- Associated Press - Friday, January 17, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A watchdog group on ethics in government is highlighting the influence of paid lobbyists on the legislative process in New Mexico and advocating for greater public disclosures on lobbying and a change in the culture of local Statehouse politics, according to a report published Friday.

New Mexico Ethics Watch issued the report that names that state’s top registered lobbyists in terms of expenditures and how many clients they represent.

It also traces the so-called revolving door of former lawmakers who have become paid lobbyists for industry and advocacy groups, and looks at the influence of lobbyists on recent initiatives for gun control, recreational marijuana legalization, film industry incentives and taxes on tobacco products.

Suggested reforms from Ethics Watch include shifting to a salaried legislature with greater expertise among staff and abolishing the common practice in which lobbyists deliver meals on behalf of industry clients to the legislature during lengthy debates inside the Capitol building.

New Mexico has the nation’s only unsalaried legislature, though members receive a stipend during the legislative session and mileage reimbursement for travel.

“If New Mexico’s citizens really want greater transparency and accountability from lobbyists, it will take a culture change,” the report says.

Board members at Ethics Watch include former state Supreme Court justice Richard Bosson and ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Leon Howard.

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