The Senate Public Affairs Committee today gave a do pass recommendation to a bill which clarifies language in the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) and makes it clear that noncompliance with IPRA carries damages.
Sen. Jacob Candelaria District 26 (Bernalillo County) introduced SB 285 which adds language to the current law spelling out that records custodians must permit inspection of all nonexempt records and that damages can be up to $100 per day.
“State agencies are supposed to make their documents available to the public and access to public records is an essential part of the duties of public officers and employees,” Melanie J. Majors, NMFOG executive director said. “NMFOG applauds every effort to strengthen IPRA and ensure the public’s right to know.”
Candelaria said the bill codifies last fall’s decision by the Court of Appeals stating government agencies can face fines of up to $100 a day for unreasonably withholding documents under New Mexico’s open-records law.
“Court of Appeals Judge J. Miles Hanisee wrote that without fines, ‘there exists no incentive for a public body to do anything more than provide a perfunctory ‘response’ to a request no matter how incomplete and inadequate,’” he said.
SB 285 is just one of the open records bills NMFOG is watching during the current legislative session.