Lawmakers OK rule to shield email

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New Mexico lawmakers have approved a policy that could shield legislators’ email from disclosure through public records requests.
The new legislative rule will govern how the Legislature handles requests under the Inspection of Public Records Act, which grants access to records about public business with certain exceptions, such as trade secrets.
Legislators contend that much of their communication with constituents and others about legislation should remain confidential. Some lawmakers use email through personal accounts rather than a legislative email system.
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government opposes the new records policy and disagrees with lawmakers who contend the state constitution provides special protections exempting legislative email from public disclosure.
The proposal cleared the Senate without debate Wednesday night on a 39-1 vote. It previously passed the House.
Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Sandoval and Rio Arriba) voted against the measure in the House.
Gwyneth Doland from NMFOG made the following points.
• We strongly oppose the stated intent of HCR 1, which would pull a curtain of secrecy over important decisions that affect all New Mexicans.
• State law says any records that deal with public business and are held by or for government should be open to the people. This applies to every public official in New Mexico, including city councilors, county commissioners and yes, state legislators.
• The public’s right to know is one of the most fundamental rights afforded to people in a democracy, and thanks to the Inspection of Public Records Act, the policy of this state is to give them as much access as possible at every level of government.
• The state constitution does not give state lawmakers any special “right to privacy.”