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House panel votes 6-5 in favor of “cooling off” bill for legislators-turned-lobbyists

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A proposal that would require former New Mexico lawmakers to wait at least two years before returning to the Legislature as lobbyists passed its first legislative hurdle today.

The House Business and Industry Committee voted 6-5 to advance the legislation, which would align New Mexico with more than 30 other states that already have “cooling off” periods in place.

Rep. Emily Kane, D-Albuquerque, the bill’s sponsor, said the measure would help restore public trust to the legislative process.

“I believe this is good public policy,” Kane said. “I think it’s something our constituents deserve.”

However, critics of the legislation say it would place unnecessary career restrictions on lawmakers.

New Mexico is the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary, though lawmakers do receive a per diem intended to cover the cost of lodging and meals.

“I think the general public misunderstands what the role of a lobbyist is,” said House Republican Leader Donald Bratton of Hobbs. “Lobbyists aren’t here passing out suitcases of money to influence decisions one way or another.”

The cooling off legislation, which has been unsuccessful in recent legislative sessions, is supported by Gov. Susana Martinez.

After today’s vote, the measure now advances to the House Judiciary Committee.

Check tomorrow’s Journal for more information and click here for a previous story on the revolving door issue.

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