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.
Lobbyists may end up reporting far less of their spending on lawmakers under a bill lauded for improving the state’s campaign finance system. House Bill 105, signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez on Monday, aims to make it easier for the public to access information about campaign contributions and lobbyists’ reporting. But the bill also ends a requirement that lobbyists report cumulative spending on lawmakers, and increases the limit for reporting from $75 to $100 per event. The original legislation struck the cumulative total requirement. The House Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee increased the reporting limit, a change that made it through two more committees as well as the full House of Representatives and Senate.
Lobbyists and their employers spent $236,828 on gifts, wining and dining for elected officials, their guests and staff during the 2016 legislative session. And that’s only a portion of what was spent during the 30-day session because it captures only those times lobbyists spent $500 or more on a single event.
We’ll know more about how entertained lawmakers were during the 30-day session when lobbyists and employers make their full reports on May 1. If Gov. Susana Martinez signs House Bill 105, lobbyists will have to file reports again in October. Right now lobbyists file full reports only in January and May. Last year, during a session twice as long, lobbyists reported spending nearly $300,000 during the session.
While ethics reform was on everyone’s mind when the 2016 Legislative Session began, the increased attention didn’t mean increased success in passing ethics bills. There were some small successes. The House will archive proceedings and a bill to streamline campaign finance reporting is on Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk. But the real ethics news was the crown jewel of ethics legislation—an independent ethics commission—once again failed after heading over to the Senate. And a bill to shine the light on so-called “dark money” failed on the House side.
By Sandra Fish | New Mexico In Depth
Lobbyists and organizations feted New Mexico legislators and other officials with more than $519,000 worth of food, drink and gifts from Jan. 15 through the end of April. Of the 600 lobbyists registered with the Secretary of State’s office to represent more than 750 clients, only 116 spent money during the session. Those individual lobbyists spent $334,419 on events such as the 100th Bill Party, electric toothbrushes, teddy bears, gift certificates and, in one instance, ammunition for concealed carry training. And 14 companies spent $184,685.
Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed two pieces of legislation but signed 24 more on Tuesday as the deadline to make a decision nears. Martinez vetoed legislation that would reduce time on probation for those with good behavior. The legislation passed both chambers unanimously. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, told New Mexico Political Report last week he hoped Martinez would sign the legislation, part of the criminal justice reform slate. “The point is to alleviate the stress of the probation department,” Maestas said at the time.
A bill that would prohibit lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving their respective position passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 57 to 10. Eight Republican and two Democratic members voted against the bill. HB 241, sponsored by Reps. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, and Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, would require lawmakers leaving their positions to wait two years before accepting compensation for lobbying services. Of the ten legislators who voted against the bill, only one asked the sponsor questions.
A poll of members of the business community in New Mexico finds that they support a ban on legislators working as lobbyists for two years after they leave their position in government. The results came from a poll conducted by Research and Polling, Inc. for the Committee for Economic Development. The poll was conducted last month and surveyed over 300 business leaders in the state, according to a press release announcing the poll and spoke about issues with lobbying and political donors and their effect on legislators and other elected officials. The full results of the poll are available here and are embedded below. CED is a non-profit group that describes itself as “a nonpartisan, business-led public policy organization.”
A bill that would stop former legislators, Public Regulation Commission members and cabinet secretaries from becoming paid lobbyists for two years after they leave the position is headed to the House floor. HB 241 passed the House Judiciary Committee after a short debate. The legislation passed the House last year but failed to pass the Senate. A companion bill is being sponsored by Bill O’Niell, D-Albuquerque, in the Senate. The Senate version has not received a committee hearing yet.
A House committee failed to pass a bill that would require more information from lobbyists at the state legislature. With one Republican member missing, The House Regulation and Public Affairs Committee voted 3-3 on a motion to pass HB 155, meaning the bill stays in the committee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, proposes to add more information to reports from lobbyists and their respective employers. The bill would also add requirements for how long the Secretary of State’s Office is required to post information about lobbyists. Viki Harrison, the executive director for political advocacy group Common Cause New Mexico was Steinborn’s expert witness.