HRC 1 is a legislative rule that deals with the disclosure of legislative information. Being a rule and not a law, it affects the way the legislature conducts business. It also does not require discussion or approval by the governor.
Open records advocates around the state are calling HRC 1 "the email shield law."
At the heart of the resolution is the statement "the house and senate, and their respective committees, exercise authority collectively and not through the actions of individual members", and that its members are entitled to "privileges and immunities" by the constitution.
We beg to differ.
The Legislature and all government entities is by, of and for the people. The elected representatives are working on behalf of their constituents, not as a protected body. While final action is by majority rule in our democratic process, the process leading to the vote is what is important. Any discussion, action or correspondence involved in the legislative process should be open and available to the public.
As Gwyneth Doland, executive director for the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government states, "The law is clear records dealing with the business of government are open to the people. This is an unusual move that flies in the face of established law." HRC 1 appears to be a way to get around government transparency by limiting what is publicly available.
Rather than embracing openness in government, Representative Eliseo Lee Alcon, D-Milan, as quoted by the Santa Fe New Mexican, says: "As a citizen legislator, it's up to me to decide if it's a public record or not." Thankfully none of our elected legislators exhibited such arrogance.
However, ALL of our local elected officials that voted on HRC 1 did so in the affirmative.
We think that is the wrong decision.
And so do Farmington officials. Both Mayor Tommy Roberts and Councilman Jason Sandel told The Daily Times that email correspondence related to city business should be considered public record. We applaud their support for open, accountable government.
All communications and actions related to official business must be public. Every citizen has a right to know what their elected official is doing. In this digital age email correspondence often is the preferred method of communication. They too must be included in the open records law.
We encourage our elected officials to choose openness in all they do.
And we encourage citizens to voice their opinion and keep legislators open and honest at all times.
But, if you contact them via email, make sure you keep a copy. Under HRC 1, that email may never see the light of day.