Errors of Enchantment

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RGF to continue fight against 2019 campaign finance law

04.02.2024

As media reports have noted, RGF lost a ruling in federal court recently over a 2019 campaign finance law. The Foundation is being represented by the Liberty Justice Center.

The 2019 law requires Rio Grande Foundation to disclosure its donors if it publishes its Freedom Index legislative vote tracking tool within a certain period of time before an election, something the Foundation is not otherwise legally required to do as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that engages in issue advocacy and does not engage in campaign advocacy for or against candidates or ballot initiatives.

  • The Freedom Index which tracks New Mexico state legislators’ floor votes on bills that address issues important to the Foundation.
  • Rio Grande Foundation challenged this law in federal court as a violation of the First Amendment.
  • The Supreme Court has long distinguished between election advocacy and issue advocacy. Although the government may generally require donor disclosure for election advocacy, the Court has generally found that compelled disclosure for issue advocacy is protected by the First Amendment.
  • For the law to be constitutional, it has to serve an important governmental interest and be “narrowly tailored” to that interest.
  • Rio Grande Foundation argued that the forced disclosure of donors for ads that simply mention a candidate or ballot initiative was not narrowly tailored to the state’s interest in informing voters about who is spending and receiving money to support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue.
  • The New Mexico District Court issued a 40-page opinion on March 29, 2024, upholding the law, finding that the forced disclosure requirement was legally sufficient to serve the state’s informational interest.
  • The Rio Grande Foundation is now considering filing an appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking review of the district court’s opinion.

Campaign Finance and the Supreme Court

NM asking the feds for $$ to cut emissions on I-40

04.02.2024

As the great economist Milton Friedman once said, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.” Exhibit A. might be the stretch of I-40 which traverses New Mexico. At 373 miles in length and arguably part of the most important shipping routes in the USA, I-40 is in a state of disrepair. A report from KRQE channel 13 states:

“There’s multiple deficiencies and immediate needs. Pavement is deteriorating rapidly.

There are “miles of crumbling roads, dangerously short on-ramps, and high rates of crashes—a new study suggests those problems and more along I-40 between Arizona and Albuquerque; and there’s no easy fix.”

There are 118 curve deficiencies—or problems with areas where the road curves—multiple bridges in disrepair, and around 70 ramps and merge areas that are too short; something engineers say has made for high-crash areas along the route.

These problems can be deadly as “We get about 18 fatal crashes a year on this corridor and about 17 serious injury crashes” according to Stephanie Miller, deputy project manager with Parametrix, who performed the study for the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT).

While NM DOT is slowly working to develop a plan to possibly expand the road New Mexico is indeed asking the federal government for $250 million. But if the money is approved it won’t go to road improvements. Instead, according to another KRQE report, “The state is hoping to help establish clean transportation fueling centers along I-40. These centers would have electric charging stations and mobile hydrogen refueling. Three of these sites would be in New Mexico (one near Albuquerque, one near Gallup, and one in Tucumcari).”

The big-picture idea is to “decrease cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by over 1.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent through 2050” across five states, according to the environment department.

 

NM “invests” $50 million in California-based “climate investment fund”

03.29.2024

New Mexico is such a tremendously wealthy state, but as I wrote in National Review recently, that wealth is held by government while the population remains impoverished. A recent story from Albuquerque Business First notes that the State Investment Council is investing $50 million of the State’s Severance Tax Permanent Fund with a “climate-focused fund managed by a venture firm out of California’s Bay Area.” The total amount contained in New Mexico’s various permanent funds exceeds $43 billion and is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world.

There are many issues here. First, while we understand that not ALL of these dollars can be invested with a sound rate of return here in New Mexico, we do often hear that New Mexico is “starved” for venture capital. So, which is it?

Secondly, New Mexico politicians are constantly using money generated by New Mexico’s oil and gas industry for the benefit of “green” pet projects. Now the State Investment Council is getting into the mix with “climate-focused” investments of Severance Tax funds.

