March 13, 2019

Senate committee spikes lobbying disclosure bill

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New Mexico State Senate. Wikicommons

There are about 700 registered lobbyists bustling around the Capitol this year.

What are they working on?

They don’t have to say.

A Senate committee shot down legislation on Wednesday that would have required lobbyists to report which bills they are working on. House Bill 131 also would have barred lobbyists from making any expenditures on legislators while they are in session.

The bill had passed the House of Representatives with broad support. But the Senate Rules Committee voted to table it after little discussion.

Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, the legislation started out as a fairly straightforward transparency measure requiring additional disclosures from lobbyists.

While current law says lobbyists must report certain expenses, Steinborn has proposed in recent years that lobbyists also report which bills they are advocating for and against.

House members argued the measure would not only require more transparency and give the public more insight into what can often be a house-of-mirrors lawmaking process. It could also expose conflicts of interest, proponents said.

“You could actually see all the different players who had a role in a bill,” Steinborn told the Rules Committee. “Some of which, I assure you, you would had no idea had actually lobbied on the bill.”

House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, expanded the bill to ban lobbyists from making any expenditures on legislators during the session.

This significantly broadened the scope of the legislation but it passed that chamber 62-0.

But the Senate Rules Committee has quashed similar measures in the past.

And when the bill came up for a vote Wednesday, Republicans on the panel moved to table. With some Democrats having already left, the motion passed along party lines.