New Mexico First Blog

Government Ethics and Transparency Key Focus, 2019 Legislative Session

Good Government Tops 2019 Session Agenda

The 2019 New Mexico Legislative Session saw great strides made in promoting ethics and transparency in government. One of the most followed legislative proposals now law establishes a state ethics commission. Overall topics covered included establishing government ethics decision making entities, public records and the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), voting and elections, lobbying, public spending and media publication. Legislative leadership from both Republicans and Democrats was key throughout the session in passing meaningful legislative proposals. Undoubtedly, the success of various proposals is due mostly to the efforts of nonprofit organizations that worked on these issues for many years and whose missions include advocating for the public’s right to access, engage and follow government processes and actions.

Summary of Legislative Proposals

Government Ethics Decision Making Entities

SB 668 – STATE ETHICS COMMISSION ACT (Ely, Stewart, Ivey-Soto)

Status: Signed into law Related legislation: HB 4 – STATE ETHICS COMMISSION ACT (Ely)

This law provides for a state ethics commission with the policy guidelines and authority necessary for its process and operations. The legislation establishes the blueprint for the public to file complaints when they have a concern about government officials, government contractors and lobbyists, for the commission to initiate, investigate and adjudicate complaints and also provide preemptive advisory guidance. Related legislation (HB 4 – State Ethics Commission Act, Ely)

SB 372 – PUBLIC CONTRACTS ETHICS ACT (Rue)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely*

The bill would have established the “public contracts ethics advisory opinion committee” within the New Mexico Office of Attorney General to prohibit and advise on conflicts of interest involving public employees, contractors, as well as current and former government officials. This committee would advise and seek to educate all persons required to perform duties under the Public Contracts Ethics Act.

*Note: Action postponed indefinitely (API) means the bill did not pass the legislature.

Public Records and IPRA

HB 26 – FEES FOR PUBLIC DOCUMENTS (Pratt)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

This bill would have allowed a custodian of public records to charge for providing a copy of a public record that shall not exceed the actual cost to the public body to provide the copy of the public record. The bill would have limited the maximum fee to 10 cents per printed page for documents that are 8.5 inches by 17 inches in size or smaller. The bill also aimed to limit the maximum fee an agency may charge to $10 for downloading copies of public records to a computer disk or storage device. Currently by rule, agency charges 25 cents per page for hard copy or pdf copy when staff is asked to produce a record.

HB 29 – IPRA REQUIREMENTS (Akhil)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

The bill would have changed in the law to require organizations that exists solely to serve the interests of a state agency, public college or university, or specified local governments to be subject to the Open Meetings Act (OMA) and the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). For example, a foundation that support a higher education institution would have to disclose its donor lists.

HB 370 – CRIMINAL RECORD EXPUNGEMENT ACT (Maestes, Romero, O’Neill)

Status: Signed into law Related legislation: SB493 – CRIMINAL EXPUNGEMENT ACT (R. Martinez)

This law allows persons to petition for criminal record expungement to the appropriate district attorney, the Department of Public Safety, and the law enforcement agency that arrested the person if they are (1) a victim of identity theft or are wrongfully arrested, indicted or charged for a crime; (2) released without conviction for a violation of a municipal ordinance, misdemeanor, or felony; or (3) convicted of a violation of a municipal ordinance, misdemeanor, or felony. The court is required to conduct a hearing on the petition and to issue an orderwithin 30 days of the hearing that requires all related arrest records and public records be expunged, provided the required showings and findings are made as required by the bill.

SB 232 – PUBLIC RECORD REQUESTS COSTS AND PROCEDURES (Woods)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

This bill would have amended the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). It sought to require public records requests made for commercial purposes to state those purposes and allow public bodies to charge additional costs and fees for public records requests that require “extensive use” of technology or personnel, and additional reasonable fees associated with public records requests. Additionally, the bill would allow a public records custodian to recover costs and attorney fees related to legal actions under IPRA if the public body prevails or the legal action is deemed frivolous. It also allows the public body to challenge public requests that are deemed to have a purpose other than appropriate record collection or if requests are deemed burdensome.

SB 259 – DISCLOSE FINALISTS FOR APPOINTIVE POSITIONS (Tallman)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

This bill would have required publication of the names and resumes of at least three finalists for appointed executive positions other than political appointments, including cabinet secretaries. The names and resumes are to be posted for at least 10 days before a selection is made. The names of other non-finalist applicants would not have to be made public. This proposal had IPRA implications.

SB 285 – IPRA FAILURE TO PERMIT INSPECTIONS (Candelaria)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

If this bill had passed, a custodian of public records who has denied a request, who does not deliver or mail a written explanation of the denial within 15 days after the receipt of the written request or who fails to permit inspection of all records responsive to the written request that are nonexempt, would be in violation of the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).

SB 317 – HUMAN RIGHTS SETTLEMENTS ON SUNSHINE PORTAL (Rue)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

For settlements, this bill would have required the nature of the claim, the name of the state agency, and the total amount of the settlement to be posted to the Sunshine Portal within 30 days.

SB 381 – ADD PUBLIC RECORD PROTECTED PERSONAL ID INFO (Campos)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

This bill would have added email address and “any other unique identifier from which the identity of a person may be reasonably inferred by direct or indirect means” to the list of protected personal identifier information that can be redacted under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).

SB 442 – FEE FOR ELECTRONIC PUBLIC RECORDS (Sapien)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

This bill would have allowed record custodians to charge reasonable fees not in excess of one dollar per page for electronic documents.