Finally, all of this money flowing into New Mexico (this is NOT general fund money, but rather is allocated to other funds under the New Mexico Constitution) is out of sight and difficult for even the most diligent citizen to track. Thus, the SIC has had scandals in the past. Is it really a good and workable idea to empower public officials (working outside the spotlight) to invest such massive amounts of money in ways that aren’t politically driven or corrupt?

If New Mexicans knew just how much money their government is sitting on they might actually demand they benefit in more tangible ways than another government program.

HT Doug Peterson

Santa Fe County bans plastic bags despite evidence to contrary

03.28.2024

The idea of actually wanting to achieve policy goals as opposed to virtue signal. Sadly, the Santa Fe County Commission chose the latter when it banned the use of plastic bags in Santa Fe County despite a similar policy in New Jersey that caused overall plastic usage to triple. The ban also extends to polystyrene containers like Styrofoam in unincorporated areas of the county. The new law carves out a handful of exceptions, such as bags used for newspaper deliveries or to package restaurant takeout with a high liquid content.

Businesses can also choose how to pass the cost of alternatives on to consumers, although the county “encourages” retailers to charge a fee for recycled-content paper bags, which would incentivize consumers to bring their own reusable bags.

Santa Feans both county and city will now be using more plastic than before thanks to these policies.

 

Steve Milloy on X: "New Jersey plastic bag ban backfires: "Following New  Jersey's ban of single-use bags, the shift from plastic film to alternative  bags resulted in a nearly 3x increase in

RGF op-ed: Land commissioner right to bet on bright future of NM oil and gas

03.27.2024

The following appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on March 26, 2024. 

Recently, Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, after pushing the Legislature for a 25% tax hike on New Mexico oil and gas producers, made the decision to pull those “highly valuable” tracts of land and not lease them.

That decision has raised concerns that her actions may violate her fiduciary responsibility to maximize revenues from the lands under her control.

Garcia Richard told the Albuquerque Journal, “It’s worth it to temporarily forgo the dollars (from leasing immediately) to make billions more in the future by leasing out the land (at a higher rate).”

The New Mexico Legislature is currently very “progressive” by New Mexico’s historical standards with large Democratic majorities. What happens this November with all 112 seats up for election is anybody’s guess, but the likelihood of a new crop of legislators being willing to raise taxes on oil and gas producers is no sure bet.

Ironically, while Garcia Richard’s move conflicts with the Legislature’s policymaking authority regarding royalty rates, it represents a bet on the future of oil and gas. If the land commissioner thought oil and gas were going to be replaced by “renewables” or electric vehicles, she should be leasing state trust lands for whatever she could get.

But, based on both data and logic, Garcia Richard is correct: oil and gas remains a critical resource and its future is bright. In fact, the United States just hit another new crude oil production record. According to the news website Vox, U.S. oil production in 2023 hit 13 million barrels on average every day in 2023, an all-time record.

New Mexico’s ongoing production boom in the Permian Basin has been a big part of America’s record production. According to the Energy Information Administration in the record-setting month of December 2023, New Mexico saw 60 million barrels produced. That’s not just a record, it is a doubling of production since the end of 2019. While nothing can go on forever, New Mexico’s oil boom shows no sign of reversing.

Amusingly — and thankfully — the oil boom continues despite the overt hostility of the Biden and Lujan Grisham administrations. Their regulations, denial of permits, subsidies and mandates for alternatives, and other policies have failed to stem demand for American and New Mexican energy.

Sadly, New Mexico’s Democrat-controlled Legislature has bought into the misguided view that New Mexico’s oil and gas boom is going to come to an end soon. To prepare, rather than using the revenue boom to diversify the economy, Democrats who control both bodies and the governor’s mansion have been busy hoarding cash for a future when the oil and gas industry has played itself out.

