After being briefly tabled last week
, the house bill aimed at banning political contributions from lobbyists and government contractors
is on the move again.
Today, a compromise bill
plus HB 172
) to ban political contributions from lobbyists, "seekers of targeted subsidies," "prospective state contractors" and to prohibit bundling cleared the House Voters & Elections Committee
in a 6-4 "do pass" vote. The bill, now HB 172, is en route to the House Judiciary Committee
"We're delighted, and I think it's going to get easier from here,
" Fred Nathan, the director of Think New Mexico
, a nonprofit think tank that's been pushing hard for the bill's passage, told SFR after the meeting. HB 118, sponsored by Rep. Jose Campos, D-DeBaca, merged with Rep. Gail Chasey's (D-Bernalillo) HB 172 after a disappointing committee hearing last Thursday.
"Clearly there's still work to be done
between now and Judiciary," Nathan says. "The not-for-profit issue, obviously, is what we need to address if we want to make this a bipartisan bill."
Nathan's alluding to the four votes against the bill, all of which came from Republican representatives. Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, R-Bernalillo, one of the bill's more vocal critics, expressed concerns that the ban on contributions would affect lobbyists and for-profit companies but not nonprofits.
"We are foolish to think that only business affects state government,"
Arnold-Jones told the committee. "What happened in our last election, and one of the reasons we are here, was that nonprofits also stepped over the line."
Though the League of Women Voters
, Carter Bundy of AFSCME
and even the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce
, which has been at odds
with Think New Mexico this session over the issue of a food tax, spoke in favor of the bill, Rep. Kathy McCoy, R-Bernalillo, echoed Arnold-Jones' worries about the exclusion of nonprofits
in the contributions ban.
"I'm very upset that nonprofits are not addressed," McCoy said. "It's just simply unfair."
Such concerns are justified, Nathan says, but shouldn't derail the bill completely.
"We do need to have some more discussions with Republicans," Nathan tells SFR. "But I agree with what Rep. Campos said: It seemed like they were moving the goalpost. Every time we tried to accommodate their concerns, there'd be a new concern."
In McCoy's view, the bill needs more "vetting" and more time—even though the 30-day budget session is past its halfway point.
"I'm very frustrated," McCoy told the committee. "We've all said we want transparency, good enforcement, all those things. When we deal with things like this, it becomes a burdensome, cumbersome process for the honest people, and the dishonest people always find a way around it.
That's just the reality."