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SANTA FE (AP) — The House approved a measure Thursday to prohibit former legislators, statewide elected officials and cabinet secretaries from working as paid lobbyists for two years after they leave their government positions.
The bill’s supporters said public confidence in government is eroded by the “revolving door” of public officials leaving their jobs and making money from the connections they have developed.
“To turn around immediately and be here as a registered lobbyist, lobbying for a special interest, I think it sends a wrong signal to the public — the people who elected us,” said Rep. Emily Kane, an Albuquerque Democrat who sponsored the measure. “I really want to restore faith in our profession here.”
The bill passed the House on a 43-23 vote and goes to the Senate for consideration. Similar proposals have failed in past legislative sessions.
There are 26 former New Mexico legislators and cabinet secretaries working as lobbyists, Kane said.
House Republican Leader Donald Bratton of Hobbs opposed the bill. He said it was unfair to impose the restrictions on legislators who receive no salary.
“If the state of New Mexico was paying me a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year to sit up here on behalf of the people, then they might have a right to tell me what I can and can’t do when I leave this esteemed institution,” Bratton said. “But I don’t think they have any right to tell me what I can and can’t do when I volunteer my services and I am not compensated for those services.”
Legislators receive $159 a day when they are in session and at committee meetings to reimburse them for their expenses.
At least 31 states have established a moratorium for a certain period of time — a “cooling-off period” — before a former legislator can lobby, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
New Mexico prohibits state public officials — but not legislators — from lobbying their former governmental agency for one year after leaving their jobs.