NM law now requires 72-hour public meeting notice

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By Barry Massey

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico residents will have more notice about public meetings under legislation signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Governmental groups, ranging from city councils to school boards and state regulators, will be required to make their meeting agendas publicly available 72 hours in advance. They currently must provide a 24-hour notice of a public meeting agenda.

The new law also adds a requirement for posting the agenda on a website if the governmental group has one.

Supporters say the law will foster greater openness in government and may allow more people to attend meetings by giving them a longer notice of what will be discussed or acted upon. The measure takes effect June 14.

"New Mexicans deserve to know the proceedings undertaken by their elected officials and other public bodies," Martinez said in a statement after signing the bill in Albuquerque. "One day simply isn't enough notice for a concerned citizen who might want to travel to another city to register their opinion on an important matter affecting their profession or their community. In the interest of transparency and public participation, these meeting agendas should be available well ahead of time."

For public groups that meet more than once a week, a draft agenda must be available at least 72 hours in advance of a meeting and a final agenda has to be posted 36 hours in advance.

The meeting notice provisions do not apply to the Legislature or the courts.

Martinez also signed other bills, including one to tighten the rules when government agencies can issue contracts to a vendor without soliciting competitive bids. The new law will require state and local governments to provide an online notice of plans for a so-called "sole source procurement" and post on a website who was selected for the contract. Other contractors will be able to file a protest when a contract is awarded without competitive bids.

Other new laws will:

— Require the state to include a "clawback" provision for projects receiving certain economic development money. That will force companies to return money to the state if they fail to meet a target for creating a certain number of jobs.

— Expand the reasons a contractor can be suspended or prohibited from doing business with the state.