For Immediate Release 2017 Priority Legislation

Posted on January 9, 2017


New Mexico Legislative Session

1.     Our proposed disclosure legislation has passed the Senate FOUR times (the last three unanimously), as well as all House committees in prior years. This bill will overhaul the current law to bring it in line with both recent constitutional rulings and modern campaign practices by :

  • Requiring public disclosure of information about the campaign spending of PACs and other non-candidate campaign participants without crossing constitutional boundaries established by the courts
  • Requiring independent groups to disclose contributions and expenditures


Why this legislation is important to New Mexicans:

  • 92% of New Mexico voters support requiring that all large political contributions be made public
  • 63% of New Mexico voters support contribution limits for candidates


2.     New Mexico is one of only nine states without an ethics commission. Proposed legislation will amend the constitution to create an Independent State Ethics Commission to:

  • Oversee the conduct of state officers, employees, campaign finance reporting, contractors and lobbyists
  • Serve as a resource for officials to get guidance on issues and provide ethics training

The vast majority of elected officials in New Mexico are hard-working, ethical people who want the best for our state. Creating an independent ethics commission is a simple way to build voters’ trust in their government.


Why this legislation is important to New Mexicans:

  • 64% of voters think elected officials are more responsive to lobbyists than voters
  • 79% of voters believe corruption in New Mexico politics is a problem


3.     New Mexico lags far behind other states in Updating the Lobbyist Regulation Act. Recent data shows a 6:1 ratio of lobbyists to each state legislator - that puts New Mexico’s citizens at an alarming disadvantage to have their voice heard. 

To update the Lobbyist Regulation Act we must:

  • Raise the filing fee for lobbyists and their employers from $50 to $100
  • Amend the statute to require that all expenditures are reported, if the aggregate thereof equals $100 or more
  • Require lobbyists to report which legislative or administrative issue for which they have been employed to discuss with legislators so that the public knows who is lobbying for which legislation in New Mexico


Why this legislation is important to New Mexicans:

  • 90% of voters believe it is a good idea to require lobbyists to make public the bills and issues they have been hired to lobby on.


4.     Common Cause New Mexico supports the creation of an independent commission to conduct redistricting. This will establish written criteria for re-drawing district boundaries and require a fair and transparent process for conducting redistricting. The drawing of electoral districts is not transparent and all too often, there is no public participation. The resulting districts can often serve the political interests of the people who draw them, rather than the interests of the people being represented. 


Why this legislation is important to New Mexicans:

  • When voters feel that their input doesn’t matter, they stop participating. Seeing incumbents win time and again because districts are rigged to stifle competition creates a sense of incumbent inevitability and creates a disconnection between citizens and their elected officials. This combination of disenfranchisement and low voter participation is toxic to our democracy.


5.     Automatic Voter Registration is a process states are adopting to update our current paper-based system with a new electronic system that creates a secure database to automatically identify and register all eligible Americans to vote. The secure database actively updates voter registration information when people apply for or renew their driver’s license or when they change their address. 

  • Secure. Technology has dramatically changed the way we live. Unfortunately, our outdated paper-based system of voting hasn’t kept up with the times. An electronic automatic voter registration system would use a secure database to ensure that those who are ineligible to vote will not be able to take advantage of an insecure system.
  • Accessible. Automatic Voter Registration will protect the fundamental right of every American, regardless of party, to have their vote counted. And it will ensure that those who encounter barriers to voting – veterans, active military, senior citizens, and people with disabilities – are able to participate fully in our democracy.
  • Accurate. Each year, millions of voter paper registration forms are manually entered into a database. Too often, mistakes happen that deny eligible American citizens their right to vote. 


6.     Open Primaries for Independent Voters. This is a critical initiative as the number of voters registered as decline-to-state (“DTS”} or Independent has tripled since 1982, from 7% of total registered voters to nearly 22% of total registered voters. Even more telling is the party affiliation of younger voters – more voters aged 18 to 24 are registered as a DTS or Independent than with either major party in New Mexico, a clear signal that younger voters are turned off by partisan politics.


Why this legislation is important to New Mexicans:

Every vote should count in New Mexico, and by excluding such a large number of registered voters, we are denying them the right to participate in our democracy. New Mexicans are tired of partisan gridlock in Congress and in Santa Fe, and that is demonstrated most clearly by the rise in the number of voters who do not join one of the two major parties. Opening the primary election to all registered voters can help combat the apathy many people feel and help move towards engaging them in the public debate surrounding issues that are important to our citizens.


7.     Fixing New Mexico’s existing system of public campaign financing. New Mexico currently has three systems for public financing of campaigns: the Public Regulation Commission, Court of Appeals and the NM Supreme Court. On June 27, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of public campaign financing in the Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett decision. The ruling, however, struck down one mechanism used in some public financing programs, including New Mexico's Voter Action Act. While the current bill does not address what was struck down as far as matching funds, it does prohibit candidates who run unopposed from receiving more than 10% of the public funding available to them, and also prohibits the use of campaign funds for living expenses or compensation to the candidate or candidate’s family. 


Why this legislation is important to New Mexicans:

  • 76% of registered voters support changing the law to stop funding unopposed candidates


8.     We should extend the Voter Registration Deadline by allowing registration through the Saturday before Election Day. Democracy works best when the highest number of people participate in the process. Low voter turnout has been a problem in New Mexico, and registering through early voting is an effective way to boost voter turnout.


Why this legislation is important to New Mexicans:

Ten states plus the District of Columbia currently offer, or have enacted laws, which provide for, Election Day registration, allowing eligible citizens to register or update their records on Election Day.  Our election officials currently have the technology to process voter registration forms in real time thus allowing registration through the Saturday before Election Day.


9.     New Mexico should improve public confidence in the integrity of our state government by enacting a two-year waiting period before former elected officials can become lobbyists.


Why this legislation is important to New Mexicans:

At least 13 former senators and 13 former representatives currently lobby the legislature. These lobbyists’ established relationships with former colleagues combined with their experience and knowledge of the process makes them more influential than the average constituent or citizen lobbyist. Acknowledging these unfair advantages, the federal government and 28 other states already provide for a hiatus between the time a senator or representative leaves the legislature and when they are allowed to lobby former their colleague.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.

Office: Common Cause National, Common Cause New Mexico

Issues: Money in Politics, Money in Politics, Ethics, Ethics, Voting and Elections, Voting and Elections

Tags: Disclosure Laws, Disclosure, Creating an Ethics Commission , State Ethics, Create Redistricting Commissions, Redistricting, Count Every Vote New Mexico, Access to Voting , Registration and Voting Systems, Empowering Small Donors

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