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League Of Women Voters Spend Day At Legislature; Honor Former Rep. Jim Dines

on February 10, 2019 - 10:53am

LWV officers Dick Mason and Judith Williams present former Rep. Jim Dines with an award for his tireless efforts to create an Independent Ethics Commission in New Mexico. Photo by Rebecca Shankland

New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard welcomes the League to the State Land Office. Photo by Rebecca Shankland

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver speaks to the League’s Legislative Reception. Photo by Rebecca Shankland

 

By REBECCA SHANKLAND
League of Women Voters of Los Alamos

A large contingent of members from the League of Women Voters of New Mexico, including participants from Los Alamos, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces visited the Roundhouse recently. 

They enjoyed a legislative reception, several informative talks, and visits to legislators and committee hearings.

The evening legislative reception featured a talk by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who focused on ways to increase voter participation in New Mexico.

At the State Land Office the next day, League members were welcomed by new State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard who spoke about her plans for raising more funds for educating New Mexico children. Amber Wallin from Voices for Children spoke on “Taxes and Funding for Essential Services.” 

Former Rep. Jim Dines (R-Albuquerque) was honored for his tireless work to create an Independent Ethics Commission for New Mexico. In 2018 voters approved a Constitutional Amendment to create an Independent Ethics Commission by a 3-1 margin. Dines has worked tirelessly on the enabling legislation needed to make the commission a reality—and continues to do so despite having narrowly lost his re-election campaign.

In presenting the award to Dines, State League Action Committee Chair Dick Mason and President Judith Williams praised him for “always standing up for open and accountable government.” They called him the “ideal public servant” and noted his famous refusals to take donations from special interests and political action committees. When attending lobbyists’ dinners, he always paid for his own meal. He returned any gifts or gave them away to charity.

In his talk to League members, Dines outlined the crucial elements of good ethics legislation.  The Commission must have subpoena power, and it should be able to issue advisory opinions.  Currently, ethical complaints can be filed in many places; Dines proposes a “one-stop shop” at the Ethics Commission. He said to watch out for restrictions on actions concerning a candidate prior to an election. Above all, the process must be transparent. There must be open hearings as well as public reports on the reasons for the resolution of all cases, whether they are dismissed or not. 

Dines concluded that although there are many state ethics commissions, many are ineffective.  New Mexico can be a true leader in ethics commissions. We can put our stamp on it – it need not be just another layer of government.


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