Effort to restrict public records access proposed — Threatens Public’s Right to Know

A New Mexico state senator has pre-filed a bill that would significantly limit access to public records in New Mexico and threaten the public’s right to know.

Senate Bill 232, introduced by Sen. Pat Woods (District 7, consisting of Quay County and parts of Curry and Union Counties), would sharply eliminate access to public records, restrict the use of other records, impose excessive fees and require requestors to state why they want the records.

“This is a terrible anti-transparency bill,” Melanie J. Majors, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (NMFOG), said. “It would gut the Inspection of Public Records Act and would set New Mexico on a very slippery slope.  It’s a disaster for the public and for the citizens of our state.”

Majors said there is a need for more transparency – a lot more – in state government.

“Senator Woods’ bill is a blatant attempt to block the public’s access to their own information. At a time when it is more important than ever that citizens have faith in their public officials, this completely ignores the public’s role in its government,” she said.

“The current law is quite clear about costs and procedures and an individual’s purpose for seeking a public record is irrelevant.”

Majors said NMFOG opposes the legislation and the bill has raised concerns from the New Mexico Press Association and the New Mexico Broadcasters Association.  NMFOG will also seek support to defeat this legislation from groups including: the Sunlight Foundation, the National Freedom of Information Coalition, the Knight First Amendment Institute, the First Amendment Center, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as New Mexico groups.

 “At a time when many states have passed laws providing additional access to records, this legislation is a step back.”

NMFOG has a long history of working with legislators to protect the public’s right to information as a cornerstone of our democracy. 

“We welcome an opportunity to talk to Sen. Woods about what prompted this as New Mexico needs bills that encourage more transparency and accountability, not less.”