Last Thursday, Senate Bill 537, the transparency bill which the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry helped to draft, passed the Senate on a unanimous 39-0 bipartisan vote. But with less than a week remaining in the 2015 legislative session, this broadly supported bill has yet to be heard in its first House committee.
SB 537 is a transparency measure to enhance the state Sunshine Portal by requiring that additional information on state contracts be available publicly through the portal.
ACI President and CEO Dr. Beverlee McClure said last week’s vote is a testimony to the broad appeal of the proposal, and urged the House to take action on the bill. “Not a single vote has been cast against SB 537 from either party,” McClure explained. “With limited funds and only days remaining in the 2015 session, this is a prime example of something positive that we can still get done. SB 537 will increase transparency and create opportunities for New Mexicans.”
SB 537 has been assigned to two House Committees: the House Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee. The bill, which is sponsored by Republican Senator Sander Rue and Democratic Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard, represents a rare opportunity for agreement as this legislature draws to a close.
In 2014, ACI member businesses expressed concerns that New Mexico companies were not being given a fair chance to compete for state contracts. Through a series of public inquiries in 2014, ACI discovered that it is extremely difficult or impossible to access information on factors used in awarding state contracts, or even the percentage of state dollars spent with New Mexico businesses versus out-of-state companies. Research has shown substantial economic benefits to in-state procurement, as up to 60% of money spent in-state is reinvested in the local economy, benefiting other local businesses and spurring local job creation.
ACI has long held that in-state companies should not be given an unfair advantage at expense to taxpayers, but that the economic benefits of spending money in-state should be taken into account as a factor in procurement decisions. Working closely with New Mexico business leaders and legislators from both parties, ACI helped develop SB 537 as part of a solution.
“If all things are equal, they’re really not equal,” explained McClure. “If two companies bid to provide the same product or service at the same cost, the New Mexico company provides jobs and opportunities for New Mexicans, while the other company does not. But what ACI has found is that this information is all too frequently not taken into account, and there is not enough information available for taxpayers to see how their money is spent and why. I applaud the legislators who have put partisanship aside to support SB 357 and correct that problem.”