And this is the ultimate problem with Garcia Richard’s strategy. Will New Mexico do anything worthwhile with the additional 5% royalty tax she so passionately supports? The state already has upwards of $43 billion in its various “permanent” funds. The annual general fund budget has exploded in recent years along with education spending, which accounts for by far the largest single share of that budget.

What do we have to show for it in terms of improved outcomes for our kids, a stronger economy relative to our neighbors, or even better roads and infrastructure? I’d argue that we haven’t gotten much.

The good news: Garcia Richard is betting on the oil boom continuing for years to come and she’s probably right. The bad news is that her demands for even more money are unlikely to be fulfilled and won’t benefit average New Mexicans even if they are.

KRQE Playground story highlights New Mexico politics at its very worst

03.27.2024

Especially if you have kids, the story below from KRQE Channel 13 will make your blood boil. It details how a planned playground was killed by one politically-connected individual (former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish) who used her friendship with Gov. Lujan Grisham to kill funding for the park in the recent capital outlay bill.

The episode highlights several issues:

  1. Diane Denish is not a nice person. This is not an ideological issue. We disagree w/ retiring Sen. Ortiz y Pino (also featured) on many issues, but he has always been gracious and friendly. Not Denish and not the Gov. and we’re willing to say it publicly.
  2. This was part of New Mexico’s capital outlay process which is deeply flawed (as we’ve discussed). The idea that one friend of the Gov. can call and get a project killed highlights the hyper-political nature and lack of vetting and accountability of the capital outlay process.
  3. Of course, the kind of power wielded by the Gov. and her close friends is the kind of thing that will continue unless or until New Mexicans decide they are sick of this kind of petty politics.

 

Nella Domenici a leader on education reform

03.26.2024

When is the last time you heard Sen. Martin Heinrich talk about the desperate need for education reform in New Mexico? I certainly haven’t and would encourage to check the Senator’s Twitter feed to see for yourself. Heinrich loves to talk about his pet environmental issues like “electrify everything.” He talks abortion, attacks Republicans, and touts the porkbarrel spending that has run wild in Washington.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that Heinrich doesn’t discuss education because the State is ranked 52nd and his party has controlled the State for decades. That’s why it was so refreshing to see his election opponent Nella Domenici’s work on education reform in New Mexico touted in a recent Albuquerque Journal opinion piece written by her husband.

Along with Domenici’s real-world hands-on experience working for education reform the opinion piece includes support for Mississippi’s educational success (documented in this space) and the support for charter schools provided by Excellent Schools New Mexico. Getting New Mexico’s education system moving in the right direction is primarily a state, not federal responsibility, but it is also an “all hands on deck” situation.

'The best feeling in the world'

New Mexico costly energy regulations to begin hitting home

03.25.2024

One of many problems with government regulations is that politicians who embrace them often postpone their impact in ways that push the actual costs of those policies into the future. That way people forget about them and move on to more immediate concerns and sometimes the worst issues with the policy don’t even take effect until after the politicians who enacted it no longer occupy that office.

Specifically, the Energy Transition Act of 2019 will do great harms to New Mexicans, but those harms are only starting to be acknowledged. Here’s an article from the Albuquerque Journal.  The entire article is worth a read, but here are a few:

So how can the electricity companies afford to pay for new renewable energy facilities or acquire the clean energy otherwise? A University of New Mexico finance professor thinks the solution will likely be price increases and mergers.

“They have to retire plants that aren’t producing clean energy. They have to build plants that produce clean energy or acquire that electricity from somewhere else,” he said. “All of that costs money.”

He said raising money is more expensive right now, too, because interest rates are higher.

“It is a very, very challenging scenario for utility companies to achieve these targets,” he said.

The investor-owned utilities will likely push harder for price increases in the next decade or more, White said.

A second article also from the Albuquerque Journal notes that so-called “community solar” will have steep costs for rate payers as well. According to the article:

It’s not going to be cheap to upgrade an aging power grid to take on nearly 200 megawatts of community solar energy.

