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Ethics commission measure headed to full House, but concerns persist

SANTA FE, N.M. — A proposal to create a New Mexico ethics commission that would look into complaints against legislators, other elected officials and lobbyists is headed to the House floor, after clearing the House Judiciary Committee today on a 12-0 vote.

Despite the decisive vote, several committee members voiced concern during today’sĀ hearingĀ about filed complaints being made publicly available.

Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, said the transparency provision could be skin to “political napalm” in the hands of those with a politically-driven agenda.

“I think we could do a lot of damage to some very good people if we don’t make this tighter,” Brown said.

Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, the sponsor of the proposed constitutional amendment, acknowledged the transparency provision might make some lawmakers uncomfortable, but said it’s necessary in winning back public trust after several high-profile scandals involving New Mexico elected officials.

“I don’t think we need to be fearful of the fact we’re going to be transparent for the public,” Dines said during today’s hearing.

As a constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 5 would have to be approved by state voters in November in order to be enacted.

Under the proposal, any complaints would be kept confidential until the subject of the complaint responded or until a set amount of time had passed. The complaint and response would then be made public, along with the names of the parties involved.

Currently, many formal complaints against New Mexico elected officials are reviewed and investigated confidentially in a closed-door process.

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