The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Look out, citizens: NM's Legislature is back in session

 

January 20, 2019



Longtime state Sen. Stuart Ingle, the Republican from Portales, reminds us as often as he has the opportunity: We’re never safe when the Legislature’s in session.

That’s never been more true than right now.

The Democrat-controlled body of lawmakers is eager to spend our money the next two months like there’s a bottomless pit of it.

The budget “surplus” of $1 billion-plus may not be enough to meet all the “needs” we’re hearing about, from expanding film subsidies to the continual showering of money on public education because Johnny still can’t read and we don’t know what else to do.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has even talked about dipping into the state’s “permanent” funds, which are supposed to keep government functioning even in the worst of times, which this is not.

But don’t think for one minute that Democrats are the only political animals to fear in Santa Fe.

One of the worst bills we’ve heard about so far has been authored by one of our own — Republican Sen. Pat Woods of Broadview, who wants to cripple the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.

Senate Bill 232 “would have the ability to block the release of public records in certain circumstances,” the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The main intent of Woods’ proposal seems to be aimed at discouraging for-profit businesses from requesting and reselling records that take up a lot of public employees’ time to gather.

Whatever his intent, the result undoubtedly would be less access to public records for us all.

The key words here being “public records.”

To be clear, Woods is not trying to change the definition for what’s public and what government is allowed to keep secret. He is boldly asking that government be allowed to keep “public” documents away from some members of the public; or at least he wants to make those documents so expensive most people can’t afford them.

His main point seems to be that our government workers are spending too much time gathering records, sometimes for private companies that then sell that information to people who aren’t savvy enough — or don’t have enough time — to request the records for themselves.

Here’s a better idea, Senator: How about a bill requiring government entities put all of their public records online, searchable by key word.

That way, when someone calls asking for how much money the city of Clovis spent on tree trimming — that’s an actual question presented to Clovis City Hall last year — the government employee doesn’t have to spend three days looking for invoices or contracts, copying them or scanning them and sending them to the taxpayer.

If the records were already online — a paperless government would save a lot of trees and taxpayer money — city hall could simply say, “Thank you for calling, Mr. Citizen. That information is available on our website at http://www.whatever. Just type ‘tree trimming’ into the search bar.”

The concept of “open government,” of course is an evil one in the eyes of many elected Republicans and Democrats. That’s why Woods’ bill is so frightening — it just might have widespread support from all stripes of Big Brother, which is working harder every day to keep us from finding out how our money is being spent.

Stu Ingle is right. The Legislature is in session. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

— David Stevens

Publisher, The Eastern New Mexico News

 
 

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