New Mexico open-government group questions secret budget talks

House Republican and Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico have been gathering in closed-door committee and subcommittee meetings over the last two weeks to discuss how to allocate more than $6 billion in state money, without the public scrutiny that comes with most committee hearings.

Bill Valdez, chief of staff for the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said the secret meetings were not unusual and within the law because the committee made no official decisions. The committee members decided to meet behind closed doors “for everyone’s protection,” he said. 

But the meetings have caught the attention of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, an open-government group, which is calling on state lawmakers to change the state Open Meetings Act’s conflicting language on whether such secret discussions are legal. Continue…