Lawmakers Advance Bill Making Trading Sex for Favors an Ethics Violation

February 22, 2023 by Dan McCue
Lawmakers Advance Bill Making Trading Sex for Favors an Ethics Violation
(New Mexico Legislature photo)

SANTA FE, N.M. — A state House panel in New Mexico on Wednesday advanced an update to the government’s long-standing Conduct Act making the exchange of sexual acts for official favors an ethics violation.

In addition, House Bill 5, which was approved by the state House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee, would increase the maximum penalty for an ethics violation from $5,000 to $10,000.

“This is an overdue update to the Governmental Code of Conduct,” said state Rep. Kathleen Cates, a Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill, in a written statement.

“Everyone should feel safe interacting with public officials,” Cates said. “By making clear we will not tolerate sexual coercion and other abuses of power from our elected leaders and public officials, we are making our government more welcoming and accessible for all New Mexicans.” 

The other sponsors of the bill, all Democrats, are state Reps. Eleanor Chávez, Joanne Ferrary, Natalie Figueroa, Yanira Gurrola, Pamelya Herndon, Susan Herrera, Tara Jaramillo, D. Wonda Johnson, Raymundo Lara, Charlotte Little, Patricia Lundstrom, Marian Matthews, Andrea Romero, Debra Sariñana, Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson, and state House Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski.

Along with making sexual quid pro quo an ethics violation and increasing the maximum penalty for violations, HB 5 includes identical provisions to Senate Bill 364, which has already passed both the Senate and House. 

Both bills include clarification that legislators can use their legislative letterheads to advocate on behalf of constituents with state agencies. 

HB 5 now heads to the House Judiciary Committee.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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