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Proposed bill would update act governing public employees’ ethical conduct

New Mexico state government truck
Jeanette DeDios
New Mexico state government truck

The New Mexico Governmental Conduct Act is a set of rules to regulate the ethical and legal conduct of public officers and employees. New Mexico lawmakers said it’s in need of an update and are trying to redefine these rules in order to prevent potential abuses.

A substitute to HB 8 by the House Judiciary Committee adds a new definition of political activity to mean anything benefiting or opposing the campaign of a candidate for elected office, political party or organization directly engaged in the support of, or opposition to, a candidate for elected office.

The bill would prohibit employees from wearing their uniforms or using government vehicles when engaging in political activities while on duty or in government offices.

The sponsors said it’s meant to prevent any acts of corruption, quid pro quo, and misuse of public property.

The bill would also increase the civil penalty for a violation under the Act from $250 up to $10,000.

Rep. Andrea Reeb (R-Clovis), a former District Attorney, wanted to make a bright line between officials campaigning and doing their jobs.

“Sheriffs who run for office and have your duties in the community that could be considered political, but they could also be considered just part of your job,” she said. “And I want to make sure that language is very clear that we're not going to be getting those types of people in trouble.”

Hannah Burling, co-president of the League of Women Voters of New Mexico stood in support of the bill during a committee hearing on Monday.

“The league believes that systems of justice should be equitable, effective, transparent, and foster public trust at all stages,” she said.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the substitute bill unanimously. It now goes to the House Floor.

Support for this coverage comes from the Thornburg Foundation.

Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s a former Local News Fund Fellow. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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