Skeptical lawmakers rejected a proposal Monday that would have given the public more information about lobbying at the state Legislature.
The bill (HB 155) would have required lobbyists to divulge their salaries, file reports of their estimated and actual lobbying expenses, and list the issues—but not the exact bills—they are working on.
The goal was to give citizens an easy way to find out how much special interest groups pay to influence lawmakers, said the bill’s sponsor, Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces. " For the first time in the state of New Mexico, a citizen could go and find out how much that interest group pays to influence lawmakers," Steinborn told the committee. "Right now citizens don’t know anything and have no basis for understanding the influence of the army of lobbyists here," he said.
But the reforms amounted to an “overreach” that would have required “way too much information” from businesses, said Alamogordo Republican Yvette Herrell, chairwoman of the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee.
“If we were to list every single piece of legislation that we’re involved with it would probably be 95 percent of all of the bills in front of you,” Bryan Wachter, a lobbyist for the New Mexico Retail Association, told the committee.
Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, expressed concern that the new rules would have negatively impacted citizens who come to Santa Fe to lobby their lawmakers. Steinborn said unpaid citizen lobbyists would not be subject to the rules because it asked for information about employers.
But Liliana Castillo, communications and outreach manager for Conservation Voters of New Mexico, said her group would be willing to fill out the extra paperwork in order to give the public more insight into how their government works.
“Don’t get me wrong, it would of course add a little work on our part but we think New Mexico deserves it,” Castillo said Monday. “If people are spending thousands of dollars, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence legislation, that extra step should be taken.”
A 3-3 vote along party lines effectively shelved the bill.
This story is part of a reporting partnership between New Mexico In Depth, KUNM and NMPBS, People, Power and Democracy, that attempts to pull back the curtain on how the New Mexico Legislature works and, in some cases, doesn’t. It's funded by the Thornburg Foundation and the Loeks Family Fund.