Alarming Anti-Transparency Bill Introduced in N.M. Senate

Sen. John A. Sapien, District 9, (Bernalillo and Sandoval) has introduced a bill in the New Mexico Senate that would significantly change the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) – requiring New Mexicans to pay substantially more for electronic copies of public records.

Under SB 442, New Mexicans would be required to pay a fee for electronic records. Under the current law, governmental entities can only charge records requestors their “actual costs” for electronic records.  That means that records sent via e-mail are generally free, while the cost for records transmitted via a disk or drive is limited to the cost of that storage device. The bill would change the permissible charge from “actual costs,” to a “reasonable fee,” up to $1 per page.

“Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to provide citizens with free access to the public’s records,” Melanie J. Majors, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said. “This bill would create a significant barrier to access to public records.  It would be a substantial blow to transparency and open government in New Mexico.”

Majors said the bill has the potential of “pricing people out of their government,” adding “agencies should never attempt to prevent access to public records by charging excessive fees.”

“If a requestor were to ask for a 100-page PDF record, the governmental entity could provide that with a few clicks of a mouse,” Majors said.  “Under this bill, the entity could charge up to $100 for that service.  This bill would make it much more difficult for New Mexicans to hold their government accountable.”