ALBUQUERQUE — A new law will require New Mexico government agencies
to provide public records electronically if the records exist in digital
The measure, which passed both the House and Senate unanimously,
goes into effect July 1. Gov. Susana Martinez signed it into law Friday.
The bill's sponsors said they and their constituents had problems in
the past with some agencies or departments not wanting to send records
in an email or download them to a CD.
Paper records are costlier and less convenient to use, said
Democratic Sen. Stephen Fischmann of Mesilla Park, who sponsored the
measure in that chamber.
"A lot of departments, if they don't want you to know something, they make it difficult," he said.
Before winning election to the Senate in 2008, Fischmann said he'd
requested records from state government agencies that insisted on
sending paper records.
"If these records are sitting there on someone's PC, why couldn't they email it to me if it was a public record?" he said.
After he got into office, he began getting calls from constituents
complaining that rather than sending electronic records, counties were
making them pay 50 cents to $1 a page for copies.
The law requires governments to give people records for no more than the actual cost.
For example, an agency that copies an electronic record to a CD or
flash drive can charge postage for sending it and the cost of the CD or
flash drive, Fischmann said.
Democratic Rep. Eleanor Chavez of Albuquerque, who sponsored the
measure in the House, said she expects electronic records to be "way
less than a dollar a page."
Sarah Welsh, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for
Open Government, said the foundation found many agencies were contending
they did not have to provide records electronically. Instead, they were
charging to print documents or telling people they could come to the
agency's office to view records during business hours.
Other agencies were providing electronic records, but were charging the same per-page cost as for paper copies, she said.
It takes a negligible amount of time to attach an electronic record
to an email compared to having someone stand at a copier making copies,
"It's easier and cheaper to transmit things electronically," she said.
The new law does not require agencies to put a record into an
electronic format if it's not already in that form, Chavez and Fischmann
"It does not require the creation of whole new records," Fischmann
said. "It says if you have this information and you have it in X format,
you're required to send it in that format."
Martinez also signed a measure that ensures the state's largest
budget item, public education, will be detailed on New Mexico's sunshine
portal. The measure requires all school districts to send certain
financial information electronically to the state Public Education
Department, which will post it. The information has to be online by Oct.
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