Multiple legislative efforts to establish an ethics commission in New Mexico have been attempted in recent years. Until this year, these efforts have failed. This week, an overwhelming majority of New Mexican voters (75%) decided to amend the constitution to create a state ethics commission. The commission will have the jurisdiction to investigate, adjudicate and issue advisory opinions concerning civil violations of laws governing ethics and standards of conduct.
In recent years, New Mexico First has contributed significant research to the policy question of whether to establish an ethics commission and how to ensure it is effective. This work began in 2016 with a comprehensive report on ethics commissions across the nation as well as multiple focus groups about the pros and cons of establishing an ethics commission to oversee New Mexico governmental officials. Four focus groups were conducted in Las Cruces and Albuquerque, with participants including Republicans and Democrats, and comprised of current officials, former officials, government employees, judges, and journalists among others. The project ended with an ethics commission focus groups findings report.
This research, combined with efforts from multiple public officials and organizations, influenced the passage of the constitutional amendment to create an ethics commission.
What comes next? During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers will decide how the commission will operate. Enabling legislation is being drafted to create rules for the commission’s day-to-day management. The commission may oversee actions of state officers and staff of the executive and legislative branches, plus candidates, lobbyists, government contractors and those seeking government contracts.
New Mexico First encourages the legislature to develop strong, smart legislation to ensure the commission is responsive to the voters calls for transparency
and accountability from state government as well as preventive guidance for those seeking direction.