Recent legislative session casts shadow on Sunshine Week

Gregory P. Williams is the president of the Board of Directors of FOG and an attorney with Peifer, Hanson & Mullins, P.A. Closed-door budget talks and a failed effort to create a transparent ethics commission largely shaded the recent New Mexico Legislative session from sunlight, but 2016 did see two incremental victories for transparency. Sunshine […]

Recent legislative session casts shadow on Sunshine Week
Gregory P. Williams is the president of the Board of Directors of FOG and an attorney with Peifer, Hanson & Mullins, P.A.
Closed-door budget talks and a failed effort to create a transparent ethics commission largely shaded the recent New Mexico Legislative session from sunlight, but 2016 did see two incremental victories for transparency.
983855_935142729859783_7879884175995472816_nSunshine Week is March 13-19, 2016.  The Sunshine Week campaign works nationwide to celebrate transparency and emphasize the value of open government.
Here at home, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG) is leading the crusade against secrecy in government and politics.  Our primary mission is to educate, advocate and enforce our state’s sunshine laws – the Inspection of Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Act.
FOG routinely encounters reports of elected officials holding secret meetings and citizens being denied access to public documents.
FOG often finds that government entities in New Mexico either don’t know their responsibilities under our sunshine laws, attempt to bend the rules or ignore them.  And unfortunately, sometimes that includes our State Legislature.
Perhaps no issue was of greater importance in this year’s legislative session than our stripped-down budget.  But when the House Finance and Appropriations Committee closed its meetings to hash out details of the budget, the public was locked out.  After receiving complaints, FOG issued a letter to the House and Senate leadership, but neither chamber responded to our appeals for openness.
And even in a year marred by scandals, some lawmakers dug in their heels when faced with a choice between maintaining the status quo or embracing a proposal to create a more transparent, independent ethics commission.  The Senate Rules Committee rejected certain transparency provisions governing the proposed commission, not recognizing that an ethics commission, like any public process, only works when it is conducted in the open.
But all hope for sunshine is not lost.  During the 2016 session, Rep. Jeff Steinborn’s resolution to archive House webcast footage was passed.  This new practice will increase participation in government by allowing citizens the opportunity to watch House floor and committee meetings at their convenience.  It will also ensure that we have a historical record of House proceedings.
Additionally, Rep. Jim Smith and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto successfully sponsored HB 105 to improve campaign finance and lobbyist reporting on the Secretary of State’s website.  The bill requires that data be maintained in a downloadable, searchable and sortable format so that journalists and the public can accurately follow the money.  The measure was passed by both the House and Senate unanimously and signed into law by Gov. Martinez.
While sunshine wins like these represent real progress, the battle for transparency seems never-ending.  Our state has critical problems, and to solve them, our government must function at its highest level – for which openness is essential.  When officials resist reforms that would empower citizens with information about our government, we all suffer.
So, for the good of our state, FOG encourages every official to hold sunshine high among their priorities.

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

By Justin Horwath, New Mexico In Dept Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is running for a fourth term despite the state Democratic Party’s decision to censure…
AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Thursday his legislative priorities for July’s special legislative session, including the creation of a crime victim’s unit to…
Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat from Silver City, won’t seek reelection in the general election in November, leaving SD 28, a swing…
BLM announces criteria for lands that the government might purchase

BLM announces criteria for lands that the government might purchase

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced the criteria for landowners to nominate private lands adjacent to public lands that can be sold or…
EPA announces $18.9M in funding to address PFAS contamination in New Mexico

EPA announces $18.9M in funding to address PFAS contamination in New Mexico

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the New Mexico Environment Department nearly $19 million to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water.…
Environmental historian reflects on the legacies of Aldo Leopold and the Gila Wilderness

Environmental historian reflects on the legacies of Aldo Leopold and the Gila Wilderness

One hundred years ago, conservationist Aldo Leopold proposed designating 500,000 acres of land in the Gila National Forest as an area where no roads…
Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury secured $8.3 million for childhood development and youth services in the 1st congressional district through federal community project funding. Stansbury,…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned that banning contraceptives “could be next” when talking to a CNN host about New Mexico’s border and abortion issues.…
UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care,…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
FDA urged to relax decades-old tissue donation restrictions for gay and bisexual men

FDA urged to relax decades-old tissue donation restrictions for gay and bisexual men

By Rae Ellen Bichell The federal government in 2020 and 2023 changed who it said could safely donate organs and blood, reducing the restrictions…
Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned that banning contraceptives “could be next” when talking to a CNN host about New Mexico’s border and abortion issues.…
Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

A recent study found that in the 20 years since Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to grant same-sex marriage licenses, same-sex…
State Ethics Commission sues Apodacas dark money operation

State Ethics Commission sues Apodacas dark money operation

By Marjorie Childress, New Mexico In Depth The State Ethics Commission on Friday sued a dark money group and its president, Jeff Apodaca, to force disclosure…
Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned that banning contraceptives “could be next” when talking to a CNN host about New Mexico’s border and abortion issues.…
Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

By Justin Horwath, New Mexico In Dept Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is running for a fourth term despite the state Democratic Party’s decision to censure…
Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury secured $8.3 million for childhood development and youth services in the 1st congressional district through federal community project funding. Stansbury,…
BLM announces criteria for lands that the government might purchase

BLM announces criteria for lands that the government might purchase

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced the criteria for landowners to nominate private lands adjacent to public lands that can be sold or…
Like it or not, a hydrogen ecosystem is coming to New Mexico

Like it or not, a hydrogen ecosystem is coming to New Mexico

By Jerry Redfern, Capital & Main Over the past month, in public meetings stretching from the Navajo Nation to Albuquerque, public officials and company representatives…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report