When, on the last day of the legislative session, the New Mexico State Senate concurred with the House Amendments to SB 668, the State Ethics Commission Act, the legislature met the demand of more than 75% of New Mexico’s voters who approved the constitutional amendment creating the State Ethics Commission last November. New Mexico voters expected results, and they got them
During the fall and summer of 2018, New Mexico Ethics Watch (NMEW) participated in the legislature’s Ethics Commission Working Group, along with fellow advocacy groups Common Cause, New Mexico First, the League of Women Voters and the NM Foundation for Open Government, the business community and interested citizens. Chaired by former State Representative Jim Dines and State Senator Linda Lopez, the working group discussions led to a draft bill, which became, in many respects, the model for the State Ethics Commission Act first introduced during this past session by State Representative Daymon Ely as HB 4.
Working with both determination and grace, and gaining bipartisan support in the House, Rep. Ely’s moved his bill through two House committees and the full House, before it moved to the Senate Rules Committee (SRC). When a voting deadlock rendered HB 4 and Senator Lopez’s competing SB 619 substitute stuck in the SRC, State Senator Mimi Stewart, through use of a dummy bill, moved SB 668 through the Senate Education Committee as a substitute bill and into the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it was amended before moving to the Senate floor. On the Senate floor, SB 668 was amended seven additional times, before it passed unanimously in the Senate, 40-0, and moved to the House Judiciary Committee.
In the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Ely, again with bipartisan support, and the chief assistance of Rep. Greg Nibert, amended SB 668 to more closely resemble the commission structure outlined in HB 4 and to strengthen transparency safeguards. Working closely with Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, Rep. Ely fashioned SB 668 into legislation that all considered fair to those who would be under the jurisdiction of the commission and that would meet the public’s demand for strength, independence and transparency.
On the House floor, SB 668, the State Ethics Commission Act, was amended twice more, and then passed the House unanimously, by a vote of 66-0. On the final day of the session, the Senate concurred with the House amendments, and the State Ethics Commission Act is now on the governor’s desk for signing into law, effective July 1, 2019.
Is it a perfect bill? No. In fact, it does not rise up to meet several of the elements NMEW outlined in its January Essential Elements for an Independent Ethics Commission document. But it does provide for an independent ethics commission, with a transparent process that is fair, and the ability to expand, as the commission sees fit to recommend. NMEW believes the law will meet the expectations of the public and assist in promoting a strong ethical culture in New Mexico!
Now, on to the regulatory process…