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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

NM Senate Rules Committee Continues Glacial Pace on Ethics Bills

As Steven Robert Allen, Executive Director of Common Cause NM puts it:

... from our standpoint, watching “the action” in this committee [Senate Rules] has been roughly analogous to watching grass grow. (I can almost hear the crickets chirping!)

No major ethics reform bill has yet made it out of Senate Rules.

We’ll see what happens today with numerous bills addressing a state contractor contribution ban, general campaign contribution limits, and creation of an independent state ethics commission all on the schedule.

ProngieWhat happened today was more of the same inaction and meandering rumination that those of us who've been following the SRC hearings have witnessed before. Once again, no major ethics reform bills were voted upon. Sen. Linda Lopez, who chairs the Committee, called the meeting to order late. Then we were treated to a long-winded and rambling discussion about pronghorn antelope herd management and hunters' abuse of the land -- with a side of commentary on quail hunting. Evidently these are passionate issues for Sen. Tim Jennings and Sen. Stuart Ingle, because they teamed up to drone on for more than a half hour during the discussion on the noncontroversial reappointment of a Game and Fish official.

I'm all for rational antelope herd management, but Jennings and Ingle mostly seemed bent on distracting the Committee from taking any meaningful action on the many critical ethics reform bills that are log-jammed in Rules. Are they engaging in obstructionist tactics, given their well-known anti-reform viewpoints? You decide.

To me, their behavior seems more than a little insulting, cynical and irresponsible. Sen. Lopez, however, appears to be just fine with it. She controls the Committee and she allows this kind of time wasting to happen, without complaint. Of course, Jennings IS the Senate Pro-Tem, thanks to his hook up with Republicans and a handful of Dems willing to vote against the wishes of their caucus.

I have to admit I find it all a bit embarrassing to witness. What I'm seeing -- live and shamelessly presented -- appears to be a circus act organized to placate big donors and the status quo power bloc. And the people be damned. It can't just be me, can it?

So what did the SRC accomplish this morning? A couple of Do Passes on minor appointments. Passage of Rep. Ingle's SB 451 (as amended) to limit donations to the PERA Board candidates to $75 per four-year cycle -- aimed at minimizing the power of AFSCME to support new faces on the board. (Jennings liked the campaign contribution limits in this case, and voted for the bill.) A unanimous Do Pass (as amended) on Sen. Carlos Cisneros' SJM 33, Funds for New Mexico Role in National Energy Strategy. The end.

As Heath Haussamen lays out in his on today's Committee hearing, Sen. Lopez promised to take up the substitute bill on campaign contributions from state contractors on Friday, and deal with other major ethics reform bills next week. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

You can replay this morning's live blogging on the SRC meeting at NMI here.

To see our previous posts on ethics and campaign finance reform, visit our archive.

February 25, 2009 at 12:19 PM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink


This brings back fond[?] memories of the 2005 DPBC Central Committee meeting.

Sen. Linda Lopez, who chairs the Committee, called the meeting to order late.
Sen. Lopez runs true to form... again. Grrrrr!

Posted by: Proud Democrat | Feb 25, 2009 3:47:22 PM

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