The Pew Research Center reports that unemployment-insurance funds “are still clawing their way back to solvency,” with “many state officials and labor analysts … concerned about what will happen to jobless benefits once another economic downturn arrives.”
Last month, Carol Wight of the New Mexico Restaurant Association explained that New Mexico’s UI fund “is inadequate even though many employers’ premiums have more than tripled this year.” Between March 2008 and March 2014, the balance plunged from $557 million to $49 million. It’s recovered a bit in the last year, but a downward trajectory will return if layoffs intensify in the state’s oil-and-gas sector.
HB482 was drafted to address the UI challenge. It would have reduces a claimant’s benefit from 53.5 percent to 45 percent of the average wage earned, and reduced the “total wage factor formula” to the percentage used by Arizona and Colorado — which is still more generous than Utah and Texas.
But the bill failed, and not because of State Sen. Michael Sanchez (D-Belen). It was voted down, 39-25, in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
By Paul J. Gessing | Watchdog Opinion
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 Gov. Susana Martinez, a former prosecutor. The new law now represents the “gold standard” in terms of state efforts to rein in the much-abused process of civil asset forfeiture. It does so in the following ways:
So, what conditions made New Mexico, a state not typically known for policy innovation, the model for civil asset forfeiture reform?
A unique, left/right coalition: The Rio Grande Foundation is New Mexico’s free market policy think tank of which I am the head. We typically work on economic policy issues and even drew the wrath of union supporters and liberals during a debate over “right to work” earlier in New Mexico’s 2015 legislative session, but gave plenty of cover to Republicans.
Our institutional support was fortified by Hal Stratton, a Rio Grande Foundation board member, former New Mexico attorney general, and former legislator who was involved in passing the bill setting up the state’s civil asset forfeiture program in the 1980s.
The national public interest law firm Institute for Justice assisted with model legislation and a great deal of technical and strategic support.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Drug Policy Alliance were the more traditional supporters of civil asset forfeiture reform. Both, despite being national groups, have significant operations in New Mexico, and were able to rally grassroots support and provided the lobbying muscle to get the asset forfeiture bill scheduled and passed despite a very small window of opportunity.
A field general with deep knowledge of the issue: Brad Cates left New Mexico in the 1980s to work as a federal prosecutor in Texas and eventually become director of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office in Washington from 1985 to 1989. He knows the civil asset forfeiture system and its history front and back. It didn’t hurt that he was counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the 2015 legislative session, and that the sponsor of the bill was Zach Cook, chairman of that committee. Cates put his knowledge of civil asset forfeiture and its many abuses and problems to work there.
A national groundswell with local angles: In November of 2014, the New York Times reported on remarks by Harry S. Connelly Jr., then city attorney of Las Cruces. Connelly made several outrageous remarks before a meeting of local police agencies on the issue of civil asset forfeiture including, “We could be czars. We could own the city. We could be in the real estate business.” Connelly described in detail in his remarks how police should target more expensive goods for seizure.
There was also the 2010 case of the Skinners, an African-American father and son from Chicago who were traveling to Las Vegas, Nev., to rehab a house owned by a family member and do some gambling. The men were harassed by police on their trip through New Mexico and eventually had their cash seized and were unceremoniously dropped off at the airport with only enough money to fly home to Chicago.
The ACLU of New Mexico represented the men and was able to get their money back while also generating significant publicity about the abusive process.
A governor with aspirations: New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a former district attorney in Las Cruces, was likely not predisposed to sign civil asset forfeiture reform. She waited until the last moment to sign the bill, doing so without public fanfare or ceremony. Her signing statement contains more criticism than praise for the legislation. But she signed it.
Now, her state is a national leader in restoring 5th Amendment protections for its citizens.
