It would have required mutual consent to tape private conversations
Secret recordings of conversations will remain legal in New Mexico.
The state Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 6-1 Friday evening to block a bill that would have required mutual consent to tape private conversations.
Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, right, sponsored the bill and was the only committee member to vote for it.
Representatives of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, the Albuquerque Journal, and a man who said he had been the victim of domestic violence all testified against the bill.
A law precluding secret conversations would put victims of family violence at risk of not being able to prove their allegations, said David Brent Olson. In front of the committee, he played a recording he made of a man who had threatened his life.
Never could he have gotten such damning evidence if he had to reveal that the conversation was being recorded, Olson said.
Those representing media companies or advocating for open government said the bill would make watchdog journalism more difficult.
Before the committee hearing, O’Neill rewrote his original bill to try to stave off criticisms that the measure would shield government from scrutiny and be harmful to victims of violence.
But that did not assuage his colleagues.
Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, right, said California has a law requiring consent from everyone involved to record a conversation. Brandt said his sister, a victim of domestic violence, had to break that law to obtain evidence against an abusive former spouse. Then she had to seek immunity from prosecution from a judge.
Approving O’Neill’s bill would mean revisiting it many times to continue including exceptions, Brandt said.
For his part, O’Neill said 12 states have laws like the one he proposed.
He said his motivation for the bill dated to the 1990s, when a duplicitous boss secretly taped one of O’Neill’s colleagues and then used the tape to fire her.
O’Neill said that case came back to mind last year because of a political case.
A man in Roswell recorded Keith Gardner, chief of staff to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, without Gardner knowing it.
Believing he was talking to a friend, Gardner spewed insults and vile language. Much of his vulgarity was directed at then-state senator Tim Jennings, a Democrat.
The Gardner tape became public and was used against him by political enemies.
O’Neill said he barely knew Gardner. “It’s not like I have this strange bipartisan affection for Keith Gardner,” he said.
But the idea that someone had blindsided Gardner with a stealth recording brought back bad memories of the other case, O’Neill said.
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, moved to block the bill after only a few minutes of committee discussion. Ivey-Soto, an attorney, said in an interview that he had counseled victims of domestic violence to make secret recordings of their tormentors for use as evidence of abuse.