It will cost $120 million between the three investor-owned utilities that provide electricity to a majority of New Mexicans

Those 200 megawatts will generate just 2% of New Mexico’s 9,098 Megawatts of electricity consumed.

New Mexico's largest solar plant adds to El Paso Electric portfolio

Land Commissioner Garcia Richard is right about one thing

03.22.2024

While we disagree with New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard about her effort to coerce the Legislature into raising taxes on the oil and gas industry which already funds most of New Mexico’s government, she is right about something. You see, unlike the Legislature which has seemingly been convinced that the industry is on the verge of a collapse, Garcia Richard apparently believes that oil and gas will continue long into the future.

After all, if the industry were somehow not sustainable, Garcia Richard would be looking for ways to offload oil and gas leases ASAP for whatever she might get, not hold onto them in the hopes of future, higher rates of return.  As the Albuquerque Journal noted recently, “Garcia Richard said it makes sense to her to temporarily forgo a few million dollars in exchange for billions more down the road.”

We have no idea when she expects the Legislature to raise royalties. All 112 members are up for election in November (and we happen to believe that the “progressives” have hit their “high water mark” for the time being. The election will likely determine whether a royalty rate increase will be likely in 2025 or not.

Regardless of what happens, we are pleased that New Mexico’s top elected Democrat with first hand knowledge or the oil and gas industry is so bullish on the industry’s future. Hopefully the 2025 Legislature will be more willing to make needed economic policy changes as well.

We know that oil and gas production in New Mexico and nationwide continues to grow. 

591 Senator Bill Tallman: New Mexico’s Failed Capital Outlay System & Economic Development Approach

03.21.2024

On this week’s show Paul interviews retiring Democrat State Senator Bill Tallman. Tallman and Gessing discuss his long track record of public service prior to coming to New Mexico and serving as a State Senator. Tallman is a critic of New Mexico’s capital outlay system and economic development approaches and Paul and Sen. Tallman discuss those. Tallman is also a supporter of electric vehicles and their subsidies and mandates which Paul questions him on.

Tipping Point NM episode 590: Why do New Mexicans Even Pay Taxes, A Few Texans Move to New Mexico and more

03.20.2024

Paul was in Alamogordo last week speaking to a Rotary club. He also had an opportunity to tour the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

A few Texans move to New Mexico & this is news?

Why do New Mexicans even pay taxes?

Despite Biden’s hostile policies toward the industry American oil production hit record levels this year amidst record global demand. You can find New Mexico data here.  

NM ranked 2nd-most-dependent state on federal government by Wallethub.

City of ABQ begins taxpayer-funded “ride share” service.

Democrat Sen. Tallman (Bernalillo County) takes on New Mexico’s broken capital outlay system in ABQ Journal op-ed.

RGF releases “candidate guide” for New Mexico legislative candidates

03.20.2024

Are you running for office and confused as to what the gross receipts tax is and why it causes problems? What is the right income tax rate for New Mexico? What regulations need to be reformed and how should we talk about education reform? As is well known New Mexico’s Legislature is composed of unpaid volunteers. Running for any office can be an overwhelming challenge requiring understanding of numerous complicated issues. To assist candidates regardless of party, the Rio Grande Foundation has produced a candidate guide with brief, easily digestible set of talking points regarding some of the most important economic, education, and constitutional issues facing New Mexicans.

Click the link to find RGF’s candidates guide. The guide includes hyperlinks to various websites which provide background and context for each bit of information. The guide is of course also available to anyone who wants some bite sized talking points about some of the critical issues facing New Mexico policymakers that COULD result in improved outcomes for our state.

 

NM receives 3rd-worst return on its tax dollars among US states

03.19.2024

According to a new Wallethub report “smaller is better” when it comes to government and return on investment. Big-government “blue” states California and Hawaii were the only two states with worse ROI’s than New Mexico (another blue state) while the top performing states were small-government bastions New Hampshire, Florida, and South Dakota (none of which have personal income taxes).

