Senate has funny way of celebrating transparency

It is ironic that during national Sunshine Week and in the run-up to Freedom of Information Day state senators passed a rule in the middle of the night to keep their emails and other documents secret.

Around 11:20 p.m. on March 13, the Senate pulled House Concurrent Resolution 1 off the table and adopted it without debate. As a legislative rule, it doesn't go to the governor for approval or veto.

The rule would keep from the public a large part of lawmakers' records dealing with public business. It stipulates that legislators act only as a body during public floor or committee sessions, so actions of an individual lawmaker are private.

Supporters of the rule change say there's a constitutional immunity for legislators that allows this. Attorney General Gary King's office disagrees, saying that immunity does not apply to concealing public documents. King says the Legislature would have to change the state Inspection of Public Records Act to grant themselves a special exemption. And that would require the governor's approval, which is unlikely to occur.

Some legislators have suggested that anyone who doesn't like this should go to court. King has an opportunity to do just that and back up his position with legal action. Many who railed about members of the executive branch using private email for state business — before the governor stopped the practice — have been strangely silent on emails involving the Legislature.

Meanwhile, hats off to the House of Representatives, which at least openly debated the issue before voting 48-16 to move it to the Senate. And hats off to the only senator who voted against the rule change, Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, who said he did so to be consistent in his support of transparency in government.

— Albuquerque Journal

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