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LWV New Mexico

2018 Voter Guide

Constitutional Amendments:

Bond Issues



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Constitutional Amendment 2:

"PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO ARTICLE 5 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF NEW MEXICO TO CREATE AN INDEPENDENT STATE ETHICS COMMISSION WITH JURISDICTION TO INVESTIGATE, ADJUDICATE AND ISSUE ADVISORY OPINIONS CONCERNING CIVIL VIOLATIONS OF LAWS GOVERNING ETHICS, STANDARDS OF CONDUCT AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS AS PROVIDED BY LAW."

ANALYSIS

The League has condensed the material provided by the NM Legislative Council Service (LCS) staff, which has no opinion on the proposal .

Constitutional Amendment 2 proposes establishing a state ethics commission with authority as provided by law over state officers and employees of the executive and legislative branches; candidates and other participants in elections; lobbyists; government contractors or seekers of government contracts, and possibly other areas.  The commission would be empowered to require witnesses to appear or individuals to submit records and relevant evidence. The seven-member commission would determine penalties as well as  issue advisory opinions and information on standards of ethical conduct.

ARGUMENTS FOR Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2

1. New Mexico’s ethics laws are not coordinated now and are inconsistent across agencies.

A state ethics commission would review existing laws governing ethics and help develop more consistent interpretations and more efficient enforcement of those laws.

2. NM is one of only 6 states without a state ethics commission.

Voters and legislators in New Mexico and across the nation recognize the need for a commission dedicated to investigating complaints alleging violations of ethical conduct. The agency could prevent ethical misconduct by providing information and issuing advisory opinions. The legislature would determine how the commission receives and investigates complaints of unethical conduct and the qualifications and duties of the commissioners.

3. Establishing an ethics commission in the Constitution of New Mexico makes it more permanent than if it were created in statute.

Many previous attempts by the legislature to establish a state ethics commission by law have failed because of political differences.  Once an ethics commission is approved by voters to be in the Constitution, it would take another constitutional amendment to eliminate it.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2

1. A constitutional amendment is not necessary to create a state ethics commission. Under existing law, multiple state agencies already have oversight over ethics matters affecting their respective branches of government.  Broadening or amending those agencies' powers or duties to meet any unmet needs might be more efficient than creating another oversight entity.

2. Before the commission could function, the legislature would first have to pass laws granting the commission its powers and duties and setting the qualifications and terms of the commissioners.

3. A state ethics commission could duplicate efforts to combat unethical behavior already prohibited in law and could be costly. There have been several successful prosecutions of public officers and employees for violating laws of unethical conduct.  Improving current laws and enforcement procedures could be accomplished without the expense of creating a whole new agency.