Article printed from Watchdog.org: http://watchdog.org
URL to article: http://watchdog.org/213451/new-mexicos-civil-asset-forfeiture-success/
URLs in this post:
 Image: http://watchdog.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2015/04/Asset.jpg
 Image: http://watchdog.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2014/06/NewMexicoFlag.jpg
 Image: http://watchdog.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2015/01/police-2.jpg
© 2014 Watchdog.org. All rights reserved.
© 2015 Watchdog.org. All rights reserved.
While some on the left claim that Gov. Martinez’s tax cutting strategy has “failed,” the reality is that the corporate income tax reductions enacted a few years ago are only partially phased in as seen in the above map provided by the Tax Foundation.
As the map clearly shows, New Mexico’s corporate income tax rates remain the highest in the region.
Of course Winthrop Quigley of the Albuquerque Journal is correct in noting that tax cuts alone, especially temporary gimmicks enacted by business-unfriendly New York, won’t turn around the economy by themselves. Quigley fails to discuss what regulatory reforms (like Right to Work) might be able to actually reform New Mexico in the absence of tax cuts, but just because tax cuts are not a panacea doesn’t mean they can’t help spur economic growth.
Discussion and Fellowship at Liberty on the Rocks!
“Liberty on the Rocks” is a no-host happy hour discussion and information-sharing session.
Liberty on the Rocks will be held at Scalo Northern Italian Grill which is located in Nob Hill at 3500 Central Avenue SE in Albuquerque. A private room has been reserved for this event. Liberty on the Rocks will take place on Thursday, April 23rd from 6:00 to 7:30PM.
There is no cost for this public event, but attendees are encouraged to have dinner or drinks. Registration is not required but is much appreciated. Click here to register online … it’s fast and it’s free!Come celebrate liberty with us!
In New Mexico, old economic-development habits are hard to break.
The pressure for a special legislative session to pass a capital-outlay bill exemplifies the political establishment’s inability to understand the policies that foster a dynamic and diversified economy. Republicans and Democrats, architects and artists, businesses and unions are complaining the 2015 regular session failed to appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars for what Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, called “critical community infrastructure.”
Construction/maintenance of roads, highways, libraries, airports, hospitals, museums and schools is reflexively viewed as an unalloyed good. But it’s important to remember that capital expenditures are funded not by a magical money tree, but income redistribution. Whether the infrastructure projects are paid for by the statewide property tax (general-obligation bonds), levies on natural resources (severance-tax bonds), the gas tax (transportation bonds), or general-fund revenue, there is no free lunch.
According to Edward Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard, “Infrastructure investment only makes sense when there is a clear problem that needs solving and when benefits exceed costs.” But New Mexico’s capital outlays are not selected by an impartial panel of experts charged with pursuing the highest return on taxpayer investment. An investigation by the website New Mexico In Depth discovered that the Land of Enchantment “appears to be the only state that allows lawmakers to divide a set amount of money in a method often known as ‘pork-barrel politics.’” Reporter Sandra Fish spoke to the dean of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who averred that New Mexico’s system “certainly wouldn’t be in the textbooks about how to do capital improvement planning. In fact, it would be the illustration about how not to do capital improvement planning.”
At the close of the regular session, Gov. Susana Martinez charged that the failure to pass a capital-outlay bill “killed many jobs throughout the state.” But as a job creator, infrastructure consistently disappoints. A 2013 paper by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center found that unemployment for “those with the skills to build roads or schools … [is] often relatively low. Moreover, it is unlikely that an employee specialized in residential-area construction can easily update his or her skills to include building highways.”
The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk believes that arguments for infrastructure as job creation and economic development “have little empirical justification.” Nationally, the labor analysts noted, “just over 300,000 Americans work in highway, street or bridge construction — less than the population of Wichita, Kansas.”
