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Ethics commission proposal faces scrutiny in Senate panel

SANTA FE, N.M. — A House-approved proposal to create an independent ethics commission ran into a thicket of technical questions in its first Senate committee today, though at least one senator insisted he wasn’t trying to kill the measure.

After nearly two hours of questioning in the Senate Rules Committee, the ethics committee plan was eventually held over so that possible changes could be made to it. A vote is now expected to happen tomorrow.

At one point toward the end of today’s hearing, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, bristled at social media postings by media members on the committee’s deliberations.

“Please do not mistake the deliberative nature of the Senate for trying to kill something,” Ivey-Soto said.

The proposed ethics commission, House Joint Resolution 5, was sparked by recent scandals involving New Mexico elected officials.

If approved by both legislative houses and by statewide voters in November, the nine-member ethics commission would look into alleged violations of state laws by legislators, other elected officials and lobbyists. The body would hold public hearings to resolve complaints, which could not be anonymous.

After today’s hearing, Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, the measure’s sponsor, said he’s open to addressing the concerns of senators, which included how long of terms ethics commissioners should have.

“I’m certainly not going to shut the door to chat on any of the issues,” Dines said in an interview. “I don’t think it’s an extra hurdle at all.”

The measure cleared the House on a 50-10 vote last week.

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