Monday, February 13, 2012

Senate Corruption Bill Passes House

After years and years of trying to pass a bill that would make it possible to make state public officials convicted of corruption-related crimes forfeit part of their state pensions, Senate Republican Whip Bill Payne finally pulled it off.

His Senate Bill 197 passed the Senate unanimously last week. And today, the House followed suit, passing it 67-0.

The bill goes now to Gov. Susana Martinez, who has been supportive of anti-corruption bills.

One factor that surely helped was that that it was carried in the House by Democratic Leader Kenny Martinez.

Earlier in the session Martinez was one of the major voices against Rep. Nate Gentry's similar anti-corruption bill, House Bill 111. That bill passed the House, but a majority of House Democrats voted against it.

Both bills called for possible pension forfeiture for those convicted. Payne's bill also allows a corrupt official's salary to be part of restitution.

One difference in the two bills was that HB 111, in the version voted on in the House called for the possibility of extra prison time for public officials convicted of embezzlement, bribery, etc. It also prohibited conivicted public officials from becoming lobbyists or state contractors. (The Senate Public Affairs Committee amended the bill last week to remove those provisions.)

That's not the case with Payne's bill. "Sometimes you can put too many things into a bill," Payne said at a news conference following the House vote.

But apparently the main factor that won over House Democrats was that SB 197 defines public officials as those elected or appointed to an office covered by the Campaign Reporting Act. HB 111 included anyone receiving a state pension.

UPDATE: 2:49 pm I rewrote this to reflect the fact that the House actually passed it.The original version was posted before the House vote.