Employment once projects are completed can fail to meet expectations, too. Costly and underused, Spaceport America serves as a bitter reminder that the political process frequently produces unwise infrastructure.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the public-infrastructure fetish is its failure to recognize a role for the private sector. As the Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards observed, “Before the 20th century … more than 2,000 turnpike companies in America built more than 10,000 miles of toll roads. And up until the mid-20th century, most urban rail and bus services were private.” Globally, there’s a back-to-the-future trend — for-profit entities are increasingly engaged in infrastructure, providing relief to taxpayers and impressive performance for users. Sometimes, full privatization is implemented. In other cases, businesses compete for management contracts of government-owned assets. It is neither a partisan nor an ideological development. Even the Center for American Progress, the White House’s favorite think tank, believes that “private investment is critical to improving the country’s infrastructure.”
At $3,470, New Mexico’s per capita indebtedness in 2013 was higher than each of its five neighbors. Yet the borrowing boom has not reversed the state’s struggles. We have yet to regain the number of jobs we had before the Great Recession, and the Census Bureau recently documented that New Mexico is losing population.
The failure to pass a capital-outlay bill in 2015 is not a crisis. Rather, it offers a moment of clarity for rethinking how and why the state borrows money for infrastructure projects. It also presents New Mexico’s policymakers with an opportunity to turn their attention back to tax reform, deregulation and a right-to-work law — cost-free and proven economic-development measures that promise far better results than “public investments.”
D. Dowd Muska ( email@example.com) is research director of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, 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.
Please join the Rio Grande Foundation for our first speaker of 2015, Steve McKee. Steve is president of McKee Wallwork + Company an integrated marketing firm that specializes in revitalizing stalled, stuck and stale brands. He has also been a long-time columnist at Businessweek.com.
He is a long-time resident of New Mexico.
In his first inaugural address, Ronald Reagan famously said, "Big government isn't the solution to the problem. Big government is the problem.”; In his presentation, McKee will argue that while Reagan was right, even he may not have fully appreciated the breadth and depth of the reasons why.
In this provocative address based on a decade of proprietary nationwide research, McKee will illuminate the destructive undercurrents that take (and keep) organizations of all types down, and point out how the organizational dynamics that bedevil private industry make effective big government effectively impossible.
Steve McKee is the author of When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You're Stuck and What To Do About It, an award-winning business book now published in four languages, and Power Branding: Leveraging the Success of the World's Best Brands. A marketing strategist for nearly thirty years, Steve has held executive positions at notable agencies including NW Ayer, Della Femina, and a division of McCann-Erickson Worldwide.
His firm made the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America its first year of eligibility, has twice won the prestigious Effie Award for marketing effectiveness from the American Marketing Association, and has been recognized by Advertising Age as one of ten top small agencies in the nation. Steve has been published or quoted in The New York Times, USA Today, Advertising Age, Adweek, Investor's Business Daily and The Los Angeles Times, among others, and he has appeared on CNBC, ESPN2, CNNfn, Bloomberg, and network television affiliates across America.
How did transparency and open government fare during New Mexico’s 2015 legislative session? Prior to the 2015 session, I urged legislators to consider a variety of reforms. Some of my ideas were discussed and acted upon while others were ignored completely. Change comes slowly in politics and that is doubly true in Santa Fe.
Prior to the session, I argued for a formal institutional process of recording and archiving committee hearings. Gov. Martinez’s office has handled this task with legislators taking varying degrees of umbrage at the Executive Branch’s seeming intrusion on Legislative priorities. Unfortunately, the very fact that the Governor’s office has handled this task became the latest excuse for some legislators to avoid taking it on themselves.
We hope that as Gov. Martinez moves into the latter part of her 2nd term in office (without guarantees that future governors will wish to record and archive committee hearings), that the Legislature will take action to formalize its recording and archiving procedures.
Unfortunately, the bad news is committee archiving was the only consideration that my pre-session recommendations relating to government openness and transparency received. Prior to the session, I approached some legislators urging them to address the onerous number of signatures required for 3rd party candidates to run for the Legislature.
New Mexico is the only state that forces the nominee of a qualified party to submit a petition to achieve ballot access and the signature requirement for Libertarians, Greens, and other third parties is several multiples that for Republicans or Democrats.
