Transparency in New Mexico: The 2010 Legislature

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This year brings a landmark for the Sunlight Foundation. We’ve been hinting for some time that we’re going to make a serious play in state government, and New Mexico is one of the first where we’ll focus those efforts. As my colleague Noah wrote earlier this month, the state’s House of Representatives has voted to expand the presence of webcams in its proceedings. It was an early sign during the 2010 legislative session that New Mexico’s lawmakers are beginning to take open government seriously. It was a also welcome sign, but when the session ended last week it was clear that open-government advocates will remain busy in the 2011 session.

The state has been plagued by corruption and ethics investigations in recent years, and while the Sunlight Foundation doesn’t have a dog in that particular fight we do recognize (and support) the role transparency can play in helping citizens hold their elected officials accountable. From Sunlight’s perspective, there are a number of interesting questions raised by New Mexico’s legislature and the “state of transparency” there—some unique to the Land of Enchantment and some that will be applicable in other locales as well. For starters, the state legislature is part time and they just completed a 30-day session (every other year it’s 60 days). That’s true for many states, but in New Mexico legislators aren’t paid for their time in Santa Fe. It also means lawmakers have precious little time to consider legislation. As you’re aware, the Sunlight Foundation has long called on Congress to post legislation online for 72 hours prior to a vote. How would such a rule be feasible in a short legislative session like the one underway in New Mexico? Continue reading…

Let Congress Tweet

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Sunlight has a new initiative up and running, and if you use Twitter (or other social services, like Facebook or YouTube) you should take notice. I blogged about it over at Huffington Post:

The full value of politicians using social networks and technology is still up for debate — are they just “repackaging,” or can these new tools really help bridge the divide between elected officials and their constituents? These questions will remain unanswered unless Congress establishes new rules over members’ use of the Internet.

The current atmosphere is a mixture of formal rules developed in the 90s and ad hoc advisory opinions, all designed around franking regulations, which usually govern traditional media like mail and television. Interactive services like Facebook, YouTube and Friendfeed are so dissimilar to these older methods that the rules no longer makes sense.

So, if you’re on Twitter (and if you’re not, you should be), head on over to LetOurCongressTweet.org to sign the petition.