Civil Asset Forfeiture Ban Passed in New Mexico, Heads to Governor

SANTA FE, NM—On the final day of the 2015 legislative session, the Senate unanimously passed Representative Zachary Cook’s bill to end civil asset forfeiture—also known as “policing for profit”—in New Mexico. This unfair practice allows police to seize and keep property of citizens who haven’t even been charged with a crime, never mind convicted. Rep. Cook’s legislation would end the legal fiction of civil forfeiture—that property can be responsible for a crime—and replaces it with criminal forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to the crime.

“Crime should not pay,” said Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation. “This bill strikes exactly the right balance by allowing law enforcement to bring criminals to justice while protecting the property rights of innocent New Mexicans.”

The bill enjoyed widespread bipartisan support at every stage of the legislative process, passing unanimously through every committee and both the House and Senate floors. This support mirrors the movement at the national level, which is fueled by a powerful partnership between conservative and liberal advocates. Bipartisan legislation has already been introduced in both houses of Congress that would dramatically reform federal civil asset forfeiture laws.

“This bill is one of the most powerful proposals in the country to end a practice that undermines American’s property rights and violates due process,” said Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, a national organization pressing for forfeiture reform. “This is a big day for New Mexico.”

The proposal is also endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Drug Policy Alliance.

Right to Work States: Where the new Jobs Are

With the 2015 legislative session about to end, it's a near-certainty that right-to-work (RTW) legislation, which passed the House, will not be voted on in the Senate.

Given New Mexico's struggling economy and declining population, it's unfortunate that senators have rejected a powerful, and cost-fee, tool for job creation. Since the start of the year, the Rio Grande Foundation has been 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."

Here are the findings for January:

jan_rtw_jobs

Here are the findings for February:

feb_rtw_jobs

In all, 27,389 jobs (80.6 percent) were to be created in RTW states. Only 6,605 jobs (19.4 percent) were planned for non-RTW states.

Notably, many projects involved shifts from non-RTW to RTW states:

* Brad Penn Lubricants moved production from Pennsylvania to Indiana.

* Mercedes-Benz USA relocated its corporate headquarters from New Jersey to Georgia.

* American Stair Corporation moved its operations from Illinois to Indiana.

Contrary to unions' claims, the positions slated for RTW states are not limited to "McJobs," but run the gamut, including healthcare, software/IT, manufacturing, finance, engineering, and logistics/warehousing -- exactly the kind of opportunities New Mexico needs to reverse its economic woes.

In all, New Mexico's four RTW neighbors are projected to gain 6,122 jobs, while non-RTW Colorado posted no project announcements.

Some methodological specifics:

* 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.

Details on Ending Policing for Profit in New Mexico


New Website Tracks “Progress” of Legislation in New Mexico Senate

(Albuquerque, NM) – A new website from the Rio Grande Foundation provides both accountability and an understanding of how the process is working or not working in Santa Fe. Particularly, the new website, www.michaelsanchezbillkill.com will track New Mexico’s Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez and his “iron-grip” on the agenda of the body he leads as legislators continue to meet during the State’s 60-day session. The site includes a count of (currently 148) and details on all of the bills that have passed the House without having been voted on in the Senate.

As of Wednesday, March 11, according to KOAT TV, only one bill, the legislative funding bill, had passed both houses.

Prior to the legislative session, Sanchez proclaimed his intent that the New Mexico Legislature “will not end up like Washington, D.C.” implying that the Legislature would see a spirit of cooperation and compromise that has not been seen in our Nation’s Capitol in recent years. Unfortunately, that has not been the case to date.

The public and media can use the new website to see how Majority Leader Sanchez is using his control over the Senate’s agenda to quash debate on a variety of important issues. While Rio Grande Foundation does not support or even take a position on several of the issues that are now awaiting action in the Senate, to the greatest extent possible one legislator should not be able to squash debate.

Examples of bills dying a quiet death in the Senate without a vote or debate are ubiquitous.  During the 2011 legislatives session, for example, Sanchez killed a bill (HB 126) introduced by then Rep. Al Park, a Democrat, that would have made it a petty misdemeanor punishable by a jail term of six months or less to interfere with zoo animals. There is currently no crime relating to entering an animal enclosure at a zoo specified in New Mexico law.

After sailing through the House on a 64-0 vote and moving through the Senate, Sanchez provided the sole “No” vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee and killed the bill without a floor vote. Similar legislation has been introduced during the 2015 session.

Rio Grande Foundation Releases Upgraded “Freedom Index” Legislative Tracking Tool for 2015 Session Are your legislators voting for or against freedom?

(Albuquerque) As the New Mexico Legislature moves into its final weeks and several important floor votes have been taken, the Rio Grande Foundation is launching an updated and easier-to-use “Freedom Index” legislative tracking tool. The goal of this tool is to review legislation impacting freedom in our state.

Lawmakers and the interested public can use the “Freedom Index” to get an independent, free market view of pending legislation. Moreover, voters can see whether their legislators are voting for free markets or for bigger government. Votes tallied are “floor” votes.

Users can see:

  • The relative voting performance of legislators according to the Freedom Index;
  • The relative voting performance of each party according to the Freedom Index;
  • The analysis criteria behind the legislation ranking;
  • Links to legislation detail;
  • Links to legislator Information, including contact information;
  • And selections of legislation by relevant categories.

