State Representative Jeff Steinborn: Commentary: Bring transparency to lobbying process in state

Reposted from the Las Cruces Sun-News, Sunday, February 8

Now is the time for greater transparency of lobbying in New Mexico. We all deserve to have a government that works for all of us — not just those at the top or out-of-state special interests. As a public servant, I want our legislative process to be as transparent as possible and I will keep fighting to ensure this for every hard-working New Mexican.

This October I was honored to receive the Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. I was chosen to receive this commendation for working toward greater transparency of our state government including passing legislation to broadcast our legislative hearings over the Internet. As important as these reforms were, New Mexico has a long way to go to level the playing field between hard-working New Mexicans and the special interests that influence our laws and legislative process.

To get a clear picture of how laws are created and passed in New Mexico, it’s important to know who is influencing legislators and the governor. More importantly, it’s crucial to know how much money is being spent to affect the process. One of the most important improvements we can make is to require full disclosure of all lobbying spending in the state and put this information online for all to see. In 2013 there were approximately six lobbyists for every one of New Mexico’s 112 legislators.

To modernize New Mexico’s lobbying laws I have introduced HB 155. It will require companies and interest groups who hire lobbyists to report all of the money they are spending to influence our state government. This legislation will also require lobbyists to specifically report on the issues they have been hired to lobby on. Finally, HB 155 will require that all of this information be placed online on the Secretary of State’s website in an easy and accessible format for the public to see.

HB 155 will have its first legislative hearing today in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee. Committee members will have the opportunity to vote for greater transparency, or continue to keep New Mexicans in the dark and protect the status quo. I am hopeful that they will embrace the transparency New Mexicans deserve.

This legislative session we are hearing legislation on critical issues that affect us all. Lobbyists are spending a significant amount of money to either pass or defeat these bills. It’s our right to know who is trying to influence our state policies, and ensure we all have a level playing field to make our voice heard. We need a government that works for everyone, not just those at the top or out-of-state special interests. HB 155 is a critical step forward to help us achieve that.

Rep. Jeff Steinborn is a four-term Democratic legislator from Doña Ana County. He sits on the Appropriations and Finance Committee and the Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment Committee.

Citizens who wish to contact their representatives and senators to support HB 155 and watch the webcast of the committee hearing today at 1:30 p.m. can go to www.nmlegis.gov