Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham today signs 42 bills into law. Courtesy photo
Governor Signs Series Of Bills Martinez Had Vetoed
By ANDREW OXFORD
Lobbyists usually have to report when they spend money on legislators and other government officials. But because of a loophole in New Mexico law, lobbyists do not have to report any expenses under $100.
Take a lawmaker to lunch and as long as the bill is $99.99 or less, you don’t have to tell a soul. That will change thanks to a new law. Sort of.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham today signed Senate Bill 191 to close this loophole by requiring lobbyists to provide the total of their expenses under $100. But they must list those expenses only in broad terms under three categories: meals and beverages, other entertainment and other expenditures.
The bill was one of 42 the new Democratic governor signed from a list of legislation that legislative leaders put on a fast track this year.
Lawmakers had approved each of the bills in some form during past years with bipartisan support, but each was vetoed by Lujan Grisham’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Some were bills sponsored by Republicans and some were sponsored by Democrats.
In signing the bills during a single morning, Lujan Grisham sought to show that the gridlock from the Martinez administration had eased.
“Today is a signal that we are in fact working together and we are in fact open for business,” Lujan Grisham told reporters while surrounded by Democratic and Republican lawmakers during a news conference in her Cabinet room.
But Republicans in the House of Representatives objected to the process. They argued that new lawmakers had never seen these bills before and that the so-called “rocket docket” amounted to rushing what is meant to be a deliberative process.
In the end, though, few Republicans voted against these bills.
Democrats celebrated the bill signings.
“The gridlock in Santa Fe is finally over,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.
Many of the bills were low-profile but dealt with big issues.
One was House Bill 66, which will require medical providers who conduct mammograms to inform patients about breast density, the sort of information that can be key in identifying breast cancer.
Senate Bill 48 will ensure better training on juvenile diabetes for school personnel.
Some bills will roll back transparency, such as Senate Bill 118. It will keep secret the names of victims of certain crimes and witnesses who are not in law enforcement.
Other bills are technical, such as changing the name of the Alcohol and Gaming Division to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, given that it no longer has anything to do with gambling.
The bill to require a bit more detail from lobbyists was sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos.
It closes a loophole that is relatively new. Legislators amended the state’s lobbying law in 2016.
In that process, an amendment by Ivey-Soto scrapped altogether the provision requiring lobbyists to report spending under $100.
Ivey-Soto told New Mexico In Depth back in 2016 that was not the intent. He sponsored a bill in 2018 to undo the amendment but Martinez vetoed it.
Some lobbyists had kept up the practice of reporting lump sums under $100, anyway. But it was apparently optional.
Lobbyists will still not have to report which officials they were trying to influence with those smaller expenses.
And legislators have shot down proposals to require lobbyists to report exactly which issues or pieces of legislation they are attempting to influence.
Still, Senate Bill 191 closes a loophole that had made it impossible to know exactly how much money special interests were spending on public officials.
“This legislation is an important win to ensure greater transparency and accountability within our government,” Chandler said in a statement
The bill passed without opposition in the Senate and it cleared the House of Representatives on 68-1 vote.
It will not take effect until July, more than three months after this year’s legislative session concludes.
List of “Rocket Docket” bills signed into law:
- HB 44: Career-Technical Teacher Development
- HB 50: Audit Reviews by Board of Finance
- HB 66: Mammogram Info Disclosure
- HB 72: Occupational Therapy Scope of Practice
- HB 74: Traditional Historic Community Qualifications
- HB 97: Local Government Investment Pool Participants
- HB 203: Economic Development Finance & Ag Enterprises
- HB 216: File County Subdivision Ordinances with State
- HB 217: Infrastructure Development Zone Meetings
- HB 229: Regional Air Center Special Economic District
- HB 242: Contact Lens & Glasses Prescriptions
- HB 250: Native American Student Needs Assessments
- HB 257: Enviro Services Gross Receipts Uses
- HB 226: Add Lay Midwives as Practitioners
- HB 227: Use of Teacher Attendance for Evaluations
- HB 237: Extend University Police Officer Authority
- HB 276: Establish Advanced Mapping Fund
- SB 193: Beef Council Assessment Opt-Out
- SB 198: Admin Office of the Courts Director Funds
- SB 199: Electronic Communications Privacy Act
- SB 215: Maternal Mortality & Morbidity Prevention Act
- SB 77: Landowner Liability for Cave Exploration
- SB 145: Coordinate Medical Transport
- SB 150: Homeowner Associations Changes
- SB 164: Prizes & Gifts for Insurance Customers
- SB 179: Disabilities Students Lottery Scholarships
- SB 9: Psychologist Prescription Certificates
- SB 28: Placement of Children in Protective Custody
- SB 48: Student Diabetes Management Act
- SB 58: Evidence and Research Based Funding Requests
- SB 149: Rename Alcohol & Gaming Division
- SB 191: Lobbyist Reporting Requirements
- SB 197: Judge Pro Tempore Fund
- SB 118: Protect Confidentiality of Crime Victims
- SB 18: Local Government Planning Fund
- SB 106: Short-Term Occupancy Rentals Tax
- SB 117: Wastewater System Financing – Martinez
- SB 157: Sick Leave for Educational Retirement Credit
- SB 189: Mobility Limitation Transport Placards
- SB 200: Massage Therapy Act
- SB 236: Disabled Veteran License Plate Options
- SB 244: Legal Services for Land Grants & Acequias