Lest you think these signature requirements are not onerous, according to Ballot Access News, New Mexico had fewer third party candidates on the ballot for the last 13 years than any other state. This, despite the fact that “independent” is the single-largest (and fastest-growing) voting bloc in our state.
Unfortunately, asking McDonald’s and Wendy’s to make it easier for Burger King to set up shop is just as difficult as it sounds. Legislation to make the ballot access process fairer for third parties was not considered in 2015.
Another transparency issue that other states are considering and adopting while New Mexico stands flat-footed is the allowance of remote legislative testimony. Two large, Western states, Alaska and Nevada, have allowed remote testimony before legislative committees for years. Washington State and neighboring Colorado have recently adopted remote testimony for legislative hearings.
Since New Mexico is the 5th-largest state in land area and among the least populous states, allowing witnesses to testify remotely After all, not everyone has the time or freedom to spend a day or two to drive from Hobbs or Las Cruces to attend legislative hearings. There are also plenty of expert witnesses around the nation whose schedules don’t permit them to travel all the way to New Mexico to spend between 5 and 30 minutes testifying on a bill.
Shouldn’t New Mexico legislators have the best information available to them from top experts and concerned citizens, not just from those who can get off from work for a day?
Lastly, prior to the session, I urged legislators to consider adding the names of all government workers to the Sunshine Portal listing of government employees and salaries. This was the case prior to a judge’s 2012 ruling (at the behest of the AFSCME government employee union) which required the names of non-exempt government workers’ names to be pulled off of the Portal.
As with these other issues, nothing happened with this issue during the 2015 session. Dozens of other states and literally hundreds of local governments post this (publicly-available) information online. Again, Gov. Martinez has taken it upon herself to post this information elsewhere on the Internet at: http://employees.newmexico.gov/. However, a judge ruled that the law did not provide for this public information to be posted on the Sunshine Portal. That should change.
On several other issues, the Legislature took important actions on transparency during 2015, but when it came to these priorities as outlined by the Rio Grande Foundation and other groups, not much was achieved.
Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is 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. The views in this column do not reflect the views or opinions of New Mexico In Depth.
According to Kiplinger (hat tip to Albuquerque Business First), only one state — California — is a worse place to retire than New Mexico.
In a new analysis, the business and finance publisher warns, “When it comes to taxes, the Land of Enchantment presents a lackluster reality to its retired residents.”
The gross receipts tax was singled out as a villain. The rate for New Mexico’s peculiar form of sales taxation is 8 percent or higher in some locales, and is obviously a deterrent for cost-conscious senior citizens.
Kiplinger’s conclusion: “If you’re eyeing the Southwest for its sunny climate and multicultural vibe, check out Arizona, one of our 10 most tax-friendly states for retirees, instead. The Grand Canyon State does not tax Social Security benefits … and its top income tax rate of 4.54% is lower than New Mexico’s 4.9%.”
I recently brought up a variety of ridiculous aspects relating to divesting UNM’s investments from the oil and gas industry. Mark Mathis, a film maker and someone who “gets” oil and gas, had a very humorous column in the Albuquerque Journal mocking the efforts.
The effort to divest is being pushed by the profoundly radical 350.org which is the creation of the radical environmentalist Bill McKibben.
Unfortunately for McKibben and his radical allies, Americans are less concerned (and rightfully so) about the state of the environment, than in years past (according to Gallup):
Florida’s legislators are considering discontinuing or reducing that state’s film subsidies. The grassroots activism group Americans For Prosperity Florida asked me as president of the Rio Grande Foundation of New Mexico, one of the most generous states in the nation in terms of film subsidies.
In yesterday’s Albuquerque Journal, leftist State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino and a small group of people received attention for efforts attempting to convince the University of New Mexico’s board of regents to cease investing in the oil and gas industries.