Source: WalletHub

New Mexico ranks dead last in the school system category as well as violent crime. It had the 3rd-highest poverty rate. If New Mexico’s incredible oil and gas wealth were factored in and not just taxes paid by residents of New Mexico, the ROI would look even worse.

 

Record oil production for US and New Mexico (despite political hostility)

03.19.2024

Recently none other than the liberal Vox analyzed the way in which the Biden Administration is reacting to the fact that American oil and gas production has hit record levels. It is absolutely true and the Biden Administration is not thrilled with it. In fact, they have tried to thwart the industry in numerous ways (killing Keystone XL, slowing permitting, stopping LNG permits, and subsidizing alternative energy to name a few).

But, the world demands energy and oil and gas have filled the bill.

And of course New Mexico, the 2nd-leading oil producing state in the nation, continues to increase oil production. December of 2023 saw a record 60 million barrels of oil produced in New Mexico according to the Energy Information Administration.

This not only highlights the ultimate futility of shoveling subsidies into other energy sources, but how misguided New Mexico policymakers truly are when they refuse to embrace bold tax and economic reforms due to some future decline in the oil and gas industries. 

A few Texans move to New Mexico: is this news?

03.18.2024

Based on a recent story in the Albuquerque Journal one might be led to believe that large numbers of Texans are moving to New Mexico for reasons including lower tax burdens to weather and LBGT rights. The story smacks of a journalist attempting to find a trend where none exists.

In reality according to the Census Bureau’s 2022 data, the number of people moving to NM from Texas virtually matches the number moving the opposite way. As the story notes, NM has superior weather and is generally more pleasing in terms of its scenery. Property taxes are high in Texas, but lower overall than New Mexico.

The story DOES note, “Despite its high property taxes, Texas has been experiencing a higher population growth than New Mexico. While their population is growing at an annual rate of roughly 16%, New Mexico’s population is growing at a rate of 2.8%.” That really illustrates that the overall trend is actually people moving TO Texas, not as often to New Mexico.

While New Mexico SHOULD be favorably positioned to benefit from the trend of America’s aging population and retirement boom (bad schools and relatively limited job pools aren’t factors while good weather is) That likely won’t happen until New Mexico eliminates its Social Security tax. It is one of only a handful of states to charge such a tax and that constantly places New Mexico on lists of places that are unattractive retirement destinations. 

A more detailed analysis of New Mexico’s massive surplus and what is being done or not done with it would be much more interesting and worthwhile.

Texas and New Mexico State Flags" Poster for Sale by Art By A | Redbubble

Tipping Point NM episode 589: Larry Behrens – Emergencies and Energy

03.15.2024

On this week’s Tipping Point interview Paul talks to Larry Behrens Communications Director of Power the Future, a pro-energy non-profit that works nationwide including here in New Mexico.

Paul and Larry discuss the start of the COVID emergency four years ago and their efforts to push back against the Gov.’s misguided and special-interest-favoring approach to COVID restrictions which destroyed numerous businesses and harmed New Mexico children (to name two impacts). Ultimately her policies failed to improve New Mexico’s COVID outcomes.

The rest of the episode is dedicated to energy topics at the state and federal level from the recent legislative session and “clean fuels standard” and NM’s ongoing boom. They also discuss the latest from the Biden administration and their lack of permitting for LNG projects.

RGF on the road: Alamogordo

03.15.2024

RGF president Paul Gessing recently headed out on the road and gave a talk the Alamogordo Rotary club. Alamogordo is a great, conservative community and his presentation on the recent legislative session was well-received. Among the Rotarians was Bob Flotte (and his guest Mike Durler) of KHII Radio. Paul talks to Mike every Tuesday morning from 8:30am to 9am about issues facing New Mexico.

He also caught up with Mike Shinaberry who also frequently has Paul on as a guest on his radio show. Mike was kind enough to give Paul a tour of the New Mexico Museum of Space History. The museum is definitely something to check out if you are in the area.

