Open Government Wins Big in New Mexico

It is amazing how much can get done in the Legislature when there is no money to spend. With a 60 day session this year and little in the way of money for pork projects and new programs, the Legislature seemed to focus on actually giving citizens and taxpayers more information on what they are doing in Santa Fe. Of course, as I pointed out before the session in the Wall Street Journal, New Mexico’s historical lack of transparency has been a big problem in some of the scandals that have plagued the state over the years.
Well, there is still work to be done, but huge strides have been made and, with Governor Richardson having signed legislation to open conference committees to the public today, New Mexico has come a long way. In addition to open conference committees, here are a few of the transparency achievements from this session:
Audio broadcast of House and Senate floor sessions began. The Senate will also film and broadcast the session;
Governor Richardson also signed legislation introduced by Al Park (HB 546) that requires state agencies to create a searchable database of state contracts worth $20,000 or more.
These are significant accomplishments. Of course, there are additional steps that could and should be taken. For starters, if you want to find out how your member of the House of Representatives voted on legislation, the only way to do that online is at Rep. Tom Anderson had a bill (HM 62) that would have put House votes online, but it went nowhere. Senate votes are available although not in a user-friendly format.
Also, while Park’s legislation is a good start, there is much more that needs to be done when it comes to making the state budget transparent. We need all state spending placed online in a simple, easy-to-use format and the salaries of government workers should be available online as well. It was a good year for open government and this will pay off in long-term dividends.