State lawmakers need to embrace ethics commission


December 12, 2018

New Mexicans voted Nov. 6 overwhelmingly (75 percent) in favor of Constitutional Amendment 2, establishing an ethics commission to oversee the foxes in the hen house, aka the Roundhouse. That message can’t get much clearer for those representing us in the state Legislature.

A 75 percent affirmation loudly states several things to legislators:

• we don’t trust you;

• we don’t trust you overseeing yourselves;

• we want to know that when an ethical violation occurs, someone holds you accountable, other than your buddy sitting two chairs away.

Yet there are legislators in positions of House or Senate control who did not receive the message. Either that or they’re too thin-skinned to have fingers pointed at them.

One of the most honest, dedicated and well-meaning representatives to enter the House in a very long time pushed this constitutional amendment through. Former Rep. Jim Dines, R-Bernalillo, had been in the House a couple of minutes when he began work creating an ethics commission.

He met much pushback, complaints and uncooperative representatives and senators of all parties. Legislators do not like to be watched, questioned or have their campaign contributions scrutinized. Dines doesn’t have that problem because he doesn’t take any amount of money or goods from anyone. That’s an absolute with him.

It is quite unfortunate for all New Mexicans, not just those in Bernalillo County, that Dines lost his bid for re-election in the Republican/Trump revolution of the mid-term elections. The Democratic party threw a ton of money into the race and Democrat Abbas Akhil beat Dines by 115 votes, 50.49 percent to 49.51 percent.

We don’t know if Akhil has Dines’ ethics and dedication. But he’ll surely not have Dines’ passion for the ethics commission, or for open government. Neither do most of the leaders in the Legislature.

Dines is serving through the end of his term, leaving office Dec. 31. He heads the working ethics commission work group, which is hashing out the details before presenting its recommendations to the full Legislature in the upcoming session.

We know Dines will fight for openness in the time he has left. That is almost his raison d’être. However, once he’s gone who can we count on to represent the 75 percent of voters who yearn for transparency and accountability from those who we’ve sent to represent us?

We know the 25 percent who voted no are well-represented already. There’s something terribly wrong when a large majority of legislators represent a small minority of the voting public on this issue. Democracy isn’t supposed to work that way.

— Robert Trapp

Rio Grande Sun


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