If your Rotary or other civic organization would like to have Paul as a guest speaker, you can reach out to: info@riograndefoundation.org 

Among the items on display at the museum was a 3.7 billion year old piece of moon rock brought back by New Mexico astronaut Harrison Schmitt and a Tornado jet fighter used for training by the German military at Holloman AFB.

Why do New Mexicans even PAY taxes?

03.14.2024

It is hard to quantify just how big the oil and gas surpluses are and how much the industry does for New Mexico’s economy (and how poorly the money is being managed by our Gov. and Legislature). But check out the graphic below from the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. The State received a mind-blowing $7.5 billion in JUST the general fund in FY 2023. An additional $6.4 billion was sent to various permanent funds and other uses. That is simply future spending.

Simply put, as the chart below highlights, as of FY 2022, the oil and gas industry could have paid the entirety of New Mexico’s general fund burden. Given the current oil and gas revenue situation, it would be pretty easy for the State tax burden for ALL New Mexicans to be ZERO. Of course some fiscal restraint and reduction in subsidies/mandates etc. could improve upon that.

So, why ARE New Mexicans paying ANY State taxes?

 

Tipping Point NM 588 New Mexico Rich State – Poor People, Still No Limits on Public Health Emergencies and much more

03.14.2024

Paul recently had a piece in National Review Online which details why New Mexico is a “Rich State with Poor People”

In a second op-ed Paul discusses the fact that after four years New Mexico Still has no limits on public health emergencies.

Paul experienced an electronic candidate nominating petition issue.

The 4 day school week saga continues.

No royalty rate increase was padded in the Legislature this session: Land Commissioner Garcia Richard reacted by taking her “marbles” and going home.

RGF recently requested cost information relating to County EV’s. These are costly equipment.

RGF provides comment on the Biden/Ben Ray Lujan vehicle kill switch.

The House approved the Laken Riley Act, mandating that immigration authorities detain non-citizens charged with crimes. All NM Dems voted “no.”

San Francisco voters recently (overwhelmingly) adopted Prop. F which will require single adults on city welfare to be screened for drug use. Paul wants to make New Mexico as conservative as San Francisco.

In the recent Texas primary only six of the 16 anti-school-choice incumbents who ran for re-election won. Six lost outright and four were forced into May 28 runoffs. Traditionally, incumbents enter runoffs as underdogs because a majority of voters have already expressed themselves against them.

Biden is wrong on shrinkflation of Snickers Bars. 

 

New Mexico ranked 2nd-most federally-dependent state in US

03.14.2024

New Mexico has long been incredibly reliant on the federal government. Thanks to its high poverty levels, federal land ownership, AND the large number of federal installations (with a small private sector), New Mexico receives an astonishing $3.26 in federal funding for every $1.oo paid according to a new report from Wallethub. That makes New Mexico the 2nd-most dependent state in the nation trailing only Alaska.

New Mexico’s federal dependency seems to transcend its recent boom in oil and gas which has not been used by its political leadership to diversity its economy. The Wallethub report states the following about New Mexico:

Wallethub rates it a “high tax, high dependency” state as the chart below notes:

Source: WalletHub

 

Just what ABQ needs: taxpayer-funded “free” rideshare services

03.12.2024

According to a news story from KOB TV, the City of Albuquerque Transit Department has created a new “ride sharing service” that is described as being “just like Uber and Lyft.” The system is touted as a year-long pilot program meant to serve “underserved areas” which currently include the South Valley and the North Valley areas. The service is set to launch on Monday, March 18. According to a separate story from KRQE the “service is free for customers, but it will cost the city about $26 per ride.”

This is exactly the type of government overreach Rio Grande Foundation takes issue with. We have already requested the budgeted annual cost and source of the funds for this program.

Infographic providing step by step instruction for how to use the ABQ RIDE Connect app to schedule rides.

