CARRIZOZO, N.M.—The home of Billy the Kid and Smokey Bear is now the third county in New Mexico to pass a right-to-work ordinance. All five Lincoln County Commissioners voted to pass the ordinance on Tuesday after less than an hour of public comment and no remarks from the commissioners themselves, except for the few words spoken during the vote. While the commissioners had little to say about right-to-work during the public meeting, the audience was peppered with political and elected officials. Lincoln County Clerk Rhonda Burrows, Carrizozo Municipal Schools Superintendent Ricky Espinoza, Ruidoso Village Councilor Joseph Eby, 2nd Congressional District candidate Gavin Clarkson and New Mexico state Rep. Greg Nibert supported the measure during the public comment period of the meeting. At the meeting, 12th District Attorney John Sugg also offered more than just his verbal support.
As the issue of compulsory union dues and fees for public employees is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, one New Mexico activist group is jumping from county to county, pushing local lawmakers to ban unions from requiring money to represent private sector workers. The libertarian non-profit Americans for Prosperity announced its reentry into New Mexico politics about a year ago. Funded by David and Charles Koch, Americans for Prosperity is a 501(c)(4), which means most of the group’s work has to focus on advocacy or education, rather than support or opposition of specific political candidates. Other groups with the same tax category include the American Civil Liberties Union, AARP and the National Rifle Association. In New Mexico supporters of right-to-work laws haven’t been able to pass a statewide right-to-work law for decades.
The state Supreme Court ruled against those who wanted to speed up the process of filling the vacancy in Senate District 39. Republicans in the state had been pushing for a quick replacement, saying that time was of the essence in the final hectic days of the legislative session. Three petitioners, two Republicans and a Democrat, who live in the district said that they are disenfranchised because they have no representation in the Senate and asked the high court to speed up the process. The petition had asked that the court either compel the county commissions to hold emergency meetings or for the court to allow Gov. Susana Martinez to make a selection from the commissions that already made a choice. In districts that represent multiple counties, or at least portions of multiple counties, each county commission chooses a nominee.
Only the Torrance and Lincoln County commissions named nominees to replace Phil Griego in the state Senate after his resignation. The Torrance County Commission nominated former Estancia mayor Ted Barela while the Albuquerque Journal reported the Lincoln County Commission named Thomas Stewart. Both are Republicans. Critics say that making a decision without 72-hour notice is a violation of the Open Meetings Act. The six counties that make up parts of Griego’s district get to name nominees and Gov. Susana Martinez will choose one to fill the rest of Griego’s term.