Senate passes bill to bring dark money out of shadows

The state Senate voted Wednesday to require more transparency about the political spending of so-called “dark money” groups while also doubling the amount of money that individuals can donate to candidates for public office. Senate Bill 96 has won backing from campaign finance reform advocates who have pushed for years to close loopholes that allow groups to spend large sums of money to influence elections without having to disclose their donors. But a section that would allow candidates to raise far more money from private individuals prompted one Democrat to split with his party and oppose the proposal altogether. “People want money out of politics,” said Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces. “Growing our individual contribution limits is the wrong direction.”

Measure to create new ethics commission clears first hurdle

With the state wracked by successive corruption scandals involving top officials, several lawmakers seem to agree that this is the year for ethics reform in New Mexico. A committee of the state House of Representatives gave a boost to those hopes Thursday by advancing a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent ethics commission through a constitutional amendment. The commission would have the power to investigate complaints of misconduct by public officials, candidates, lobbyists and contractors. The complaints would be public, and the commission’s opinions could be appealed to the state courts. Campaign finance reform advocates and good government groups have fought for years to create such a body.

Lobbyists spent $1.7 million in 2016 in NM

The biggest spender among lobbyists in New Mexico last year was not employed by an oil company or a tobacco company or a mining company. Instead, it was a New York-based advocacy group for gun safety that spent $219,500. The reports, filed this week with the Secretary of State’s Office, show that Pedro Morillas, regional director for Everytown for Gun Safety, spent more than any other lobbyist in the state. And he completely outgunned the National Rifle Association, which spent just over $10,000 on New Mexico candidates last year. Overall, lobbyists spent more than $1.7 million in the state in 2016.

Democrats propose amendment calling for automatic voter registration

All eligible voters in New Mexico should be registered, and the government should do it for them automatically, three Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday in announcing a proposal to enshrine new election law in the state constitution. The legislators said their proposal for automatic voter registration would reduce costs and create a more accurate system. Another likely benefit would be more people voting and holding government accountable for policy decisions, said Rep. Liz Thomson, one of the measure’s sponsors. “The more voices we hear, the better we can represent them,” Thomson said. She is teaming on the proposed constitutional amendment with Rep. Javier Martinez and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto.

Pomp, circumstance and State of the State in photos

As is often the case, the first day of the 2017 legislative session began with lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters catching up and getting their bearings straight. The first day began with lawmakers settling into their new seating assignments and making new leadership official. Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, was elected Speaker of the House, while Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, was elected by the Democratic caucus to serve as the Majority Floor Leader.  

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An uphill battle at Secretary of State, but Toulouse Oliver says she’s up for it

After her first week in office, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is ready to get to work revamping the state election code. She said while there are a number of things she wants to focus on, her office might have to get creative financially. “We have a lot to do and we’re not fully funded to do it,” Toulouse Oliver told NM Political Report. Since former secretary Dianna Duran left office last year, there hasn’t been a lot of movement in terms of rule changes or reforms from the secretary’s office. Toulouse Oliver has long said she would work towards improving the state’s campaign finance rules if she were elected.

NM electors cast votes for Clinton

New Mexico’s electors officially cast the state’s five electoral college votes for Hillary Clinton Monday. Clinton won the state easily last month, even as she lost the national race to Republican Donald Trump when it comes to electoral votes. Trump received enough votes Monday to be formally named the president-elect. Each state receives an electoral vote for each member of the congressional delegation, plus Washington D.C. receives three electoral votes. Clinton received 48.3 percent of the vote in New Mexico, compared to 40 percent of the vote going to Trump.

New NM Secretary of State brings in new leadership

Monday marked the first full day in the office not just for New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, but also for two new staffers. Toulouse Oliver was sworn in as Secretary of State late last week, about a month ahead of when she was originally scheduled to take office. Toulouse Oliver’s office announced in a press release that John Blair is the new Deputy Secretary of State and Theresa Chavez-Romero is Toulouse Oliver’s executive assistant. Blair most recently worked for the U.S Department of Interior as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. Born and raised in Santa Fe, Blair also ran unsuccessfully in the primary election for the New Mexico state Senate in 2008.

Toulouse Oliver to take over as SOS in December

Maggie Toulouse Oliver will take over the Secretary of State’s office on Dec. 9, according to a release from Brad Winter, the current Secretary of State. She will be sworn into office on that day. Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, won election to the position this November over Republican Nora Espinoza. Winter became Secretary of State after Gov. Susana Martinez appointed him last December after the resignation of Dianna Duran.

State certifies election results, orders three recounts in legislative races

Hillary Clinton officially won New Mexico and its five electoral votes, after certification of results by the State Canvassing Board Tuesday. The board also certified the need for three recounts in legislative races, one of which heads into the recount with just a nine vote advantage. In the official results, 804,043 voters cast ballots, or 62.4 percent of the 1,289,414 voters who were registered in time to vote in the general election. Hillary Clinton received 48.26 percent of the votes cast in the presidential race, while Republican Donald Trump received 40.04 percent. Trump, however, received the most votes in enough states to win the presidency.