New Mexico Supreme Court to Hear Healthy Workforce Ordinance Dispute 

The New Mexico Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of the Albuquerque Healthy Workforce Ordinance. The Court will hear an appeal from District Court Judge C. Shannon Bacon’s August 11 decision dismissing all of the constitutional challenges to the HWO brought by a cadre of business interests.   My post about that decision is here.

 The plaintiff-business interests had claimed that the HWO violated the state constitution because it violated the “single subject” rule, i.e., was impermissible logrolling; exceeded a home rule municipality’s authority and the territorial reach of the City; and because ordinances may not be enacted by voter initiative.


On August 14, the business interests filed with the New Mexico Supreme Court an “Emergency Verified Petition” seeking a review of Judge Bacon’s decision.  (Case No S-1-SC-36609).

On August 24, the Intervenors, representing employees without earned sick leave and HWO proponents, filed an opposition to the Petition, arguing that Judge Bacon’s ruling was correct.  In its opposition, Intervenors note that while the HWO is currently scheduled to be on the ballot at the next regular municipal election, which is on October 3, 2017, absentee voting in that election, and on the HWO, has already begun because, on August 19, the City “emailed the ballot to overseas voters pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.”

While there is no timetable within which the New Mexico Supreme Court must issue a decision in the case, given the impending vote, I suspect the case will move swiftly at the Court.

A Font Fight in Albuquerque

The legal wrangling about presenting the proposed Healthy Workplace Ordinance to Albuquerque voters in October has been going on for about a year. One of the two lawsuits deals with the mechanics of presenting the proposal on the ballot. A judge had ruled that the entire seven page ordinance must be on the ballot and that a summary would not do. At the end of my post about that decision, I urged readers to watch for arguments concerning the ballot’s font size and margins.

Last week, HWO proponents filed an emergency motion to stop the City from printing the HWO on the ballot in 7-point font.  They claim a ballot in 7-point is “illegible and [an] illegally-small font size.” They argue that the font size should be at least 8.5-point to comply with federal voluntary ballot guidelines which, they claim, New Mexico has incorporated into its law.

Proponents also renewed arguments that the ballot should contain a summary of the HWO and that a “legible, large-text copy” of the ordinance be provided in each voting booth.


Albuquerque Paid Sick Leave Suit Claims “Logrolling” Foul  

Add a “logrolling” lawsuit in Albuquerque, challenging this fall’s anticipated ballot initiative on the City’s proposed Healthy Workforce Ordinance (HWO), to the PSL litigation docket.

The complaint alleges that the HWO has 14 “non-interdependent” provisions and combining them into one voter initiative is “logrolling” in violation of the state constitution.  Logrolling, also known as the “single subject” rule, is defined in the lawsuit as “the presentation of double or multiple propositions to the voters with no chance to vote on the separate questions so that unpopular, unworkable or extreme new laws will be voted on, with a potentially popular idea.”  The “single subject” argument was rejected recently in Arizona and is pending in the challenge to Initiative 1433 in Washington.


The lawsuit was filed earlier this week by a host of business interests against the City of Albuquerque, the City Council and each of its members. The complaint asks that the court permanently enjoin the City and Council from placing the proposed HWO on the ballot. The lawsuit also challenges the City’s minimum wage law. The case is Association of Commerce and Industry, NAIOP & New Mexico Restaurant Ass’n v. City of Albuquerque et al (County of Bernalillo, Second Judicial District, Case No. D-202-CV-2017-02314).

In addition to the “logrolling” argument, the lawsuit alleges that the HWO is overbroad because it applies to employers outside of Albuquerque.  A similar argument was upheld recently in a lawsuit challenging the Minneapolis Safe and Sick Time Ordinance. That decision has been appealed. The lawsuit also argues that HWO exceeds Albuquerque’s authority under the home rule provision of the state constitution.

This fall’s anticipated voter initiative on the HWO follows last November’s failed effort to have PSL put on the county elections ballot. As reported, the county rejected the effort to include merely a summary of the PSL bill on the ballot.