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Think New Mexico says all the state’s former bosses are fans of this bill. Toney Anaya, Jerry Apodaca, David Cargo, Garrey Carruthers and Gary Johnson favor HB 118, which prevents lobbyists and big-time government contractors from pitching cash to political campaigns. Gov. Bill Richardson rallied for the reform in his State of the State address.
The legislation is based on a report called “Restoring Trust” published in October 2009 by the New Mexico think tank. The bill takes aim at pay-to-play practices. (We first wrote about it a few weeks ago as part of our legislative update column, Making Sausage.)
The measure protects workers from retaliation by bosses if they report unethical or illegal behavior. It covers all government employees. It's a good companion for the proposals to create an ethics commission. What will the commission investigate if people don't feel comfortable reporting possible violations?
Sen. Michael Sanchez asked why it hadn't been sent to the Senate Finance Committee, since "that's the way things go down here" sometimes. (The domestic partnership bill was sent to the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. And that might be the "kiss of death," because it's a third committee in a 30-day session.)
The Whistleblower Protection Act was passed in 2007 unanimously by the Senate but was vetoed by the governor. This year, the measure passed the Senate initially on a 40-0 vote. But then Sens. Michael Sanchez and Phil Griego stood up and asked to have their votes changed. So it ended up passing 38-2.
Gov. Bill Richardson controls which non-budgetary bills make it into the short, 30-day session. The governor issues a executive message telling the House or the Senate to consider such measures.
Phil Sisneros, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, says AG Gary King is pushing four ethics bills this year. Three of them have received messages. One probably won’t. The session began Tuesday, Jan. 19.
1) A whistleblower protection act that would prevent an employer from retaliating against a worker who discloses illegal or improper actions. This has been messaged in the House.
2) An extension of the Governmental Conduct Act to apply to all local governments. It would prohibit the use of public office or position for personal financial benefit. This has been messaged and will be carried by Sen. Tim Eichenberg.
3) As things stand, lobbyists only have to register with the secretary of state only if they’re lobbying legislators during the session. King is proposing lobbyists would have to register to lobby any state office, including the Governor’s Office, the AG’s Office, etc. They would have to register at any time, as well, not just during the session. This would be carried by Sen. Dede Feldman.
The Governor’s Office sent along this statement regarding why this probably won’t be messaged:
“At this time we feel the Government Conduct Act as well as existing lobbyist registration requirements adequately cover the people targeted under the proposed expanded definition.”
4) The final ethics measure would require anyone seeking contracts with the state entity to disclose contributions to government foundations. Potential contractors would have to disclose direct or indirect donations. Sisneros gave this hypothetical example: Say an Albuquerque public official wants to take a trip to France. He could ask contributors to give money to a zoo foundation. Then the foundation would pay for the trip to France. That cash donation would never show up as a contribution to that public official. “That can happen right now unless we close this little loophole,” Sisneros says. This has been messaged and will also be carried by Feldman.