Your NM Government: Good Government at the Legislature

At The Roundhouse Ethics Commission

February 7, 2020 – The state House passed its version of the budget this week, but good government groups say lawmakers didn’t allocate enough money for the new state Ethics Commission. The independent oversight board got only $900,000 of the $1.2 million it says it needs to properly investigate complaints from the public. Meanwhile, efforts to reform the state’s redistricting system, described by critics as a corrupt “incumbent-protection plan” appear to be fizzling.

This week at the Roundhouse, the Your NM Government project talks to lawmakers about ethics and accountability in government. (This segment is part of our #YourNMGov project, in collaboration with KUNM radio and the Santa Fe Reporter, and funded by the Thornburg Foundation and New Mexico Local News Fund) 

Guests:
Sen. Mark Moores, R Albuquerque
Rep. Daymon Ely, D – Corrales
Sen. Liz Stefanics, D – Cerrillos 

For Further Reading: 
New NM Ethics Panel Pursues Recurring FundsKUNM
Struggle, chaos, litigation, great cost: NM RedistrictingNew Mexico in Depth
Redistricting in NM explained in 14 minutesNew Mexico in Focus
Commentary: Common Cause Says Ethics Commission May be Shortchanged by LegislatureKRWG
Editorial: Bills boost public accountability of NM governmentAlbuquerque Journal
Op-ed: NM should work now to implement redistrictingAlbuquerque Journal 

Transcript:

>>DOLAND: SENATOR MARK MOORES IS SPONSORING A PROPOSAL THAT WOULD ASK THE STATE TO STUDY THE WAY WE DO REDISTRICTING AND LOOK AT ALTERNATIVES TO THAT. SENATOR, THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US. WHY DO YOU THINK WE NEED TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY?

>>MOORES: ALL GOVERNMENTS RELY ON HAVING THE SUPPORT OF THEIR PEOPLE AND IN A DEMOCRACY AND IN A REPUBLIC WE HAVE TO HAVE FAITH IN OUR PROCESSES AND SITUATION IN NEW MEXICO IS WE HAVE POLITICIANS WHO HAVE BEEN IN THE LEGISLATURE FOR YEARS AND YEARS AND DECADES EVEN, AND THEY ARE THE ONES ACTUALLY GOING OUT AND PICKING THEIR CONSTITUENTS BY DRAWING THEIR DISTRICT MAPS TO MEET WHAT THEY WANT. WE DON’T HAVE A SYSTEM WHERE THE CONSTITUENTS AND VOTERS ARE ABLE TO PICK THEIR LEGISLATORS. I THINK THAT IS EGREGIOUS THAT WE HAVE THAT SITUATION IN NEW MEXICO AND IT DOESN’T LEAD TO SUPPORT OF OUR REPUBLIC OR DEMOCRACY.

>>DOLAND: YOU ARE SAYING THE WAY WE DO REDISTRICTING NOW ALLOWS THAT TO HAPPEN. WHAT COULD MAKE US DO IT DIFFERENTLY? WHAT DO YOU WANT TO CHANGE?

>>MOORES: THE WAY WE HAVE IT NOW IS EVERY 10 YEARS, THE INCUMBENT POLITICIANS DRAW THEIR OWN DISTRICT AND SAY I WANT THOSE PEOPLE AS MY CONSTITUENT AS OPPOSED TO CONSTITUENTS SAYING I WANT THAT PERSON AS MY LEGISLATOR. WE NEED TO TAKE IT OUT OF THE LEGISLATORS’ HANDS FOR THEIR OWN DISTRICT. WE NEED TO LOOK AT THESE DISTRICTS THAT PROVIDE FAIR AND BALANCED REPRESENTATION ACROSS THE STATE SO THAT PEOPLE HAVE THE ABILITY TO ELECT THEIR LEGISLATORS, INSTEAD OF THE LEGISLATORS PICKING THEIR CONSTITUENTS.

>>DOLAND: FOR MANY YEARS, NOW, THE LEGISLATURE HAS DEBATED AND REJECTED IDEA OF AN INDEPENDENT COMMISSION TO DO THIS JOB. IS THAT THE ONLY WAY TO END THE PRACTICE OF LEGISLATORS PICKING THEIR OWN DISTRICT?

>>MOORES: THERE ARE MANY WAYS.  IN FACT, NEW MEXICO IS PROBABLY ONE OF THE WORST STATES WHEN IT COMES TO THIS. ANY IMPROVEMENT WOULD BE BETTER AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED. THERE ARE WAYS TO GO ALL THE WAY TO INDEPENDENT REDISTRICT COMMISSION THAT IS SET UP IN OUR CONSTITUTION TO GOING BACK DO LISTING WHAT CRITERIA WE ARE GOING TO DO, INCLUDING NOT CARING WHERE THE INCUMBENT LIVES. LAST TIME WE DID REDISTRICTING, TEN YEARS AGO, ONE OF THE CRITERIA WAS WHERE THE LEGISLATOR LIVES. I DON’T CARE WHERE THE LEGISLATOR LIVES. I WANT TO HAVE THAT REPRESENTATION FOR THAT COMMUNITY FOR THE CITIES, COUNTIES, FOR THE PUEBLOS AND TRIBES, ACTUALLY AS THE BASIS NOT THE NO. 1 CRITERIA WHERE THAT LEGISLATOR LIVES.

