Monday, February 15, 2010

Contributions Bill Gets Watered Down, Held Back for a Day

After debating HB118 -- the bill to prohibit campaign contributions from lobbyists and state contractors -- for more than an hour, the bill's sponsor Rep. Joe Campos, D-Santa Rosa asked to "roll over" the bill so than a proposed amendment could be printed and distributed.

A few minutes later, the House recessed to go into caucus, assumedly to talk about the budget bill.

This has to be considered a blow to the bill's chances of passing. The clock is ticking on the session, which ends noon Thursday. If it does pass tomorrow, it still would have to go through the Senate and its committee process.

Before taking a break from the debate, Campos moved an amendment that cut out the prohibition against "bundling" -- people prohibited from contributing collecting contributions from others to give to a candidate.

Also he House also amended the bill to allow public utilities to make contributions. Campos said the utilities are regulated by the Public Regulation Commission and don’t compete for contracts. However Rep. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, pointed out that utilities do contribute to candidates.

House Democrats rejected an amendment from Republican Whip Keith Gardner that would have restored a prohibition of people seeking "targeted subsidies" from the state. That provision was cut out sometime during the committee process.

UPDATE: Despite the fact the bill won't be voted on until Tuesday, Fred Nathan of Think New Mexico, the think tank that first pushed this bill, said he remains optimistic. In legislative time, Nathan said, there's still plenty of time for the bill to make its way through the Senate.

FURTHER UPDATE: 5:49 pm. Rep. Campos confirmed that the bill will be amended again to prohibit public utilities from making contributions and to prohibit all lobbyists and state contractors from contributing to poltiical parties. But the bundling prohibition won't be restored to the bill, he said.