Bills at NM Legislature to confront corruption

December 31, 2012 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Some of the proposals filed by New Mexico lawmakers before the start of the Legislature’s annual session include bills that aim to confront political corruption and drunken driving.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports ( that 35 bills have been filed by House members and another 22 by senators so far for the 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 15.

Republican Rep. Nate Gentry of Albuquerque has proposed a bill that’s aimed at discouraging bribery, kickbacks and other activities that have caused scandal in state government in the past several years.

The proposal would let judges add a year to the sentences of public officials [auth] convicted of specified corruption-related crimes and would prohibit officials convicted of these crimes from ever becoming lobbyists or being awarded government contracts.

A proposal by Democratic Sen. Tim Keller of Albuquerque and Republican Rep. Paul Bandy of Farmington would require members of the Public Regulation Commission to have a college degree and at least seven years of experience in a field including areas regulated by the commission, such as engineering, finance, economics, law, accounting or consumer protection and advocacy.

Voters in November passed a constitutional amendment requiring the Legislature to establish minimum requirements for members of the commission, which in recent years has suffered many scandals, most notably former Commissioner Jerome Block Jr., who resigned after pleading guilty to several felonies, including fraud.

A bill by Keller and Republican Rep. Jim White of Albuquerque would overhaul how members of the New Mexico Finance Authority are chosen.

The agency is responsible for financing large projects for state and local governments and was shaken this year when it was discovered that Greg Campbell, who was in charge of its accounting operations, had submitted a fake audit. Campbell, who resigned in June, pleaded guilty to forgery and securities fraud in November and received a sentence of five years of probation.

The bill by Keller and White would require members of the 11-member board that oversees the authority to have 10 years work experience in fields including banking, accounting, law, public planning or engineering. Members would serve staggered terms to assure institutional memory.

And a bill by Republican Rep. Tim Lewis of Rio Rancho would increase the penalties for repeat drunken driving offenders.

Under the bill, someone convicted of a fourth drunken-driving charge would get a mandatory sentence of 30 months in prison, 18 months of which could not be deferred or suspended. Currently, the sentence is 18 months in prison, six months of which cannot be deferred or suspended.

Sentences for fifth, sixth and seventh convictions also would require more mandatory prison time than the current law requires. And someone convicted of an eighth or subsequent offense would be guilty of a second-degree felony and serve at least 10 years in prison.

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