The Roundhouse in Santa Fe in September 2022. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)
If someone is accused of harassment in the Legislature, they can speak up about it. The person who files a complaint about it can’t.
Legislation that would change that is now awaiting action from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Senators night passed House Bill 169, Disclosure of Legislative Ethics Complaints, by a 34-2 vote on Thursday evening. Sens. Crystal Diamond (R-Elephant Butte) and Gregory Baca (R-Belen) voted against it.
This measure would lift the confidentiality agreement that people who file harassment complaints to the interim Legislative Ethics Committee are bound to. Under this bill, they would be able to talk about a complaint or investigation at any time.
The Legislative Ethics Committee and its staff would still be tied to that confidentiality clause.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) explained the bill to the full Senate on Thursday. He said the current measure that silences a person who files a complaint is potentially suspect under the First Amendment, which allows the right to free speech.
“It restricts or limits the complainant’s ability to speak about their own complaint or the investigation as it progresses,” he said.
This new change would allow that person to talk freely about the issue. Cervantes said the purpose of this bill is to “release what is effectively a gag order or rule on a complaining party.”
This move comes following multiple sexual misconduct allegations in 2022 against a senator who’s still around this session. This year, some lobbyists were fearful of lawmakers maintaining professional behavior and conduct.
If Lujan Grisham signs the bill into law, the new rules will start up on June 16.
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