Our analysis will be available before final votes on those bills that are analyzed and can be used by both legislators, legislative staff and interested voters to debate the merits of a bill.

In short, the Index provides an excellent analysis of bills that will come before committees or a vote on the floor as well as tracking a legislator’s Freedom Index score. The public will find our Freedom Index to be a tool to hold elected officials accountable for their vote and to gain a better understanding of the legislation being proposed by the House or Senate members.

Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing said of his organization’s new legislative tracking web site, “We are thrilled to add the freedom perspective to the legislative process in Santa Fe. For too long, the special interests have run wild with the voice of taxpayers and those who pay the bills too often pushed to the side.”

Michigan’s Right to Work Success Story: Join RGF for a reception with Mackinac Center Labor Expert - Albuquerque

Right-to-Work in Michigan:
How the Birthplace of the UAW Gave
Workers Freedom and Improved its Economy!

The Rio Grande Foundation is hosting a reception with Vincent Vernuccio of, Director of Labor Policy with the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy Research.

The reception will be held from 6:00 to 7:30pm on Monday, March 9th in a private room at Scalo Italian Grill.

Entrance to the reception is $15 per person which includes light appetizers and a cash bar. Scalo is located in Albuquerque at 3500 Central Avenue SE in Nob Hill.

Click here for registration form!

Reserve you spot now. Space is limited. Reservations can be made online for this exciting event.

The Mackinac Center is Michigan's free market state think tank. Some 20 years before Michigan adopted a Right to Work law the Mackinac Center was plowing the way for such a law and researching what it might mean for Michigan to have such a law in place. Michigan adopted a Right to Work law in 2012.

The Mackinac Center's research and publicity for the idea were considered both visionary and integral to the ultimate passage of Michigan's Right to Work law.

Vernuccio has published articles and op-eds in such newspapers and magazines as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Investor's Business Daily, The Washington Times, National Review, Forbes and The American Spectator. He has been cited in several books, and he is a frequent contributor on national television and radio shows, such as "Your World" with Neil Cavuto and Varney and Company.

Vernuccio is a sought-after voice on labor panels nationally and in Washington, D.C. A regular guest on Fox News channels, Vernuccio has been described by Stuart Varney as a "top union watchdog."

He has advised senators and congressmen on a multitude of labor-related issues. He testified before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and Labor Policy.

Click here for registration form!

Date: 
2015-03-09 18:00 - 19:30

It's time to fix a flawed tax shift

This op-ed ran in The (Farmington) Daily Times on March 1, 2015. 

On January 1, 2005, food bought at New Mexico's grocery stores was excluded from the gross receipts tax, or GRT. In exchange for the break, the GRT was hiked on all other purchases.

A decade later, it's clear that the tax shift was a mistake.

With several proposals before the legislature to reinstate the GRT on food, it's time for an honest examination of how and why the well-meaning exemption failed.

Many of the state's liberal activists and organizations opposed ending the food tax. In 2003, New Mexico Voices for Children argued that the "very poorest people will not receive the benefits," because most "use food stamps, which are not subject to gross receipts taxes." (A staggering 21.5 percent of our citizens participate in the federal program.) In addition, many household essentials such as soap, paper products, and toothpaste remained taxable. Utility and motor-fuels taxes were not touched, either.

Right to Work and Purchasing Power: Just the Facts Real-World Data Debunks ‘The Right to Work for Less’

(Albuquerque, NM) – New research by New Mexico’s free-market think tank finds that a dollar goes much further in right-to-work (RTW) states.

Legislators in Santa Fe are debating whether to adopt a RTW law for New Mexico. Opponents of the measure charge that residents of right-to-work states are poorer, and that if enacted in The Land of Enchantment, there will be “greater expenditures for subsidized food, housing and health care for newly hired workers who will never make a living wage.”

The Rio Grande Foundation’s research debunks such claims.

The issue brief “Purchasing Power and the Right to Work” finds that once adjusted for the the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s estimate of the cost of living, disposable income, per capita, is equal in the two types of states. Using an alternate calculation developed by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, income in RTW states is 8.5 percent higher.

Many ways that life’s basic necessities are costlier in non-RTW states, including:

  • The list price of a single-family home is 26.5 percent lower in RTW states.
  • Energy is more affordable in RTW states – for example, electricity is a whopping 27.7 percent cheaper.
  • Healthcare is more affordable in RTW states, as are eldercare expenses such as home-healthcare aides and assisted living.
  • RTW is associated with lighter local-and-state tax burdens and residents of non-RTW states labor more than 10 days longer to pay their annual local, state, and federal tax bill.

“These statistics show that union bosses’ favorite argument against RTW is hollow,” said Dowd Muska, research director with the Rio Grande Foundation and author of the new report. “When adjusted for purchasing power, RTW states are at least as wealthy as their compulsory-unionism competitors – and in all likelihood, wealthier.”

“Contrary to the allegations of Big Labor’s well-funded lobbyists and activists,” concluded Muska, “RTW is not a ticket to impoverishment. Life is good where unions must earn their members’ financial support. Little wonder why so many RTW states have strong economies and growing populations.”

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