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Ethics commission hits dead end in Senate panel

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Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, left, and Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, answer questions about their proposed costitutional amendment that would create an independent ethics commissionin, during a Senate Rules committee meeting at the Roundhouse Monday February 15, 2016. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — A renewed attempt to create a New Mexico ethics commission to look into complaints against legislators, other elected officials and lobbyists stalled this morning in a Senate committee and is likely dead for the 30-day session that ends Thursday.

The sponsor of the ethics commission measure, Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, told members of the Senate Rules Committee he was not comfortable with the committee’s proposed changes to the legislation.

Specifically, Dines said he would no longer want his name appearing on the measure if the changes were adopted.

One of the proposed changes to the ethics commission legislation would have reduced the body’s authority, which Dines said have meant less public access to its deliberations.

“We’re going to have to embrace transparency,” Dines told senators. “It’s something that we’re going to need to have to have an effective ethics commission.”

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The proposed ethics commission, House Joint Resolution 5, was approved by the House on a 50-10 vote last week. The idea was sparked by recent scandals involving New Mexico elected officials.

If approved by the Legislature, the ethics commission proposal would have been placed on the November ballot.

Instead, it will meet the same fate as previous attempts to enact an ethics commission. Several previous ethics commission measures also passed the House but died in the Senate, most recently in 2013.

Several members of the Senate Rules Committee said today they plan to keep working on the issue, but added they want to be sure any enacted ethics commission is well thought out.

“We’re at a point where this needs to be done,” said Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque. “I’m disappointed we didn’t get it done this year.”

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The Senate Rules committee meeting debates a proposed constitutional amendment at the Roundhouse Monday February 15, 2016. The amendment would create an independent ethics commission. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)


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