RGF’s Gessing talks to KOAT 7 about more state cash for United Stadium

03.11.2024

The following story from KOAT 7 is excellent. RGF’s president plays a small role in it, but overall the story explores how more and more taxpayer dollars keep being allocated to build on ostensibly “private” stadium for the NM United soccer team. We flagged the additional $16 million being allocated to “improvements at Balloon Fiesta Park” recently from the Legislature’s capital outlay bill. That comes on top of another $13 million already dedicated to improvements at Balloon Fiesta Park.

The team plans to put up $30 million for the stadium, so it seems pretty far-fetched that taxpayers are putting up about half the cost of the stadium just for “improvements” while the team is paying full-freight on the stadium for just $30 million.

Obviously, there WILL be improvements to Balloon Fiesta Park related to the stadium. Why weren’t those made before? The answer to that seems self-evident. Are taxpayer dollars going to be used to build the stadium itself? It is hard to believe how they won’t be and who will be accounting for those dollars in the construction process.

Watch the full story below:

RGF op-ed: Public health laws need reform to prevent more abuses by governor

03.11.2024

The following appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on March 10, 2024.

March 11, 2024, is the fourth anniversary of Gov. Lujan Grisham’s first public health emergency dealing with what was then the start of the COVID 19 pandemic.

Although restrictions varied widely throughout the next three years, the public health emergency did not end until March 31, 2023.

Under New Mexico’s public health emergency laws, governors have wide discretion to make policies unchecked by the Legislature or any other elected body. Objectively, it is hard to see any significant achievements thanks to the governor’s restrictive COVID policies.

New Mexico suffered the third-highest COVID death rate among U.S. states;

New Mexico students lost over a year in classrooms helping to push students’ already poor academic performance down even further to dead-last nationally;

Businesses of all types — especially small ones — were closed, often arbitrary reasons and lost forever, while big chains were able to gain market share and continue operations;

Thousands of workers, including in hard-to-fill health care jobs, were forced to receive vaccines and boosters regardless of age, health condition, and natural immunity.

These and many other decisions made by Gov. Lujan Grisham and the health establishment during COVID are widely seen as mistakes today, especially the school shutdowns. And, while the Legislature may or may not have pushed back against her, the lack of debate and justifying data presented at the time should at least highlight problems with one-person rule.

It is long past time for the Legislature to re-assert its “seat at the table” as a coequal branch of our government when it comes to emergencies. This is made all the more important thanks to the governor’s further abuse of New Mexico’s broad public health orders issued during 2023, some of which are still in effect, relating to guns.

Numerous other public officials made the same mistakes as Lujan Grisham did during the pandemic. But, she is the only one that tried to use a public health order to overturn the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by banning the carrying of a gun in her state’s most populous county.

Her overreach was quickly overturned by the courts, and rightly so, but what if it wasn’t? What if next time she or another governor decides that climate change is the next “public health emergency” and places restrictions on travel or energy use? These are not far-fetched examples and there is nothing in current law restricting this or any future governor from doing it.

And, since travel and energy are not explicitly spelled out as rights in the U.S. Constitution, New Mexico’s liberal courts could easily rubber stamp such moves.

New Mexico desperately needs to reform its public health emergency statutes. Attempts have been made by Republicans in the Legislature, with a few courageous Democrats, to require legislative approval after an emergency has been in effect for 90 days. These have been killed by majority Democrats before even a single floor vote in every session.

But even a 90-day restriction isn’t enough. There need to be protections to ensure that a “public health emergency” means a real emergency. There was no COVID “emergency” by March of 2023. Crime has been a problem for decades here in New Mexico. It should be dealt with by the Legislature and courts. And climate change is a long-term challenge that again must be dealt with legislatively, not via one-person rule thanks to an emergency declaration.

All 112 members of the Legislature are up for election this fall. While there are many pressing issues facing New Mexico, laws relating to how and for how long “public health emergencies” are declared should receive significant attention.

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

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