>>DOLAND: ONE OF THE PROBLEMS THAT THOSE HAVE IDENTIFIED IN THE WAY THAT WE DO THIS IS THAT OUR RACES ARE NOT VERY COMPETITIVE. WOULD CHANGES TO REDISTRICTING PROCESS INTRODUCE MORE COMPETITION INTO OUR ELECTIONS?

>>MOORES: DEMOCRACY REQUIRES THAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY RUN AGAINST EACH OTHER AND WHEN YOU GERRYMANDER THE SYSTEM SO MUCH THAT YOU DON’T HAVE COMPETITIVE RACES AND PEOPLE DON’T HAVE A CHANCE TO RUN AGAINST THAT INCUMBENT, WE REALLY DON’T HAVE A DEMOCRACY. WE HAVE PEOPLE STAYING IN OFFICE FOR YEARS AND YEARS. WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO ACTUALLY HAVE THESE COMPETITIVE RACES AND PART OF THAT IS HOW WE DRAW DISTRICTS.

>>DOLAND: REPRESENTATIVE DAYMON ELY HAS BEEN WORKING ON PROPOSALS AROUND THE REDISTRICTING TOPIC. REPRESENTATIVE, THANKS FOR BEING WITH US.

>>ELY: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

>>DOLAND: IS THIS PRIMARILY A PARTISAN ISSUE THE WAY WE HAVE SEEN THAT IN OTHER STATES.

>>ELY: WE START WITH REDISTRICTING SETTING UP A REDISTRICTING COMMISSION CAN BE PARTISAN. I AM FULLY COMMITTED TO SETTING UP A REDISTRICTING COMMISSION BECAUSE MEMBERS ARE LITERALLY PICKING THEIR OWN DISTRICTS. AND THAT IS A CONFLICTS.  WE SHOULD NOT BE DOING THAT. IF YOU DO IT BY STATUTE THAT THEN BECOMES A PARTISAN ISSUE BECAUSE THEN AS ADMINISTRATIONS CHANGE AND PARTIES CHANGE, WHAT WE HAVE SEEN AROUND THE COUNTRY, IS THE STATUTES CHANGE. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS BY CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. ONCE THE VOTERS HAVE SPOKEN AND THEY WANT A REDISTRICTING COMMISSION, WE HAVE TO DO IT LIKE WITH THE ETHICS COMMISSION, THEN THE PARTISANSHIP GETS TAKEN OUT. WE HAVE A FAIR DISTRICT AND MOST IMPORTANT TO ME, WE REMOVE OURSELVES FROM THE CONFLICTS WHERE WE PICK OUR OWN DISTRICTS.

>>DOLAND: YOU WANT TO DO THIS BY CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.  DO YOU THINK YOU CAN GET ENOUGH VOTES TO GET IT OUT TO THE VOTERS?

>>ELY: IT IS NOT IN FRONT OF US THIS SESSION. I AM COMMITTED TO DOING THAT IN THE 60-DAY SESSION. I DON’T KNOW TO BE HONEST WITH YOU. I THINK SO. I THINK AS PEOPLE START TO SEE IT IN A FAIR LIGHT, I AM ALWAYS OPTIMISTIC. SO, MAYBE, IS THE BEST ANSWER I CAN GIVE YOU.

>>DOLAND: ANOTHER TOUGH FIGHT THAT WENT BY CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT WAS THE ETHICS COMMISSION. THE COMMISSION IS SET UP, PEOPLE HAVE BEEN HIRED, COMMISSIONERS HAVE BEEN APPOINTED. AND THE ISSUE RIGHT NOW IS MONEY. WHY HAS THE LEGISLATURE SO FAR BEEN RELUCTANT TO GIVE THE ETHICS COMMISSION THE MONEY THAT IT NEEDS IN ORDER TO FUNCTION?

