Categories
Issues Legislature Notable News Open Government Top Issues

Initial wave of Worst Senate Bills to watch in 2021

With the Legislature meeting behind closed doors in a “virtual” environment, the potential for mischief is extreme in the 2021 Legislature. We know that Gov. Lujan Grisham has a few stated priorities for the session, but when it comes to the most “progressive” (big-government-oriented) Legislature in New Mexico history, some truly awful bills will be introduced (and possibly passed).

In a 60 day session there will be plenty of bills introduced, but here are a few “pre-filed” and early candidates. We recommend you 1) sign up for our email list at this page, 2) check our “Freedom Index” regularly 3) use the bill tracking feature on the Legislature’s website to track notable bills.

Here are SOME of the initial “worst of the worst” starting in the Senate (this is the New Mexico Legislature, this list will get pretty long once all bills are introduced).

SB 11: Imposes regulations on vehicles to drastically reduce CO2 emissions from motor vehicles used in New Mexico;SB 55: Require social, cultural, and racial “impact statements” for all bills in the Legislature;

SB 31: Require every school district in New Mexico hire at least one full-time nurse;

SB 56: Increase New Mexico’s top personal income tax rate to 8.2%;

SB 89: Increase New Mexico’s top personal income tax rate to 6.5%;

SB 63: Require ALL newly-constructed schools to have photovoltaic solar panels;

SB 67: Requires ALL new energy to be “green” produced with renewables;

SB 81: Requires a “racial impact statement” for all crime legislation;

SB 110: Increase employer (taxpayer) contribution to the Educational Retirement Board pension system.

SB 130 Requires 75% of New Mexico State-owned vehicles to be powered by electricity;

SB 132 Requires ALL newly-constructed homes to have photovoltaic solar panels AND charging stations for electric vehicles;

SJR 3 Enacts “green” amendment to New Mexico’s Constitution.

We’ll look at the worst bills from the House tomorrow.

Categories
Legislature Notable News Open Government Top Issues Videos

Paul talks to KOB TV about drawbacks of a closed New Mexico legislative session

Populists on both sides of the political aisle may believe that not having lobbyists in the Roundhouse for the 2021 Legislative session will be a good thing. RGF’s Paul Gessing sat down with KOB TV to discuss why the lack of lobbyists (both citizens AND professionals) and the information they provide could result in “half-baked” legislation.

Populists on both sides of the political aisle may believe that not having lobbyists in the Roundhouse for the 2021 Legislative session will be a good thing. RGF’s Paul Gessing sat down with KOB TV to discuss why the lack of lobbyists (both citizens AND professionals) and the information they provide could result in “half-baked” legislation.

Click below to watch the full KOB story: 

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/lobbyists-barred-from-roundhouse-during-legislative-session/5979384/?cat=504

Categories
Economy Energy and Environment Film Subsidies Health Care Legislature Local Government Notable News Oil & Gas Open Government RailRunner Top Issues Videos

RGF’s Paul Gessing talks New Mexico politics and policy w/ Mick Rich

The following conversation between RGF president Paul Gessing and Mick Rich (former US Senate candidate and owner of a construction business) aired on local television in Albuquerque, NM recently. It is split into four segments of about 10 minutes apiece.

In the first segment Mick and Paul discuss health care reforms made under ObamaCare, why it has failed, and how Biden plans to move forward with the same government-driven philosophy.

In segment two we discuss the evolution and economics of New Mexico’s film industry and its oil and gas industry.

In the third segment we discuss some of the crime issues at play in the City of Albuquerque.

In this segment we discuss the upcoming 2021 legislative session, the Rail Runner, Spaceport, and five things the Legislature SHOULD do to bring prosperity to our state.

Categories
Economy Notable News Open Government Tax and Budget Top Issues Videos

RGF’s Paul Gessing discusses State contact tracing contract w/ company being sued in Texas

The Lujan Grisham Administration has contracted with a company that has been involved in a lawsuit for not fulfilling its end of a contract with the State of Texas. Click on the story below to watch:

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/software-company-used-for-contract-tracing-in-nm-involved-in-lawsuit-in-texas/5889727/

Categories
Economy Legislature Notable News Open Government Top Issues

New Mexicans opt out of forced unionism

The following appeared on the Las Cruces Sun News website on August 15, 2020.

