improves electronic reporting by lobbyists in line with the recent SOS advice, and includes an additional reporting period in October. Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, is the bill sponsor.

House Bill 136 would require lobbyists and their employers to disclose bills and issues they’re working on, giving the public more information about who is trying to influence lawmakers. Steinborn is the sponsor.

House Bill 135 would require employers to disclose lobbyists’ pay. Steinborn is the sponsor.

Senate Bill 11 would require specific reporting on independent campaign spending, including disclosure of the spending on advertising. The bill also requires disclosure of employers of donors giving $250 or more. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Smith are the sponsors.

House Joint Resolution 5 and House Bill 80 would create an independent ethics commission. That commission would have the tools to educate elected officials and the public about state ethics requirements as well as enforce those requirements. Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, is the sponsor of the joint resolution, which would amend the state Constitution and require voter approval. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, is sponsor of the the bill, which would make the commission statutory.

Dines' ethics commission resolution would go straight to voters if both House and Senate approve it. Common Cause New Mexico says Gov. Susana Martinez will issue a message on Smith’s lobbyist reporting bill. It would be great for her to extend messages to the other measures on our wish list as well.

And we’d still like to see more frequent campaign finance reporting between July and September of election years, and quarterly reporting instead of biannual reporting during off years.

But for now, we’re happy that at least a few of our wishes are coming true.