February 10, 2016

Independent ethics committee legislation heads to Senate

Legislation to create an independent ethics commission passed the House on a bipartisan vote late Tuesday night.

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, HJR 5 would create an independent commission to field and take action on complaints made about state officials. Since it is a proposed constitutional amendment, if  both the House and the Senate pass the legislation, the issue would go to the voters in November for approval.

Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, raised a number of concerns, one of which was how to fund it.

“My concern is this could balloon into significant money,” Brown said. With very little new money this year, money has been one of the top topics of discussion by legislators.

Except for one member, Democrats largely stood behind the bill ending with a vote of 50-10.

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, praised the bill and said he hopes it passes the Senate. McCamley offered to co-sponsor the bill in the future in the event it doesn’t pass this year.

“All you have to do is ask,” McCamley told Dines.

Dines told the body that a commission is needed because the current system “is not working.”

The last time the House passed legislation to create an ethics commission was in 2013. That year the bill made it to the Senate, but failed to pass any committees. The Senate has been the killing ground for ethics commissions in the past.

The Senate will now have nine days to do what took the House 21 days to do, and pass the proposal through the committee process and then the floor.