As with so many actions of the left, the action is largely symbolic. It really doesn’t matter whether UNM’s endowment is invested in oil and gas or not, but it would feel good to some on the left who see oil and gas as evil rather than as the basis for our civilization. Or, on second thought, some of these left-wingers hate our civilization and perhaps see destruction of oil and gas as the fastest way to undermine it. I don’t know.
Regardless, it is also true that the oil and gas industries contribute approximately $104 million annually to the UNM budget. I don’t see why the university should accept this money if it is unwilling associate itself with “evil.” So, rather than allocating oil and gas funds to UNM (if the regents choose to divest), perhaps that $104 million can be returned to average New Mexicans instead?
By my calculation, every man woman and child in the state would get $50 annually from the oil and gas industry with the amount fluctuating based on price and the amount of oil and gas extracted in a given year. If other universities chose to divest, we’d get a great deal more back from the industry. Plus, taxpayers in our state would have a direct understanding of the positive impact of the oil and gas industries in New Mexico rather than only glimpsing those dollars as they flow into the bureaucratic maw.
There is an old quote that supposedly came from Ghandi, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. I hope it is right because, based on the comments New Mexico’s Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez made recently in the Las Cruces Sun-News today, we are winning.
Prior to the session, I argued that Sanchez would likely be the singular obstacle to economic reform in New Mexico. I was right. The Rio Grande Foundation tracked the myriad issues on which the Senate refused to act. Below are some of the important bills of importance to the New Mexico economy or education system that passed the House that failed to receive action in the Senate (many of the bills passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support).
Right to Work HB 75
School Choice Tax Credits HB 333
Reduce Worker’s Compensation drunk or stoned on job (HB 238)
Increase penalties for dealing food stamps (HB 43)
Simplify paths for alternative teacher certification (HB 181)
Regulate ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft (HB 272)
Keep NM’s Renewable Portfolio Standard at 15% rather than moving to 20% by 2020 (HB 445)
Reform teacher licensure (HB 76)
Reform Prevailing Wage law (HB 55)
Dental Therapists (HB 349)
Social Promotion ban (HB 41)
Of course, Sanchez focuses his ire on the Rio Grande Foundation’s efforts on Right to Work, but he apparently missed the memo that such laws are overwhelmingly supported by members of his own Party (both nationally and here in New Mexico) as seen in the August 2014 polling from Gallup below:
If you support RGF’s efforts to move New Mexico in a more free market direction whether Sen. Sanchez likes it or not, click here.
Once again, the National Education Association (NEA) has proven itself to be simply another left-wing special interest group that cares more about obtaining and spending taxpayer money than enacting policies that benefit New Mexico’s children. This is the clear message of the recent article by their president, Betty Patterson.
She spends her first few paragraphs decrying efforts to make New Mexico a “right to work” state. Interestingly, in New Mexico, teachers already have the option to join or pay dues to a union. In other words, teachers in New Mexico government schools currently live under a reasonable approximation of “right to work.” The NEA did actively fight “right to work” but that’s simply because the organization supports all manner of liberal causes regardless of their impact on students.
Opposition to what Patterson calls “vouchers” is just one prime example of unions’ divergence from the interests of children, families, and taxpayers. There was no “voucher” bill introduced in the 2015 session, but a system of tax credits to enable low-income and needy kids to go to the school of their choice did pass the House.
School choice tax credit programs exist in 14 states from “deep blue” Rhode Island to “red” Arizona. Wherever they’ve been enacted, demand for scholarships outpaces availability. The best available polling found that New Mexicans support tax credits on at least a 2-1 basis, yet the unions and their liberal Senate allies didn’t give the tax credit bill so much as a hearing.
