After stalling in committee last month, a bill requiring more transparency from lobbyists cruised through the state House Saturday after hitting only one last speed bump.
On Saturday, state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill on the floor and put some of those requirements back in.
But with just two weeks left in the session, supporters of more transparency for lobbyists say even a stripped-down bill is an important first step.
“We don’t want to give up a good bill in search of a perfect bill,” Common Cause Executive Director Viki Harrison said Monday.
As written, the bill would give the public more information, and put it online in a format that makes it easier to search and download.
“Most legislators know who most lobbyists are and what issues they’re lobbying for but sometimes we don’t know,” Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez said. “The more information, the better transparency—and it’s great for the public.”
The bill (HB 155) was tabled by the House Regulatory and Public Affairs committee in February, then reworked and moved forward. By the time it got to the House floor the requirement that lobbyists reveal how much money they make or exactly how much money they’re spending and on whom was gone.
They were among the elements of the proposal that were deemed too onerous for those seeking to influence government.
Although few lobbyists spoke out in committee meetings, several said in private conversations that they thought it was unfair to force them to divulge how much (or how little) they earned.
Sponsor Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, told the People Power and Democracy Project then that his goal was to give the public more information about the relationship between lobbyists and government.
"Right now citizens don’t know anything and have no basis for understanding the influence of the army of lobbyists here," he said.
As New Mexico in Depth has reported, there’s a lot of money involved. Individual lobbyists spent at least $1.6 million on lawmakers between 2011 through 2014, and 36 nonprofit and faith groups, trade associations, oil companies, unions and businesses spent more than $379,000, NMID’s analysis of lobbyist spending showed.
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.