Attorney General Hector Balderas and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Feb. 13 announced new legislation aimed at increasing transparency in government and reducing access barriers to New Mexico’s citizens and members of the press in their pursuit of public information. HB 26 would limit the amount that public agencies can charge the public following a request for public records. HB 29 would require that organizations who exist solely to provide funds or property to government agencies be subject to the Inspection of Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act.
“We want citizens to have access to critical public information, in order to build a state government that is fair and open to all New Mexico citizens,” Attorney General Hector Balderas, said. “My office is committed to transparency and partnering with citizen watchdogs for public accountability across New Mexico.”
HB 26, sponsored by Rep. Bill Pratt, reduces the amount of money that public entities may charge for public records from $1 per page, to 10 cents per page, for printed copies. The legislation also puts a cap on the amount of money an agency may charge for digital information placed on storage disks, at a maximum of $10.
“Today, this bill will cap the fee that state government or any agency can charge for IPRA requests. Records are only public if they are affordable to the public,” said Rep. Pratt (D-Albuquerque).
“I am very proud to collaborate with the Attorney General on this commonsense legislation to improve transparency in our state government.”
HB 29, sponsored by Rep. Akhil, requires organizations who exist solely to provide funds or property to government agencies be subject to the Inspection of Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act.
“Recent events have demonstrated the perils of opaque foundations enmeshed with public institutions,” said Rep. Abbas Akhil (D-Albuquerque).
“It is critical that foundations that exist solely to serve the interests of public institutions meet the basic minimum standards of transparency and openness. This bill will take steps to prevent future financial negligence like what occurred at UNM Athletics.”
“The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government is in full support of the proposed legislation,” said Executive Director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, Melanie J. Majors.
“NMFOG continually works to protect and strengthen every New Mexican’s right to know. We support greater access to information. We work to protect and strengthen laws and policies. We believe that openness is the rule and the ability to inspect public records keeps officials accountable.
“We appreciate the Attorney General’s efforts to eliminate outrageous costs for paper copies and electronic records and record searches. These bills also make it very clear that entities that operate on behalf of public agencies must allow all of their records to be open for inspection.”