NM bill would prohibit double-dipping for travel
SANTE FE., N.M. (AP) — New Mexico legislators wouldn't be allowed to get reimbursements for the same expense from more than one source under a bill filed in reaction to a travel scandal involving a House member defeated in his re-election bid.
Republican Rep. Nate Gentry of Albuquerque filed his bill in response to expense double-dipping by Democrat Ray Begaye of Shiprock, the Las Cruces Sun-News (http://bit.ly/WGeekH ) reported.
Begaye served in the Legislature for 14 years. He was defeated in his November re-election bid by Republican Sharon Clahchischilliage of Shiprock.
Attorney General Gary King's office concluded that Begaye on five occasions was reimbursed for out-of-town trips by both the state and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
King's office said Begaye didn't violate state law based on its reading of a law on expenses and mileage.
However, the office urged lawmakers to change state law so that lawmakers' travel expenses can be reimbursed by only one entity.
Gentry, an attorney, said New Mexico already has a criminal statute against billing the state for a trip that was paid for by somebody else. He said it is the law against submitting a false public voucher, a fourth-degree felony.
But the possibility of a criminal prosecution of Begaye ended once the attorney general said Begaye broke no law, Genry said. "That put it into sort of a prosecution free zone."
Gentry's bill does not attempt to establish a new or different criminal penalty. Rather, it outlines an express policy: "A legislator shall not be reimbursed for travel, parking or other actual costs that are or will be reimbursed by any other entity."
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