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Pension forfeiture bill clears House via 61-7 vote

SANTA FE — A bipartisan bill stipulating New Mexico elected officials convicted of public corruption charges would have to forfeit their pension benefits is on its way to the Senate.

The proposal, House Bill 109, passed the House on a 61-7 vote this evening, with one of the bill’s two sponsors saying the legislation would send a message.

“This is something I think the citizens of our state are interested in,” said Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo.

New Mexico already has a law that allows a judge to fine convicted public officials up to the value of their salaries and “fringe benefits,” but it doesn’t specify pensions.

The bill approved by the House would allow an elected official convicted of public corruption — its definition includes fraud, embezzlement and several other crimes — to have their pension contributions refunded. But it would make them ineligible to receive the full taxpayer benefits they’d otherwise be entitled to.

The issue has surfaced in several recent criminal cases — including those of former Secretary of State Dianna Duran and ex-state senator Phil Griego — and Attorney General Hector Balderas has said the current law lacks teeth and needs to be strengthened.

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