A Sandoval County Commission meeting attracted a boisterous crowd Thursday night, as passions ran high over a proposed right-to-work ordinance. The capacity crowd remained mostly respectful, at least until after public comment and once the commissioners began speaking. One commissioner compared unions to the mafia and then singled out a teacher who commented earlier and blamed teachers unions for poor education of students. Right-to-work laws, which are in place in more than half the states in the country, bar unions from imposing mandatory fees on workers. The proposed ordinance would not apply to current companies and unions in the county.
Voters in Bernalillo County get to vote on a question regarding Albuquerque’s controversial rapid transit project—but the results will have little to no effect on the project itself. The ballot question asks voters if they are in favor of putting the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project to a vote in future elections. Even if the majority of voters in the county are in favor of voting on ART, the Albuquerque City Council would not be required to add the proposal to any future ballots. The actual question asks voters, “Are you in favor of giving voters residing in the City of Albuquerque municipal limits the chance to vote in support of or opposition to the proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit project?”
Even if the question receives a resounding ‘yes’ when results come in next week, there is nothing on the ballot that can stop the project from moving forward. The question’s sponsor County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley said she wanted to send a message to Albuquerque Mayor Berry on behalf of business owners who still oppose the project.
Legislators on opposing sides of the aisle are using remarkably similar arguments on two bills that would delay tax breaks and subsidies to businesses to help balance New Mexico’s projected $460 million shortfall between last year and this year. One would delay incoming corporate tax cuts for two years, saving the state an estimated $13.8 million this fiscal year, according to the Legislative Finance Committee,
The other bill would generate $20 million by cutting New Mexico’s film industry subsidy by that much this year. While both bills bear similarities in delaying tax breaks and subsidies for businesses, they’re being both supported and opposed on nearly opposite partisan lines. Democratic leadership in the Roundhouse argued that businesses must participate in the “shared sacrifice” of cuts to solve the state’s budget crisis when supporting the corporate tax cut delays that the Senate passed last weekend. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, emphasized this point when criticizing proposed cuts to services in the Republican budget plan Monday morning in his office.
A controversial bill that took many hours of debate last year saw an accelerated but long and heated debate before dying this time. Five Democrats in Senate Public Affairs Committee voted to table what supporters call “right-to-work” legislation Tuesday evening, overriding the four Republicans who voted to keep the bill alive. The bill would have barred “fair share” union payments, which can be required in some jobs for nonunion employees who work in a collective bargaining unit. Unlike union dues, fair share fees pay for the negotiating a union does on the collective bargaining unit’s behalf. Brian Condit, a political coordinator for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, testified that fair share fees can’t include “nonchargeable” union activities like organizing, political activity and union education.
Tamara Kay is an associate professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico. Gordon Lafer is an associate professor at the University of Oregon. Despite being dealt a death blow in the state Senate at the final hour during the last legislative session, proponents of right-to-work laws are at it again. What was most alarming about last year’s debate was how lobbyists manipulated facts to propel their pet bills through the legislature. The head of the Rio Grande Foundation (RGF), Paul Gessing, promoted bogus research reports to legislators and the public that no credible statistician or social scientist would ever put their name on, suggesting that right-to-work laws increase economic growth, jobs and personal income.
Albuquerque residents have had an earful when it comes to revamping one of the city’s busiest streets. Local politicians have gone back and forth on whether the city should spend money on new buses and infrastructure along Central Avenue. Note: A version of this appears in the November 4 edition of the ABQ Free Press. The proposal for a Bus Rapid Transit system in Albuquerque has also received national attention from groups who have been fighting both sides of the issue across the United States. In September the Rio Grande Foundation, a local free-market think tank, hosted a lunch with Cato Institute Senior Fellow Randal O’Toole.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and The Charles Koch Institute, two groups that arguably have differing opinions on many things, appeared on the same same stage in Albuquerque on Wednesday to discuss civil asset forfeiture. New Mexico famously ended the practice of civil asset forfeiture earlier this year. Representatives from the two groups, along with a criminal defense attorney and a former director of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office, discussed the importance of reforming states’ laws regarding asset forfeiture. Moderated by Paul Gessing, the director of the free market think tank Rio Grande Foundation, the panel discussed how New Mexico recently passed a law to change how and why law enforcement is allowed to take property. One particularly interesting member of the panel was Brad Cates, a former prosecutor, New Mexico lawmaker and one of the people responsible for creating a law that allowed police to seize property without a conviction or even an arrest.
Starting today, cops in New Mexico can no longer take personal property without convicting someone, child predators will face tougher penalties and frozen powdered alcohol products are now recognized as being under state liquor control. These are just a handful of the 62 laws passed earlier this year during the regular state legislative session. Seventy-nine other new laws went into effect last month, while others with the emergency clause went into effect even earlier. The new civil asset forfeiture law is perhaps the most impactful and passed both chambers of the Legislature with wide support, netting no votes against it from either the state House of Representatives or the state Senate. Before, law enforcement officers could arrest someone and seize a personal item, such as their car, without proof that this person committed a crime.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]PAUL GESSING is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.[/box]
They say it’s better to be lucky than good. Of course, it’s even better to be lucky and good! That is exactly what happened in New Mexico during the 2015 legislative session with regard to reforming the process of civil asset forfeiture. To recap, during the 2015 legislative session, New Mexico’s deeply-divided Legislature unanimously supported significant reforms to the State’s civil asset forfeiture laws. That bill was signed by Governor Susana Martinez, a former prosecutor.
Gov. Susana Martinez signed into law a bill to end civil asset forfeiture in the state. The signing came on the final day that she could act on bills passed this legislative session and came after a large amount of pressure to sign the bill. In New Mexico, both the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Rio Grande Foundation supported the legislation. These two organizations are usually seen as being on the opposite side of ideological issues. The story received national attention in recent weeks including a story in the New York Times.