>>ELY: I WANT TO BE CLEAR ABOUT THIS. I DON’T THINK IT IS THE LEGISLATURE. THE LEGISLATURE CLEARLY PASSED AN ETHICS COMMISSION AND THE GOVERNOR’S BUDGET, BY THE WAY, FOR THE ETHICS COMMISSION, MEETS WHAT THE ETHICS COMMISSION NEEDS. THE LEGISLATIVE BUDGET, THE HOUSE BUDGET, HAS SHORTED THEM 300,000. I HAVE TALKED TO EVERYBODY I CAN IN THE BUILDING THAT THAT IS NOT GOING TO WORK. WE DO NOT WANT THE ETHICS COMMISSION PARTICULARLY A COMMISSION THAT IS OVER SEEING OUR ACTIONS TO HAVE TO GET THEIR TIN CUP OUT EVERY YEAR AND BEG FOR MONEY. THAT IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. JUST LIKE WITH THE REDISTRICTING, IT IS A CONFLICT. SO, WE ARE STILL EARLY ON IN THE PROCESS.  THERE IS GOING TO BE NEGOTIATIONS. BUT DO I LIKE RIGHT NOW THE HOUSE BUDGET, 900,000 INSTEAD OF THE 1.2 MILLION THEY ASKED FOR, NO, I DO NOT. WILL I VOTE FOR THE BUDGET TODAY TO START THAT CONVERSATION? YES, BUT WHEN IT COMES DOWN IT TO, THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BE FULLY FUNDED AND THAT IS BECOMING A PROBLEM WHERE WE ARE PASSING, I THINK, GOOD POLICY BUT THEN WE ARE NOT SO GOOD AT MAKING SURE THAT IT IS FINANCIERED ADEQUATELY AND THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF THAT. SO I AM HOPEFUL WE STILL HAVE HALF A SESSION LEFT. THERE IS A LONG PERIOD OF NEGOTIATIONS TO GO THROUGH BUT WE HAVE TO FULLY FUND THEM.

>>DOLAND: IN OTHER STATES, WHERE LEGISLATURES HAVE SEEN HIGH PROFILE INVESTIGATIONS BY ETHICS COMMISSIONS, THEY HAVE NEUTRALIZED THE COMMISSION BY NOT FUNDING THEM. DO YOU THINK THIS IS AN ATTEMPT, THIS RELUCTANCE IS AN ATTEMPT TO NEUTRALIZE THE COMMISSION?

>>ELY: NO. WHAT I HAVE BEEN HEARING IS THAT THERE IS A MISUNDERSTANDING AS TO WHAT THE ETHICS COMMISSION’S BUDGET INCLUDES. FOR EXAMPLE, IT INCLUDES PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, SO, THINK THE FINANCE PEOPLE WERE CONCERNED ABOUT THAT. BUT THAT IS NECESSARY BECAUSE THAT PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SETTING UP A WEBSITE, FOR TRACKING COMPLAINTS, THEY ARE SETTING UP A NEW AGENCY SO THEY NEED A TECHNICAL PERSON TO BE ABLE TO SET THAT UP CORRECTLY. SO, I THINK IT IS THAT KIND OF DISCONNECT. I DON’T SEE ANYTHING MORE NEFARIOUS THAN THAT.

>>DOLAND: SENATOR STEFANICS, WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THE ETHICS COMMISSION. SO FAR THE HOUSE HAS NOT GIVEN THE COMMISSION THE AMOUNT OF MONEY IT HAS ASKED FOR. WHEN THE BUDGET COMES OVER HERE TO THE SENATE, DO YOU THINK YOU’LL GIVE IT THE EXTRA 300,000 THAT IT IS LOOKING FOR?

>>STEFANICS: I HOPE SO BUT HOUSE BILL 2 IN THE BUDGET WILL GO TO SENATE FINANCE AND I AND MANY OTHER MEMBERS OF THE SENATE DON’T SIT ON THAT COMMITTEE. IT DOES HAVE REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS. IT IS LED BY SENATOR JOHN ARTHUR SMITH AND THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS FROM THE HOUSE BUDGET THAT PROBABLY WILL BE CHANGED TO INCLUDE CUTS THAT THEY HAVE MADE OR EXTRA PROJECTS THAT THEY PUT IN, TO TRY TO MAKE STATE GOVERNMENT WHOLE.  SO THAT WILL BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THEM TO TAKE THE REQUEST THAT WAS 1.2 AND ONLY GOT 900,000 IN THE BUDGET, AND PUT IN THE EXTRA 300,000. THAT IS ABOUT 25% OF THEIR BUDGET. SO, FOR A SMALL AGENCY, THAT IS A LOT OF MONEY.  IF IT WAS A VERY LARGE AGENCY AND THEY DIDN’T GET 300,000 OR A HALF A MILLION OR A MILLION EVEN, YOU KNOW, THEY WOULD GO, OH, SHUCKS BUT FOR A VERY SMALL AGENCY, THAT IS A LOT OF MONEY THAT THEY DIDN’T GET.

>>DOLAND: IF THEY DON’T GET THE MONEY, DOES IT SEND THE MESSAGE THE LEGISLATURE DOESN’T WANT IT TO HAPPEN.

>>STEFANICS: I THINK IT SENDS THE MESSAGE THE LEGISLATURE DOESN’T THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO FUND. NOT THAT IT IS NOT IMPORTANT, PERIOD, BUT THAT IT IS JUST NOT IMPORTANT TO FUND YET.

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