Las Cruces Sun-News Obituaries - Las Cruces, NM | Las Cruces Sun-News

With New Mexico still in the throes of COVID19 it is easy to forget about other major public policy issues affecting the State and its economy.

Just over two years ago, in the Janus v. AFSCME decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that working for state or local government should not come with a requirement that those employees hand over a portion of their hard-earned money to unions with whom they often disagree. In the time since the decision, many government workers in New Mexico have exercised these rights by leaving their unions in droves.

In a series of public records requests, the Rio Grande Foundation has found that that more than half of state employees – 54% – have left their union. Our survey of schools, cities and counties around New Mexico show that thousands of other public workers have decided to leave their unions as well.

In working with the national advocacy effort My Pay, My Say, which is working across a large number of states (nearly half of states saw public employees receive the freedom to opt-out), New Mexico’s drop among state employees is the largest we have seen.

Our campaign telling New Mexicans about their first amendment right to leave their unions has reached tens of thousands of public employees all across the state with thousands of them engaging with the advertising and many ultimately choosing to stop paying dues.

The Rio Grande Foundation has long supported worker freedom in New Mexico. We share President Franklin Roosevelt’s contention that, “the process of collective bargaining as usually understood cannot be transplanted into the public service.” And we were thrilled when the court upheld the First Amendment rights for workers to choose – or choose not – to belong to labor unions.

Public sector bargaining is problematic. Unlike in the private sector, taxpayers are ultimately subsidizing both sides of the bargaining table – the government employer and the government union.

Recently, many on the left have come to realize these issues as well – at least when it comes to police unions. Many of the protections given to unionized police officers are not in the best interests of accountable policing and equitable criminal justice policies. We welcome them to the newfound realization that government employee unions often stand in the way of holding “public servants” accountable for their actions.

But this new skepticism of unions – over their political advocacy and problematic contracts – should apply across all areas of government, including at the state, local and in K-12 education. In fact, problems with government employee unions in the education bureaucracy, like unionized law enforcement bureaucracies, have disproportionate, negative impacts on poor and minority populations.

Allowing government employees to opt out of their unions is a good step towards holding unions accountable. It forces them to be more accountable to those they “represent” and it takes away one of the special favors typically granted to unions by state and local government.

Once Janus v. AFSCME gave workers the choice, large numbers of them decided that unions didn’t do a good job representing their interests. Some opt out for broader political reasons; others simply don’t feel the dues are worth it and still more are perhaps concerned by the lack of accountability in government that has been driven by the unions for decades. Whatever the reason, we’ll continue making sure government employees know their rights.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

Categories
Economy Notable News Open Government Top Issues Uncategorized Videos

Brief RGF explainer video shows how much of NM has been minimally-impacted by COVID 19

We at the Rio Grande Foundation have found the New York Times’ website tracking COVID 19 to be very useful in better understanding the important data surrounding the Virus and the State of New Mexico’s response to it.

Watch this short, 3 minute video and you too will better understand the situation.

Categories
Constitution and Criminal Justice Economy Education Energy and Environment Film Subsidies Legislature Notable News Oil & Gas Open Government Tax and Budget Taxes Top Issues

Understanding the Rio Grande Foundation

The Rio Grande Foundation often comes under criticism from the left. But sometimes we come under fire from the right as well.

For starters we are designated as 501c3 “education and research” think tank. We don’t make endorsements and we don’t “carry water” for any political party or politician. Various media outlets have called us libertarian, conservative, and free market. We call ourselves “free market,” but we don’t waste our breath and time arguing the finer points of ideology because we believe that our work is self-explanatory.

