Our viewpoint: Lawmakers are bound by laws, too

Bipartisanship lives in the New Mexico House of Representatives, but this example of handholding needs to stop immediately.

Speaker W. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, and Minority Leader Don Bratton, R-Hobbs, have come up with the idea that they and their legislative colleagues are exempt from the same public scrutiny as other elected officials across the state.

They could not possibly be more wrong.

The New Mexico House of Representatives this past Sunday approved House Concurrent Resolution 1 in an overwhelming vote that shields legislators' emails from public view.

We object strenuously to this piece of legislative chicanery.

HCR1 runs totally counter to government officials' oft-stated objective to guarantee transparency. It says essentially that legislators can hide email communications among themselves.

Interestingly, state courts have just upheld a ruling that said public agencies had to open their emails to public review. Shouldn't that state standard apply to lawmakers? Of course it should, and it must.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has issued a strong condemnation of HCR1, which Executive Director Gwyneth Doland described as "contrary to the Legislature's own statute," which she said has "consistently required transparency of the executive branch (of government) and should do no less for itself."

FOG lets existing state law make the case for its objection to HCR1. It says the law requires all public records be "open to the people. This applies to every public official in New Mexico, including city councilors, county commissioners and, yes, state legislators."

It also leans heavily on the Inspection of Public Records Act, which FOG said grants the public "as much access as possible at every level of government."

The final say belongs to the New Mexico Constitution, which FOG said "does not give lawmakers any special 'right to privacy.'"

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Publisher Ray Sullivan and Editor David Stevens.

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