House Democrats Request Message for Ethics Legislation
House Democrats Request Message for Legislation
Focused on Transparency & Ethics in Government
Rebuilding trust and honesty in our government
SANTA FE – Today, House Democratic Leader Brian Egolf sent a letter of request to Governor Martinez to issue messages for a slate of ethics and transparency bills for public officials.
In order for bills that don’t directly focus on the budget to be heard in this year’s session, they must relate to a message from the Governor. Today’s letter requests that Governor Martinez allows the following bills to be heard:
- HB 80 (Egolf)- State Ethics Commission Act
- HB 96 (McQueen)- Pension Forfeiture for Guilty Public Officials
- HB 124 (Chasey)- Inaugural Committee Transparency
- HB TBA (Egolf)- Governor’s Contingency Fund Transparency and Audit
“It is absolutely critical that we hear ethics reform legislation this session. The people of New Mexico want and deserve more transparency and safeguards against corruption in our state. I’ve been pushing for similar legislation since I started in the legislature 5 years ago, and, with recent high-profile incidents, it’s clear that we cannot wait any longer,” said House Democratic Floor Leader Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe). “I call on the Governor to do the right thing – give our legislature the chance to make our government more transparent and accountable to the people that elect us. The systems we have in place are obviously not working, and it’s dangerous to wait another year to fix them.”
Representative Matthew McQueen (D-Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Torrance, & Valencia), who is sponsoring HB 96 to automatically take away state pensions from a politician who has been convicted of or plead guilty to a corruption offense, said, “This isn’t about political parties or elections, this is about stepping up to do what is right for the taxpayers in New Mexico, and I hope the Governor will let us enact these reforms.”
In addition to these two bills to address ethics and corruption, the request also included two transparency bills to fix loopholes that allow the Governor’s Office to spend funds without transparency or accountability.
HB 124, introduced by Representative Gail Chasey (D-Bernalillo), fixes a loophole that allows inaugural committees to raise and spend millions of dollars without any mandatory reporting or accountability. “When politicians are able to spend millions of dollars without the public knowing where it came from and where it goes, the doors open up for undue influence of big donors that can’t be scrutinized. We have a chance to fix this now, and we can’t wait any longer,” said Representative Chasey.
The second transparency bill addresses the Governor’s “contingency fund,” which is the only fund in the state that is not subject to an audit. “It’s unacceptable that a Governor can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money without transparency,” said Leader Egolf, “Many New Mexicans are worried about making ends meet, and they deserve to know where their tax dollars are being spent.” Currently, the office holder and staff have open access to the account and can spend the money freely without ever being audited. This is much different from other state funds, in which funds are sent directly to vendors or reimbursed. The bill would address both of these issues by changing state statute to allow audits of the account and require that the funds be held and distributed by the state, as opposed to private bank accounts.
The letter is below, and the bills can be found at http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/billfinder/house_legislation.aspx as they are prefiled.