New Mexico Lawmakers Approve Revised Anti-Harassment Policy
After a tie vote in October put the New Mexico Legislature’s revised anti-harassment policy on ice, the Legislative Council approved the policy in another vote on Monday.
The vote was the same as last time with Rep. Patrica Lundstrom joining the six Republicans on the committee to vote no, but on Monday the two Democrats who were unavailable in October were able to vote and it passed 9-7.
The major issue is that in the previous rules, the ethics subcommittee that includes two members from each party would investigate complaints. If the vote was split 2-2 nothing would happen and no information would be released. The filer would also not be informed of the outcome. Under the new rule a fifth member, an attorney with experience in harassment claims would be appointed to the committee, be named chair and have voting authority.
Republicans like Senator Craig Brandt say that would turn the sub-committee partisan with a 3-2 slant.
“Let’s make the worst change possible that we can make. Let’s bring a fifth person in that isn’t elected by the people, that isn’t elected by anybody, that you don’t even put in (the policy) how the person’s going to be chosen,” he said. “I’ve been told the Legislative Council’s going to choose it. Sometimes the Legislative Council is non-partisan, sometimes they’re damn partisan.”
But Representative Daymon Ely, who co-wrote the new policy, says it is a much better process than what was previously being used that left too much information behind closed doors and with a tie vote left harassment investigations without a decision.
He says seeking outside help is nothing unusual for lawmakers and it can remain bi-partisan based on who the committee chooses for the fifth member.
“The legislature does this all the time (so) that we have somebody (who) will come in and help the legislature fix the logjam,” he said. “This is one where the status quo is not sustainable and this is the only way to resolve it other than making it partisan which I wasn’t interested in. This is still a bipartisan process.”
The new policy goes into effect immediately.
Some other changes are possible including eliminating the gag order on the proceedings involving harassment claims, but they will have to wait for the general session in January.