Failure of the ban on social promotion was another cause for celebration for the unions. The ban would have required that all third-graders who score in the lowest category on the statewide reading test be held back in school starting in the 2016-17 school year. The bill also would increase support for struggling readers in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Banning social promotion is a policy change supported on nearly a 3-1 basis by New Mexicans. Prominent Democrats including both Bill and Hillary Clinton have spoken out in support of banning social promotion as a stand-alone policy (not including the increased support for remediation included in the bill considered during New Mexico’s 2015 session). Yet again, the unions and their allies convinced the Senate’s liberal leadership to not even have a committee hearing on the bill.
The failure of those two reforms with such strong public backing should be enough to illustrate that the NEA is more interested in its own power than it is in the academic success of students. Unfortunately, the unions and their allies killed two more house-passed bills (HB 76 and HB 181) that would have simplified or provided for alternative teacher licensing. The idea behind both was to attract and keep our best teachers in New Mexico classrooms.
Unfortunately, the unions seem to oppose any reform that does not pour more money into the education system. According to the Friedman Foundation, between 1992 and 2009, New Mexico’s student population rose by 7 percent while the number of teachers went up by 30 percent and the number of administrators and other non-teaching staff rose 47 percent. Results have not been commensurate with these increases but the unions continue to oppose reforms.
The accumulation of money and political power are the unions’ goals and any student that is allowed to go elsewhere or even be held back is an admission that the current system is not working. The unions depend on that system and an ever-growing infusion of tax dollars to grow their bottom lines.
Slowly but surely, New Mexicans are realizing that accountability and reform, not money, are needed to improve our schools. Unfortunately, large numbers of our children will continue to fall through the cracks until the voices of parents outweigh those of the politically-powerful unions in Santa Fe.
Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is 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
It didn’t garner much media coverage here in New Mexico, but last week, the American Legislative Exchange Council issued its annual report “Rich States, Poor States.” The analysis “ranks the 2015 economic outlook of states using 15 equally weighted policy variables, including various tax rates, regulatory burdens and labor policies.”
How did New Mexico fare? Not great. The state ranked 34th, receiving the worst demerits for its sales-tax (GRT, that is) burden, number of government employees, and liability system.
Also hobbling the Land of Enchantment was its lack of right-to-work (RTW) law. (Every state at the bottom was not a RTW state, while every state at the top was.)
Notably, New Mexico neighbors Utah and Arizona ranked among the list’s best prospects. Maybe we could learn something from them?
The Rio Grande Foundation is tracking announcements of expansions, relocations, and greenfield investments published on Area Development’s website. Founded in 1965, the publication “is considered the leading executive magazine covering corporate site selection and relocation. … Area Development is published quarterly and has 60,000 mailed copies.” In an explanation to the Foundation, its editor wrote that items for Area Development‘s announcements listing are “culled from RSS feeds and press releases that are emailed to us from various sources, including economic development organizations, PR agencies, businesses, etc. We usually highlight ones that represent large numbers of new jobs and/or investment in industrial projects.”
In announcements made in January and February, 27,389 jobs (80.6 percent) were to be created in right-to-work (RTW) states. Only 6,605 jobs (19.4 percent) were planned for non-RTW states.
In March, the trend continued — and was even more one-sided. Of 14,197 projected new jobs, 91.2 percent were slated for RTW states:
It’s more clear than ever that in rejecting right-to-work legislation, New Mexico’s lawmakers declined to implement a powerful economic-development tool.
* All job estimates — “up to,” “as many as,” “about” — were taken at face value, for RTW and non-RTW states alike.
* If an announcement did not make an employment projection, efforts were made to obtain an estimate from newspaper articles and/or press releases by elected officials and economic-development bureaucracies.
* If no job figure could be found anywhere, the project was not counted, whether it was a RTW or non-RTW state.
* Intrastate relocations were not counted, interstate relocations were.
Recently, Gov. Martinez signed the nation’s strongest protections for civil asset forfeiture. The Rio Grande Foundation, ACLU of New Mexico, and Drug Policy Alliance held a press conference on the issue. The full conference can be seen below:
KOB Channel 4 did a story here:
KOAT TV also covered the press conference although they focused heavily on the DUI provisions that have been enacted by some cities and which may or may not conflict with the new legislation.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal bureaucracy that supports “the American culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility,” nearly 26 percent of New Mexicans volunteered in 2013, contributing 49.7 million hours of service.
