Legislation to create an independent ethics commission passed the House on a bipartisan vote late Tuesday night. 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.
A measure to give New Mexico an independent ethics commission passed its second test unanimously Tuesday afternoon, but not without long debate. The bill, carried by Rep Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, establishes a body of nine people charged with weighing ethics complaints submitted to them against state government officials, employees and government contractors. Dines, a retired lawyer who in his second year as a legislator, said he supported such a commission long before he became a lawmaker. But he added that his short experience in the Roundhouse also helped shape his bill. “What I’ve learned is, I really think we need this for ourselves,” Dines told committee.
A bill to allow local governments to impose curfews on minors jumped through its second House committee, this time with some Democratic support. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, joined with seven Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee to vote yes on the bill. Maestas had been previously public about his support. “I’m stuck on this one,” Maestas said at committee. “I lean towards local control.”
The bill allows cities and counties to set up their own curfews for minors under 16 years of age.
The House voted to approve a voter ID bill after three hours of debate, the latest in a long line of Republican priorities that have passed this session. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would require voters to present a form of identification when voting in person or by mail. The legislation passed on a 37-29 vote. While presenting the bill Brown said her aim was to prevent voter fraud no matter how prevalent it is. She argued that if laws were written based on how often crimes are committed, many current laws would be non-existent.
A panel with a Republican majority split along party lines on Friday to approve a bill requiring voters to present photo identification before casting election ballots. Similar requirements enacted in other states have ignited controversy and costly court battles; critics contend voter ID laws disenfranchise eligible voters from low-income and minority communities. The legislation now heads to the House floor. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, said HB 340 was drafted to safeguard the integrity of the elections process while also passing constitutional muster. “I like to think of this more as voter authentication,” Brown told members of the House Judiciary Committee.
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 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.
Republicans have introduced legislation requiring photo identification to vote for years. Now with a majority in the House, Republicans hope this is the year that this legislation finally becomes law. From 2009 to 2013 Rep. Dianne Hamilton, R-Silver City, was behind the bills outlining voter ID requirements or penalties for voter fraud. In the past two years, the bills have also been sponsored by Reps. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, and Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad.