Gov. Lujan Grisham signs Senate Bill 64
Transparency law provides for immediate public disclosure of claims settlements
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed Senate Bill 64, a bipartisan measure that provides for immediate public release of settlement agreements in damage claims against state agencies, a measure that responds to the Martinez administration’s handling of 2018 secret settlements. It was one of more than two dozen measures Lujan Grisham signed into law Wednesday.
“This legislation is a reflection of my administration’s commitment to open government,” Lujan Grisham said. “To hold state officials accountable for their actions, New Mexico citizens need to know how their government is conducting business, and that information must be timely.
“The Risk Management Division of the General Services Department pays millions of dollars each year to defend the state and settle damage claims. Taxpayers have a right to know who receives the money, what misconduct of state agencies led to claims and how the Risk Management Division settled allegations of wrongdoing.”
Senate Bill 64 eliminates a 40-year-old provision in state law that required settlement agreements be confidential for 180 days after signing.
The Risk Management Division provides coverage and defense for state agencies against claims for property damage, sexual harassment, whistleblower retaliation, discrimination and other alleged misconduct.
Senate Bill 64 was sponsored by Sens. Sander Rue and Joseph Cervantes and Reps. Linda Trujillo and Christine Chandler. It was approved unanimously by both the House and Senate.
“Sometimes, the Legislature must legislate to bad behavior. This is one of those times,” Rue said. “Unfortunately, some previous officials used loopholes in state law to keep settlement agreements secret from taxpayers for years. We have eliminated those loopholes by doing away with the 180-day confidentiality period.”
General Services Secretary Ken Ortiz, who worked with the sponsors of Senate Bill 64 to draft the legislation, noted the measure is part of a larger effort by his department to make settlement agreements available to the public.
The General Services Department in August began posting settlement agreements on the state government Sunshine Portal.