AP NEWS

Groups seek to ‘veto’ New Mexico laws by referendum

May 1, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A pair of self-described patriot groups have initiated efforts to challenging new state laws from a Democratic governor and allied Legislature by statewide referendum.

The state’s arduous process for allowing veto referendums would require more than 70,000 petition signatures, if allowed at all by election regulators. The Secretary of State’s Office says it will respond to current petition requests by May 9.

Michael Harris of Carlsbad has helped the Eddy County Patriot Group submit four petition applications that would challenge laws aimed at protecting wildlife from electronic tracking by hunters, creating a state university affiliate in Mexico and renaming Columbus Day to honor Native Americans.

Harris said Tuesday that the group is systematically reviewing laws enacted this year for conflicts with the state Constitution, wastefulness or provisions that “may just be silly.”

Veto petition requests also have been filed by the Roosevelt County Patriot Group that challenge legislation that prohibits coyote killing contests, protects wildlife migration routes and asserts state authority over labor-union regulations.

Harris said the Eddy County group is nonpartisan, while acknowledging that its members have grievances with new gun control laws that they believe infringe on 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms.

Harris said he worries that recently legislation in New Mexico “could later be used to infringe upon someone else’s liberty in another state.”

The petition requests follow in the footsteps of unsuccessful efforts by leading Republican legislators to start a veto-referendum petition on a law to expand background checks to nearly all private gun sales. The office of Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver asserts that veto-referendums do not apply to public safety legislation, including the new background-check law.

Agency spokesman Alex Curtas said the state Constitution sets a high bar for scheduling veto referendums that overrule the Legislature and governor. Not all bills are eligible, he said, and approved petitions would require signatures from 10 percent of qualified voters, both at the statewide level and within 25 counties out of 33.

He said it appears that only one law, related to an excise tax, has been overturned by referendum — during the 1930s.

“It’s starting to seem like this is a coordinated effort to flood our office with petition referendums,” said Curtas, noting that legal vetting of the petitions requests is costly and labor intensive.