For starters, New Mexico is a deeply challenged state. We believe that a vast majority of these issues are self-inflicted. New Mexico lacks economic freedom and remains poorer and less well educated than our neighbors. We also spend a VAST majority of our time focused on state and local issues as opposed to federal ones.

Those issues broadly include:

  1. Size of Government: New Mexico has long been a state driven by government. Data show that state/local spending is too high and that government regulations make doing business in New Mexico less attractive than doing business elsewhere. We’ve worked on this issue from all angles including: all forms of taxation, subsidies and corporate welfare (notably film subsidies), but also LEDA, JTIP, and “green” subsidies.
  2. Regulation: Rio Grande Foundation has led the charge for “right to work” repeal of NM’s”Davis-Bacon” law, reform of government employee pensions, and against numerous “nanny state” regulations like plastic bag bans. We have also done extensive work against “green” programs from the Energy Transition Act to costly “green” building codes.
  3.   School Choice/Education Reform: Across the political spectrum New Mexicans agree that our K-12 system is failing. While politicians of both parties typically opt for some combination of more money, more time in school (pre-K), and some form of top-down accountability, the Rio Grande Foundation believes that parents and (to an extent students themselves) are better able to decide on the educational options that appeal to them. Charter schools are a good start and should be expanded, but more options are needed.

Additionally, the Rio Grande Foundation supports the US and New Mexico Constitutions, we stand up for free speech, gun rights, private property, and open government.

We don’t take on immigration, gay rights, or abortion issues.

So, there you have it. We at the Rio Grande Foundation have our plates very full, but we are making a difference in New Mexico every day. If that appeals to you, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today!

Categories
Local Government Notable News Open Government Top Issues

RGF Files Public Records Lawsuit Against City of Albuquerque

(Albuquerque, NM) – The voters of Albuquerque voted against Democracy Dollars in November of 2019, and the Rio Grande Foundation played a pivotal part in the defeat of the ballot measure. Furthermore, the Rio Grande Foundation won an ethics complaint against the Mayor for his use of the City’s website (CABQ.gov) in which he specifically called for voters to approve Democracy Dollars and other bond measures.

Almost six months later, the Foundation has filed suit over a lack of transparency and openness associated with Mayor Tim Keller’s decision to violate the law.

Specifically, the Rio Grande Foundation requested a reasonable collection of text messages and emails sent to and from specific City employees leading up to the posting of Mayor Keller’s pleas on the City’s website to vote “YES”.

According to the Rio Grande Foundation, the public records request was filed under New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records law and accepted by the City in December of 2019. After dutifully paying the invoice to receive the first portion of these records, the City of Albuquerque has failed to produce any records in response to the request from over five months ago.

Patrick Brenner, a Policy Analyst with the Foundation, filed the original request. Mr. Brenner has left no less than six voicemails and has sent dozens of emails and messages through the City’s open government portal imploring the City to fulfil its duty to provide public records.

On May 12, 2020, after exhausting all other avenues to obtain these public records, which includes receiving assistance from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government when Director Melanie Majors sent a letter of complaint to no avail, the Rio Grande Foundation filed a legal complaint in District Court against the City.

In the lawsuit the Foundation alleges that Ethan Watson, City Clerk, and the Custodian of Records, Yvette Gurule, are creating artificial delays in order to delay production of these public records. Early in the process, the Foundation emphatically requested confirmation from Mr. Watson and Ms. Gurule that these documents were not being destroyed. To date, no such confirmation has been received.

The Foundation recognizes that the ongoing response to the Coronavirus pandemic may have caused delays later in the request process. However, the Coronavirus does not excuse any governmental body from its obligation to timely respond and provide public records requested in accordance with the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act.

Click here to see a copy of the lawsuit that was filed.

Categories
Economy Notable News Open Government Top Issues

An Open Letter to New Mexico’s Economic Recovery Council

The following letter was sent to Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Economic Recovery Council by the Rio Grande Foundation and Power the Future New Mexico under the banner of their combined effort FairlyOpen New Mexico. PDF with logos is posted here.

