Common Cause New Mexico Legislative Preview
The 2015 New Mexico legislative session starts next Tuesday, January 20, and Common Cause New Mexico is geared up and ready to work for good and accountable government that is transparent to the people. We are excited to work with both sides of the aisle to get our bills passed, and while we know this is a long and ambitious list, we also know that with only 60 days every two years to get work done, we can’t let any opportunity pass us by. Our priority legislation for 2015 includes:
- Our proposed disclosure bill will overhaul the current law to bring it in line with both recent constitutional rulings and modern campaign practices. It would compel public disclosure of information about the campaign spending of PACs and other non-candidate campaign participants without crossing constitutional boundaries established by the courts.
- New Mexico is one of only nine states without an ethics commission, and our proposed bill amends the constitution to create an Independent State Ethics Commission to oversee the conduct of state officers and employees, campaign finance reporting, government contractors and lobbyists.
- Allowing online voter registration modernizes our election system as the traditional voter registration methods are increasingly out-of-date with new technology. Online registration improves access; alleviates the burden for state employees who currently have to type in each hand written form they receive; will save the state untold dollars in staff time; and allows for “cleaner” voter rolls.
- Updating the 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.
- Another area where New Mexico lags behind other states is in the disclosure of lobbyist activities. To update the Lobbyist Regulation Act, we should upgrade the lobbyist website, and publish reports more quickly and in a more searchable fashion.
- New Mexico could improve public confidence in the integrity of our state government by enacting a two-year waiting period before former elected officials can become lobbyists. Acknowledging the advantages provided by prior service in the legislature, the federal government and 28 other states provide for a hiatus or a pause between when a senator or representative leaves the legislature and when he or she can lobby former colleagues.
- Common Cause New Mexico supports the creation an independent commission to conduct redistricting to establish written criteria for re-drawing districts, and require a fair and transparent process for conducting redistricting. The drawing of electoral districts is rarely transparent.
- Open Primaries for Independent Voters is another issue we support. This is especially critical considering that the number of voters registering as DTS or Independent has tripled since 1982, from 7% of registered voters to nearly 22% of 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.
- We should extend the Voter Registration Deadline by allowing registration through the Saturday before Election Day. Democracy works best when the highest numbers of people possible participate in the process. Low voter turnout has been a problem in the United States, and registering though early voting is a very effective tool in terms of boosting voter turnout.
- Allowing 17 year olds to Vote in Primaries and Pre registering of 16 and 17 year olds, promotes democracy for our future. Encouraging people of all ages to register to vote and participate in their government is crucial to the continued viability of our democracy and to ensuring a robust political debate.
We will post full factsheets on all of the issues next week as soon as we have bill numbers for them all. Additionally, we will be updating the Democracy Wire blog daily to let you know where the bills are in the process and what you can do that day to help get them passed; we will send emails to our members weekly summarizing what happened and what is coming up; and we will spend each day in the Roundhouse working for you – stay tuned and stay involved – we can’t do it without you!