FOG ALERT: Special session budget discussions must be public

This afternoon, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government issued the following statement in regard to the proposed special legislative session to address the budget shortfall:

July 29, 2016

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government urges New Mexico legislators to open all meetings in connection with the budgetary shortfall to the public, whether such discussions occur prior to or during any upcoming special legislative session.

Should the Legislature and the New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez determine that a special session is necessary, that session must be as transparent and open as possible. It has been suggested that party leaders may pre-negotiate solutions to the budgetary issues, and then rubber-stamp them in a very short session. These types of back-room negotiations would effectively shut the public out of the process.

“FOG is sympathetic to the cost of a special session, but these critical budgetary decisions cannot be made behind closed doors,” said Gregory P. Williams, president of the FOG Board of Directors. “The impact of the budget decision will be felt all over the state, and the public can’t be shut out of the process,” Williams noted. “New Mexicans need to be able to participate, and not just read about the result in the newspaper.”

Earlier this month, FOG sent a letter to every member of the legislature as well as their opponents in the November election to advocate for sunshine in all meetings of the Senate Finance and the House Appropriations and Finance Committees during the regular session. Historically, including at the 2016 session, these committees have locked out the public and the press notwithstanding the Open Meetings Act. OMA requires all standing legislative committee meetings be conducted in front of the public.