New Mexico lawmakers push federal-style lobbying rules


New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is backing a two-year “cooling-off” period before legislators can lobby (Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan)

Legislators in New Mexico who leave office would be required to wait two years before lobbying their former colleagues under a proposed measure that advanced through a key state House committee on Tuesday.

The proposed rule would also apply to state Cabinet secretaries and Public Regulation commissioners. A similar measure has failed in previous years, but the new proposal passed the state House Business and Industry Committee by a 6-5 vote, sending it to the House Judiciary Committee for a new round of hearings.

The measure is similar to a federal rule that prohibits lawmakers from registering as lobbyists for up to two years after they leave office.

Thirty-one other states require at least some time between when a legislator leaves office and when they can return as a lobbyist, according to a database maintained by the National Conference of State Legislators. Legislators in eight states — Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana and New York — must wait two years, the longest cooling off period on the books.

Common Cause New Mexico said in a report last year that 26 former legislators work in Santa Fe as lobbyists, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Gov. Susana Martinez (R) supports the legislation, sponsored by Albuquerque state Rep. Emily Kane (D). Martinez called for a cooling-off period in her state of the state speech last month.

“Just as I’ve prohibited my appointees from lobbying the legislature or the administration after leaving their posts, the same two-year ban should apply to members of the legislature as well,” Martinez said last month.

But opponents of the New Mexico ban say the fact that the state pays its legislature less than almost any other state should count for something. New Mexico legislators aren’t paid a salary; instead, they receive a $159 per diem that is supposed to cover food and lodging while the legislature is in session.

Even after the bill passed the House committee, its future was in question. The cooling-off period isn’t a partisan issue; two Republicans joined most committee Democrats voting for the bill, while two Democrats voted against it. Observers said the bill’s fate is uncertain as it moves to the Judiciary Committee, and on to the full House.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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