SB 568 – ELECTRONIC DATABASE REDACTION SOFTWARE (Candelaria)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely, Related bill: SJM 13 – STUDY DOCUMENT REDACTION SOFTWARE (Candelaria)

This bill would have appropriated $1 million from the general fund to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for redaction software and an electronic document database conceivably to ease the burden of document production and redacting from the Department of Public Safety and increasing transparency.

Voting and Elections

HB 55 – AGREEMENT TO ELECT PRESIDENT BY POPULAR VOTE (Chasey, Ely, Roybal Caballero, Stewart, Cisneros)

Status: Signed into law

This law allows New Mexico to enter into a multistate compact to award the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The Secretary of State shall determine which presidential and vice-presidential candidates received the most nationwide votes and certify the appointment of electors for those candidates. The compact would take effect when states possessing a majority of the electoral votes (270) have joined the compact.

HM 6 / SM 11 – RISK FOR UNDERCOUNT IN 2020 CENSUS (T. Salazar, R. Martinez)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

These bills recognized the undercount in the 2010 census and requested fund state outreach efforts ahead of the 2020 Census.The legislators had not realized the funding concerns with the federal Census effort and the need for state level action. The state budget bill includes approximately $3.5 million for the effort to be dispersed by the Department of Finance and Administration to local and tribal governments and nonprofit training. Reportedly, some private groups have reportedly raised $700,000 to date to assist in the effort.

SB 416 – REDISTRICTING ACT (Moores, Tallman, Fajardo)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

This bill proposed the Redistricting Act, which would have established requirements and procedures for required redistricting of congressional, legislative, Public Regulation Commission, and Public Education Commission (PEC) districts on the basis of each decennial federal census. The Legislative Council Service (LCS) would be required to obtain federal census data and prepare redistricting plans accordingly. The bill was intended to prohibit redistricting plans from being drawn to favor one political party over the other or dilute the voting strength of a minority group. The bill also proposed procedures for the composition and establishment of a temporary redistricting commission to establish policies and advise LCS on redistricting plans and procedures.

SB 3 – CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORTING (Wirth)

Status: Signed into law

The new law revises the Campaign Reporting Act to define independent expenditures and coordinated expenditures and it also includes specific reporting requirements of individuals or entities that make independent expenditures as defined by the bill. This bill will reportedly help shine a light on “dark money” through increased disclosure requirements for donors to political campaigns and define requirements for independent expenditure reporting in our elections.

SB 4 – CAMPAIGN PUBLIC FINANCING CHANGES (Wirth)

Status: Signed into law

This law extends the qualifying period for candidates for the Public Regulation Commission and statewide judicial offices, which helps allow candidates to qualify for the program -- as well as restricts how public funds may be used by the candidate’s campaigns (i.e. not to pay immediate family members for campaign duties).

SB 672 – EARLY AND AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION (Lopez, Ivey-Soto, L. Trujillo)

Status: Signed into law

This new law automatically registers eligible citizens to vote while renewing or getting their driver’s license at the Motor Vehicle Department, unless they decline -- a process that has already been done through administrative rules by the NM Secretary of State for several years. Additionally, this law allows eligible individuals to register to vote on Election Day at most voting registration sites and polling locations around the state.

Lobbying

HB 131 – POST SESSION LOBBYING REPORTS (Hochman-Vigil, Thomson, Steinborn)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

The bill would have required lobbyists or their employers, after the session ends, to list each piece of legislation they lobbied on and whether they supported, opposed or took another position on the measure. It was amended to also prohibit lobbyists from making any expenditures on legislators during the session

Public Spending

HB 262 – PUBLICATION OF CAPITAL OUTLAY INFO (McQueen, Figueroa, Garratt)

SB 144 – CAPITAL OUTLAY PROJECT FUNDING PUBLICATION (Rue, Tallman, Garratt, CaNdelaria)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

These bills would have required the state’s Legislative Council Service to publish a list of all projects included in capital outlay bills passed by the legislature showing the amount of funding provided by each project sponsor, either a legislator or the governor, and the amount of funding, by sponsor, that would have been provided for each vetoed project. The list would have been posted to the Legislature’s website, with paper copies available upon request.

SB 58 – EVIDENCE AND RESEARCH BASED FUNDING REQUIRMENTS (Rue)

Status: Signed into law

This law amends the requirements for state agency performance-based program budget requests under the Accountability in Government Act to prioritize and promote the use of evidence-based, research-based, and promising sub-programs. It requires the DFA and the Legislative Finance Committee to include in their respective budget recommendations the amount of the budget recommendation that is intended for these types of sub-programs. The law is intended to encourage agencies to used methods of best practice, which in turn, should produce better outcomes that are more cost-effective than current practices in many areas.

Media Publication

HB 437 – RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN ACT AND PRIVATE INFO (Romero)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

This bill would have required online publishers to remove names included in articles of anyone who requested it.

SB 587 – PUBLICATION OF LEGAL NOTICES (Munoz)

Status: Action postponed indefinitely

This would have required newspapers to obtain a certified circulation audit before they could publish legal ads. This was tabled in committee.

SB 118 – PROTECT CONFIDENTIALITY OF CRIME VICTIMS (Candelaria, Hochman-Vigil, Ivey-Soto)

Status: Signed into law

This law protects the identities of crime victims and witnesses from being released.

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