Dear Council Members:

Thank you all for stepping up in this difficult time for our State and Nation to serve to help Gov. Lujan Grisham open New Mexico’s economy. None of you need reminding of the devastation wreaked upon New Mexico’s business community and budget during the last few months.

With that, the groups behind an initiative called “Fairly Open New Mexico” (The Rio Grande Foundation and Power the Future NM) would like to call your attention to the recommendations that we have made as to how we/you can help our State get going again.

First and foremost, opening New Mexico as soon as possible is critical to ANY effort to get our State moving. We know that this Virus has not been evenly distributed across our Nation or our State.

We applaud the recent moves to slightly open various businesses on May 1, 2020. That said, a lot more can and should be done to get New Mexico moving again.

For starters, it would seem that areas that have been relatively free of the Virus can and should be allowed to open up businesses and their local economies as long as basic guidelines are followed. Everything from golf courses to dog groomers would seem to fit this category, but the focus should be on obeying State guidelines, not on “essential” vs. “non-essential.”

Local officials in areas with limited/no virus impact should also be allowed to open right away but they DO need specific guidance and help from State officials. Social distancing seems to be the watchword. Let’s allow those areas to open up right away as long as they can comply with simple guidelines issued by the State. And if there are detailed, scientifically-sound rules to be followed, local governments can be sure to appropriately follow them.

The same concept should be applied to businesses. We believe that ALL small businesses should be allowed to reopen at the same standards applied to box stores. Detailed plans for reopening including health criteria to be used for businesses to reopen should be made available. This should be a public document.

Finally, we need transparency. We have urged the Gov. to be as open and transparent as possible in her use of models relating to the spread of the Virus. The Economic Recovery Council, while it meets in private, must issue detailed reports to the public explaining what assumptions are being made about the economy, tax revenues, job losses and who is losing them, budget deficit projections, and other basic economic data.

Absent a clear reporting of both the data being used as well as the recommendations being made (and by whom) we fear that the work of this Council will be for naught.

We ALL want to defeat the Virus AND restore New Mexico’s economic health.

Thank you for your time and attention. If you would like further information about our efforts and concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

Paul J. Gessing                                                        Larry Behrens
President                                                                  Western States Director
Rio Grande Foundation                                            Power The Future

Categories
Constitution and Criminal Justice Local Government Open Government Top Issues

Rio Grande Foundation sues City of Albuquerque for Open Meetings Act Violations

(Albuquerque, NM) – On Friday, March 13, 2020, the City Council of the City of Albuquerque announced that it would be holding a closed meeting the following Monday, March 16, 2020. At that meeting which occurred this past Monday, the Council amended its Emergency Powers Ordinance which has been on the books for several decades.

The Emergency Powers Ordinance contains numerous controversial provisions which, under New Mexico’s Open Meetings Act, residents of Albuquerque have a right to participate in with their members of the City Council.

The language of the Open Meetings Act is very simple. It states in part that, “…all meetings of any committee or policy-making body of the legislature held for the purpose of discussing public business or for the purpose of taking any action within the authority of or the delegated authority of the committee or body are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times.”

The Rio Grande Foundation asserts in the lawsuit which has been filed in New Mexico district court that the City has violated the New Mexico Open Meetings Act by holding a City Council meeting March 16, 2020 without proper notice and without conducting such according to the provisions of the Open Meetings Act therein violating the Due Process owing to the citizens of Albuquerque.

Furthermore, the decades-old Emergency Powers Ordinance to which several amendments were made is itself unconstitutional. The Ordinance gave the Mayor power to restrict sales of firearms and ammunition. These provisions which were not amended on Monday violate New Mexico’s Constitution, which states:

“No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms.”

Said Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing, “The Rio Grande Foundation understands that we are in a crisis situation right now, but laws like the Open Meetings Act and our State and Federal protections on the right to self defense were intended for crises.”

The Foundation’s lawsuit states that both the Open Meetings Act and the long-existing firearms restrictions violate New Mexico Law and should be considered void.

Click Here to View the Complaint as Filed