The Rio Grande Bosque in the Albuquerque region is a big beneficiary of volunteerism. Two weeks ago, the Metro Rotary Club collected more than 50 bags of trash from a one-acre site near the I-40 overpass.
A few days ago, the Rio Rancho Observer profiled the 100-strong group of volunteers who patrol the bosque in Corrales. Fire Chief Anthony Martinez called the watchers “our eyes and ears.” The volunteers keep their eyes peeled for fires, monitor compliance with the dog-leash rule, watch for illegal hunting, and look for orphaned/injured animals.
For politicians and bureaucrats, all too often, it’s “got a problem, get a program.” But there is much private citizens can do to stand in the shoes of government. From mentoring at-risk youths to patrolling neighborhoods as part of a crime watch to protecting the bosque, New Mexico’s volunteers respond to community challenges — and save taxpayers money.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Micah McCoy, (505) 266-5915 x1003 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Gessing, (505) 264-6090, email@example.com
Emily Kaltenbach, (505) 920-5259 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SANTA FE, NM—Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed HB 560 into law, ending the practice of civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico. Civil asset forfeiture, also known as “policing for profit,” allows law enforcement officers to seize personal property without ever charging—much less convicting—a person with a crime. Property seized through this process often finds its way into the department’s own coffers. HB 560, introduced by NM Rep. Zachary Cook and passed unanimously in the legislature, replaces civil asset forfeiture with criminal forfeiture, which requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to a crime. The new law means that New Mexico now has the strongest protections against wrongful asset seizures in the country.
“This is a good day for the Bill of Rights,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “For years police could seize people’s cash, cars, and houses without even accusing anyone of a crime. Today, we have ended this unfair practice in New Mexico and replaced it with a model that is just and constitutional.”
“With this law, New Mexico leads the nation in protecting the property rights of innocent Americans,” said Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation. “Convicted criminals will still see the fruits of their crime confiscated by the state, but innocent New Mexicans can now rest easy knowing that their property will never be seized by police without proper due process.”
“New Mexico has succeeded today in reigning in one of the worst excesses of the drug war,” said Emily Kaltenbach, State Director for Drug Policy Alliance’s New Mexico office “Like other drug war programs, civil asset forfeiture is disproportionately used against poor people of color who cannot afford to hire lawyers to get their property back. This law is an important step towards repairing some of the damage the drug war has inflicted upon our society and system of justice.”
“New Mexico has shown that ending policing for profit is a true bipartisan issue with broad public support,” said Lee McGrath, Legislative Counsel for the Institute of Justice. “America is ready to end civil asset forfeiture, a practice which is not in line with our values or constitution. This law shows that we can be tough on crime without stripping property away from innocent Americans.”
Bipartisan legislation has already been introduced in both houses of Congress that would dramatically reform federal civil asset forfeiture laws. The Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). In the House, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced an identical version of the FAIR Act.
On April 8, 2015, James Taylor of the Heartland Institute visited Albuquerque to discuss policies that are negatively impacting New Mexicans’ access to affordable, reliable energy (especially electricity). You can watch his full presentation below and access his powerpoint slides here:
This morning on the KUNM call-in show, listeners were treated to a most informative discussion of civil asset forfeiture including problems with it, a defense from law enforcement, and an explanation of what the law actually does. You can listen to the show here.
Also, our friends at the Institute for Justice had a great article in today’s Las Cruces Sun-News which they urged Gov. Martinez to sign the bill. Institute for Justice is a libertarian public-interest law firm, that, among other things argued the Kelo property rights case before the US Supreme Court.
Martinez has until noon on Friday, April 10 to sign the bill.