Three advocacy organizations are teaming up to intervene in and halt a lawsuit filed by business groups that want to reverse Albuquerque’s minimum wage and keep a paid sick leave ordinance off the ballot in October. The Center on Law and Poverty, which is acting as counsel, filed a motion to intervene and a motion to dismiss the lawsuit Thursday in Albuquerque district court. The Center on Law and Poverty, is representing a group of city voters who are members of Organizing in the Land of Enchantment (OLE) and El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos. The New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, NAIOP and the New Mexico Restaurant Association filed the lawsuit against the city earlier this month. The lawsuit contends that both city initiatives amount to illegal “logrolling,” which it refers to as “the presentation of double or multiple propositions to the voters with no chance to vote on the separate questions.” Attorney Pat Rogers, who is representing the business groups in the lawsuit, cites the fact that the proposed sick leave ordinance has 14 sections to it as an example.
Supporters of a proposed Albuquerque sick leave initiative asked a district court judge Wednesday to reconsider his decision to require the full text of the proposal on election ballots next year. The city election is still a year away, but the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty filed the motion asking Bernalillo County District Judge Alan Malott to reconsider a previous decision that required the full text of the proposal appear on the ballot and instead allow the sick leave initiative to appear as a summary on the ballot next October during the municipal elections. Lawyers with the Center on Law and Poverty said the full text would likely not fit on a one-page ballot and could cause inaccurate ballot counts, rejected ballots or a complete absence of the initiative on next year’s ballot. They also disputed Malott’s interpretation of the city charter. “The best way to mitigate these risks is an order that the Charter permits a summary to appear on the 2017 municipal election ballot, and that the full text may be provided to voters in a separate document,” wrote the Center’s lawyers in the motion.
A high profile ballot proposal that would require businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees will likely not be on the ballot this November. A district judge in Albuquerque ruled Monday county commissioners legally have the discretion to deny ballot access to city initiatives during general elections. Second Judicial District Judge Alan Malott told a courtroom packed with advocates both for and against the paid sick leave initiative that he would not order the Bernalillo County Commission to add the proposal to the November general election ballot. “The county cannot be forced to include the proposed ordinance,” Malott said. Malott also ruled the full text of the order must be on the ballot when it does go in front of voters, which is likely in 2017.
A ballot initiative that would require most Albuquerque employers to provide paid sick leave for employees will head to the City Council after the City Clerk’s office approved more than enough petitions signatures this week. Albuquerque City Clerk Natalie Howard confirmed with NM Political Report on Thursday that Healthy Workforce ABQ, a group of community advocates turned in at least 14,477 valid petition signatures. Howard said the group turned in more than 18,000 signatures but her office will likely not have to verify any more. Such campaigns typically turn in an excess of signatures in case some are thrown out for being invalid. Elizabeth Wagoner, an attorney with the New Mexico Center for Law on Poverty, told NM Political Report that the signature confirmation is “definitely a success.”
“The next step is going to make sure the City Council and County Commission do the right thing,” Wagoner said.
A coalition advocating for paid sick leave in Albuquerque announced Monday that they reached the halfway point of their self-imposed petition goal. Healthy Workforce ABQ, a group comprised of a number of left-leaning organizations, delivered more than 10,000 petition signatures to get a initiative asking voters to approve mandated paid sick leave in the workplace on Albuquerque ballots in November. Adriann Barboa, a field director for Strong Families New Mexico, is helping with the sick leave campaign and told NM Political Report the goal is to get twice as many signatures as required by the city in case some are disqualified. “We want to get more than double so that we have for sure the solid number we need and that’s not a question,” Barboa said. Ballot initiatives require a minimum of a little more than 14,000 valid signatures, but the city often deems signatures unqualified if the signer is not registered to vote in the area or their addresses are written down incorrectly.