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Monday, January 26, 2009

Sen. Dede Feldman Intros Two Key Ethics Reform Bills

Sen. Dede Feldman with Sen. Tim Keller, Rep. Karen Giannini, Sen. Cisco McSorley at this month's DFA-DFNM Meetup

It's clear that we have another fight on our hands this year, as in past years, to get meaningful ethics reform legislation through the New Mexico Legislature -- and especially through the NM Senate. We can't stop wayward Democratic Senators from joining with Repubs to elect an anti-ethics reform Senate Pro-Tem in the person of Sen. Tim Jennings. We can't stop ethics bills from being sent to their likely death by virtue of being referred to three committees.

What we can do is call and email our own legislators and those who serve on the committees where the bills will be heard. We can urge them to do what's right and vote to help clean up the way business is conducted at the Roundhouse and in the state.

It's conventional wisdom that the public doesn't care enough about pay-to-play schemes and unlimited campaign donations to do anything about it. If we are ever to reach a tipping point on reform, we must make our voices heard, loud and clear. In a Senate press release, Sen. Dede Feldman explains.

“Our present system of financing campaigns through unlimited contributions is no longer serving candidates, donors, and especially the public. And to keep ethics reform moving forward, we also need a State Ethics Commission. Both of these steps are imperative if we are going to restore our citizens’ confidence in our political system, given the rash of recent ethics embarrassments for our State,” said Senator Dede Feldman (D-Bernalillo-13), Chair of the Senate Public Affairs Committee, in addressing two of the ethics bills she introduced on the third day of the current legislative session.

Senate Bill 116 would add new language to the Campaign Reporting Act to limit campaign contributions from an individual to a candidate for non-statewide office to $2,300 and to limit individual contributions to a candidate for statewide office to $5,000. For political committees the corresponding limits would be $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general election and $10,000 in each instance to a candidate for statewide office. Contributions to political committees from individuals would be limited to $5,000 annually, while contributions from one political committee to another would be limited to $10,000 annually.

These initial amounts would be adjusted after each general election based on any increases in the consumer price index during the preceding two years. The candidate contribution limits would not apply to a candidate’s own contribution to that candidate’s campaign.

Senate Bill 140 would establish a State Ethics Commission which would have authority with respect to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The Commission would be composed of ten commissioners serving four-year staggered terms: four appointed by the Governor – with no more than two from one political party – four by the legislative majority and minority leadership, and two by the chief justice of the state supreme court – each from a different political party.

Among other things, the Commission would have authority to initiate or receive and investigate complaints alleging ethics violations against state officials and employees, government contractors and lobbyists. It could also: issue public reprimands and censures; report findings of probable cause for violations and recommendations for disciplinary action to employers, state agencies or the legislature; provide advisory opinions and reports for the public; exercise subpoena power through the Attorney General for its investigations; and refer possible criminal violations to the Attorney General or appropriate district attorney. The Commission would employ an executive director who would carry out the day-to-day activities of the Commission and report to the Commission.

“Both of these bills will help draw bright lines as to what is ethical and what is beyond the pale,” said Senator Feldman. “I am more hopeful than I have ever been that we can take at least these first steps during this legislative session.”

Both SB 116 and SB 140 are now in the Senate Rules Committee, where a number of ethics bills met their death last year. Click on the names of the legislators to get their contact info:


Monday, Wednesday & Friday - 8:00 a.m. (Room 321)

SenatorLinda M. LopezChair
SenatorPeter WirthVice Chair
SenatorDianna J. DuranMember
SenatorDede FeldmanMember
SenatorStuart IngleMember
SenatorTimothy Z. JenningsMember
SenatorMichael S. SanchezMember
SenatorKent L. CravensRanking Member

Click on photo for larger image. Photo by M.E. Broderick.

January 26, 2009 at 10:37 PM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink


SB 116: considering the state of the economy, I think there should be a provision for DECREASING the limits if the CPI goes DOWN. Also the bill does not limit the amount a candidate can contribute to his/her own campaign.

SB 140: I don't think the governor should get to appoint 4 of the 10 members of the commission. Also there is no provision for gender balance. I think there should be a limit of 6 members of the same gender.

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Jan 27, 2009 6:15:43 AM

I think that ethics reform is critical to taking back our government. I hope that people can stand behind these bills as the beginning of a better life for us all.

Thank you Senator Feldman for continuing the fight for what is right for us all.

Terry Riley

Posted by: Terry Riley | Jan 27, 2009 8:10:40 AM