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Independent ethics commission, bond proposals win approval

A 40-year push to create an independent ethics commission in New Mexico succeeded Tuesday as voters agreed to amend the state Constitution, according to partial, unofficial election returns.

The creation of the seven-member panel comes after a series of ethics scandals rocked New Mexico in recent years, including the conviction last year of a former state senator on corruption charges.

Also headed for passage in Tuesday’s election was a $166 million bond package for capital projects throughout the state – with much of the money dedicated to helping New Mexico’s universities, colleges and speciality schools. Passage of the bonds won’t result in a property tax increase.

The ethics commission is the result of a compromise negotiated on the final night of the 2017 legislative session.

If approved, the panel will function as a clearinghouse of sorts for complaints involving state officials, legislative employees, lobbyists and government contractors.

New Mexico was one of only six states without an ethics commission.

The advocacy group Common Cause New Mexico has been pushing for an ethics commission for 40 years, said Heather Ferguson, executive director of the group.

Voters “finally got a chance to express their voices today at the ballot box,” she said. “I think they want to have faith in our system again.”

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