Everything about the legislative session should be public. Public officials go into public meetings to carry out the public’s business. Yet secrecy still lurks in many corners of the Roundhouse.
We’ll put aside our issues with the budget being constructed annually in a secret meeting outside the Roundhouse while the public and even legislators are left in the dark.
Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, is sponsoring Senate Resolution 2, which would allow recording and photography in public meetings without having to seek permission.
This resolution should not be needed. Sadly, it is.
KRQE reporter Rachel Knapp was told to leave the Senate Conservation Committee hearing Feb. 6 by Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez simply because she was recording the public meeting. Lopez was the acting chair at the time.
This meeting was also being webcast to the public. The logic of expelling a member of the media doing their job escapes reasonable people.
Of course most politicians aren’t reasonable people. They’re there for other reasons. Lopez is also not known for logical transparency discussions. She is about split on her 2019 legislative votes for and against the secretive side of public records and meetings.
There (was) even a sign posted in the committee rooms which stated recording is only allowed with permission from the committee chair. Media is exempt from the permission requirement, according to the sign, which was removed the day after Knapp’s expulsion.
Sen. Pat Woods, R-Curry, Quay and Union counties, doubled down, and maintained his anti-media stance by questioning a story before it’s written, or in this case—recorded.
“There’s adequate ways this footage can be gotten in other ways,” Woods said. “I just prefer this not to be spliced and edited to be used against someone and have someone not be totally truthful in their comments in a bill because they’re worried how something might be splashed and cut in a newscast.”
We’re going to go out on a limb and guess Woods isn’t a big transparency fan either. But we could be wrong and don’t want to cut and splash his public comments.
We can thank former senator Janice Arnold Jones for all committee meetings being webcast. She accomplished that by going into committees with a camera and recording the proceedings.
We wish Knapp had stood her ground, disruption be damned.
It’s tiring watching the behavior of elected officials act as if they’re above it all. What part of public meeting does Lopez and Woods not get? They work for us. They are responsible to us. It’s not the other way round.
Steinborn’s bill would eliminate the rule to seek permission altogether. It was only assigned to the Senate Rules Committee and was scheduled to be heard first on Wednesday (2/12). We hope it moves through the full Senate quickly.