Analysis: City of Albuquerque Passes Expanded Emergency Powers Ordinance

At last night’s (Monday’s) Albuquerque City Council meeting the Council passed this ordinance which expands the Mayor’s emergency powers. Among the specific provisions was an expansion of when these powers can be used. Here is the language, “[An actual or eminent outbreak, or reasonable threat of an actual or eminent outbreak, of any infectious disease that presents an unusual threat to the health or safety of the residents of the City, or threatens to unreasonably strain the medical or emergency service resources available in the City.”

The ordinance goes on to allow the Mayor to do the following:

(C) Order the closing of all retail package liquor stores and outlets.

(D) Order the closing of all bars and other establishments selling intoxicating liquor or beer by the drink.

(E) Order the discontinuance of selling, distributing or giving away gasoline or other liquid flammable or combustible products in any container other than a gasoline tank properly affixed to a motor vehicle said sale to be limited to not more than one gallon per motor vehicle, or in the alternative, order the closing of gasoline stations and other establishments, the chief activity of which is the sale, distribution or dispensing of liquid flammable or combustible products.

(F) Order the discontinuance of selling, distributing, dispensing or giving away of any firearms or ammunition of any character whatsoever, or in the alternative, order the closing of all establishments or portions thereof where arms and/or ammunition are kept for sale or distribution.

So, how does the City claim that the expanded ordinance “Does not allow the prohibition of sales of any item during a public health emergency.”

Simply put, the regulation of guns/ammo and liquor are preempted by the State of New Mexico and State laws supersede local laws. At least as it currently stands, these provisions of the expanded ordinance cannot take effect.

Of course, the existence of a national abortion policy (Roe v. Wade) has not stopped advocates on both sides of the abortion issue from having heated public debates over a 1969 New Mexico law which restricts abortion.

It would seem that many of these concerns and problems could have been avoided if City Council had taken some time to formulate this policy rather than introducing a bill on Friday and passing it on Monday in a meeting that was closed to the public.