New Mexico coalition makes democracy theme for 2021

Submitted by NFOIC on Mon, 01/11/2021 - 2:58pm


Message from New Mexico Foundation for Open Government President Susan Boe:


Several weeks before a mob swarmed our halls of Congress, Executive Director Melanie Majors and I discussed making democracy the NMFOG theme during 2021. Today, that focus is more relevant than ever.

We at NMFOG have long emphasized that among the pillars of democracy is transparency—government operating in the sunshine. This means the curtains of government are drawn back so that public meetings occur in front of the public, and public documents are available to the public. Only in this way can the electorate have access to the facts.

Of course, we may disagree about what those facts mean—giving rise to political parties—but we can’t have an informed debate or discussion without those facts. Democracy is simply a buzz word without an educated electorate.

From its inception more than 30 years ago, NMFOG has been committed to nonpartisanship. So far, we have been able to maintain that position although not without a few bumps. Some years ago over a one month period, I read a complaint on social media that NMFOG was too liberal, while days later a poster complained about our conservatism. Sometimes we take on the Democrats, other times the Republicans, but always we speak out against those bureaucrats who govern in the dark. Transparency is our common ground at NMFOG.

Here in New Mexico, we are heading into a new legislative session when important decisions, especially about how state dollars will be spent, will be made. Won’t you help us represent democracy by donating to NMFOG today? Visit nmfog.org. Thank you for your support and keep up the fight.

2021 Legislative Agenda
Here is the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (NMFOG) Legislative Committee’s agenda for the 2021 Legislative Session. Part of the basis for the agenda is the information NMFOG gained through the survey of Legislative candidates last summer. In that survey, NMFOG asked Legislative candidates specific questions about the Legislature’s processes and open government issues. The responses validated NMFOG’s mission to increase transparency and cemented the organization’s agenda for the upcoming session.

Democracy needs you now more than ever. Won’t you please contact your New Mexico State Senator and Representative to join us in supporting the following?

· A change to the rules to open the budget process to make it transparent. Responding to the survey, the majority of those responding indicated “it was extremely important to involve the public in the budget process.”
· New legislation to make capital outlay requests more transparent. Rep. Matthew McQueen is working on this legislation and NMFOG believes the public is entitled to know the sponsor of each capital outlay project.
· An amendment to the Inspection of Public Records Act requiring that public employee disciplinary records be open to inspection. Respondents to the FOG survey showed more than 90.3 percent strongly supported strengthening IPRA.
· An amendment clarifying that county records, including records involving real property, are all subject to IPRA. Currently, some county records arguably fall under the state’s Recording Act instead of IPRA.
· New legislation amending the state’s Open Meetings Act requiring state-appointed task forces comply with OMA. In NMFOG’s recent survey, 88 percent of respondents indicated that advisory committees and task force groups should be subject to the OMA.

In addition, NMFOG plans to oppose a Senate Bill, with an emergency clause, to exempt the names of candidates for public jobs from IPRA. Sen. Bill Tallman filed this bill. It failed in previous Legislative sessions. NMFOG maintains there is no evidence, other than occasional anecdotal opinion, that closing off the process from the public results in either a better applicant pool or a better ultimate hire. The bill sponsors have offered no studies or other empirical proof showing that an open process affects the ability to hire a qualified person. Please contact your legislator and let him or her know this bill is a threat to transparency.

To read more, please visit the New Mexico Coalition for Open Government.