subsequent scandals inspired the Legislature to adopt campaign spending limits
(which kick in for the 2012 election), gift limits for legislators and changes
in the structure of the State Investment Council.
One recurring proposal that never has gained much traction in the Legislature is establishing an independent ethics commission to investigate charges of official corruption. But lawmakers seem extremely reluctant to make this move. Last year, an ethics-commission bill that began moving through the committee process had stiffer penalties for those leaking information about investigations -- up to a year in jail and up to $26,000 in fines -- than for officials found guilty of ethics violations. They would have faced only a public reprimand.
While it's likely that ethics-commission proposals could be considered, during the campaign Martinez said she didn't support the idea. She said she preferred to let state police investigate corruption allegations. However, at this point there doesn't appear to be any money in Martinez's budget proposal for such investigations.
Once again, Think New Mexico, a Santa Fe-based think tank, will promote a bill that would prohibit campaign contributions from lobbyists and state contractors. The bill also would require nonprofit groups that engage in political activity during an election year to disclose their contributors.
During debates on a similar Think New Mexico bill last year, proponents argued that including the nonprofits is meant to attract conservative lawmakers who since the 2008 primary have railed against the Center for Civic Policy and affiliated Albuquerque-based groups for sending out full-color mailers spotlighting targeted legislators' voting records. Republicans and conservative Democrats said it wasn't fair that the organization didn't have to disclose who contributed. A federal judge upheld the group's right not to disclose.
Last year's version of the bill made it through the House, passing 46-24 on a near party-line vote, with most Democrats supporting it and most Republicans against it. But it passed too late in the Senate to be heard in any committee.
This year it might have a better chance of passing the Senate. Think New Mexico's Fred Nathan said it will be sponsored by Senate President pro-tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, and Republican leader Stuart Ingle of Portales.
THE LEADERSHIP BATTLE:
House members say it won't be clear until Tuesday whether Lujan, D-Nambe, will hang on as speaker. Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, has been working behind the scenes trying to woo Republicans as well as dissident Democrats who say that Lujan has been too liberal as well as too heavy-handed -- a charge the speaker vehemently denies.
Lujan for the past eight years was Richardson's most important ally in the Legislature. He's credited with saving several Richardson programs, including a major transportation program and the repeal of the gross-receipts tax on food.
Some say Lujan's loss could spell a loss of power for Northern New Mexico in the Legislature.
Last week, Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, said he could lose his position chairing the committee in charge of capital outlay if Lujan is ousted -- and that Varela could be removed as chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee and deputy chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. The speaker controls committee chairmanships. The speaker also has the power to decide how many committees a bill has to go through and what legislation gets heard on the House floor.
Cervantes last week declined to comment on his effort to unseat Lujan. But two of his major backers, Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces, and Andy Nunez, D-Hatch, said while the vote probably is close, they believe Cervantes has the votes to win. According to the state constitution, the speaker candidate who gets the most votes wins.
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