The New Mexico Family Action Movement is a nonprofit, grass roots organization that holds itself out as being dedicated to the “sole purpose is protecting families and preserving freedom in New Mexico.” Its vision statement provides that its goal “is to transform the culture of New Mexico to one that honors God as we Protect and cherish life from conception to natural end, safeguard the family unit and become an environment in which it can thrive and boldly defend and preserve religious freedom, free from government interference.” The New Mexico Family Action Movement works in association with the Family Policy Alliance (FPA) and Family Policy Alliance Foundation (FPAF) that are Christian ministries that defend faith and protect families by organizing, educating and mobilizing the social conservative movement in America.
A link to the web page for New Mexico Family Action Movement is here:
TARGETS FOR REPEAL BY REFERENDUM
The New Mexico Family Action Movement is targeting for repeal 6 laws in New Mexico passed during the 2023 sixty-day legislative session by the Democratic-controlled Legislature on abortion, elections and gender-affirming care. The 6 laws targeted for repeal are set to take effect on June 16, including the bill barring discrimination against individuals seeking abortion services and a separate bill shielding nurses and doctors who provide abortions from criminal investigation.
The New Mexico Family Action Movement has said it is prepared to go to court to get the measures on the ballot. The repeal effort is receiving significant support from the New Mexico Republican Party which strenuously opposed the legislation and other right-wing organizations such as Better Together New Mexico and the New Mexico Business Coalition that consistently opposes democrat initiatives. The six bills targeted for repeal are:
House Bill 7: Prohibit public bodies from blocking access to abortion services and gender-affirming care.
Senate Bill 13: Shield doctors and nurses who provide abortion services and gender-affirming care from civil or criminal legal liability.
Senate Bill 397: Enshrine school-based health centers in state law.
House Bill 207: Expand scope of state’s Human Rights Act to cover gender identity.
House Bill 4: Change voting laws by expanding automatic voter registration and establishing permanent absentee voter list.
Senate Bill 180: Update state’s election laws by establishing mandatory training for poll watchers and clarifying process for updating voter rolls.
Jodi Hendricks, the executive director of the New Mexico Family Action Movement said the coalition has thousands of volunteers around the state gathering the necessary signatures to allow for a statewide vote on the targeted laws in 2024 and to block them from taking effect. Hendricks said this:
“We really believe that three of these bills … are major attacks on parent rights.”
REPUBLICAN PARTY, CONSERVATIVE ORGANIZATIONS ARGUE OVERREACH BY DEMOCRATS
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the six bills in question into law and her also defended the six bills, saying they were passed by duly elected lawmakers to benefit state residents. The Governor’s spokeswoman Caroline Sweeney said this:
“Gov. Lujan Grisham signed these six bills because she knows, unequivocally, they will do good for thousands of New Mexicans so they can have healthy, productive lives, and participate fully in their communities as their true selves.”
Not at all surprising, the New Mexico Republican Party is supportive of the attempt to repeal the legislation by petition referendum. The Republican Party proclaims that citizen have the right to pursue the referendum process so much so that the party’s executive director Leticia Muñoz has been helping individuals who want to sign referendum petitions. The Republican Party also criticized Toulouse Oliver for blocking the petitions from moving forward and state GOP spokeswoman Ash Soular said this:
“The secretary of state should refrain from putting up obstacles to this citizen effort and respond to this effort following state law.”
The conservative organizations “Better Together New Mexico” and the “New Mexico Business Coaltion” are also behind the petition drive and referendum process to repeal the legislation. Carla Sonntag, the founder of the nonprofit group “Better Together New Mexico” and the Executive Director of the “New Mexico Business Coaltion” said supporters felt ignored by Democratic lawmakers, who hold strong majorities in both the state Senate and House of Representatives. Sonntag said this:
“They think it’s tremendous overreach and they’re exercising they’re right to have a say.”
The New Mexico Family Action Movement is fighting an uphill battle with the petition-referendum process. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has denied 23 referendum petitions since a 60-day legislative session ended in March due to technical problems with the paperwork and legal objections. The Secretary of State’s office has directed county clerks not to provide voter lists to those pushing the repeal effort, and warned voters that current petitions circulating are not valid since they have not been approved.
Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver has also ruled the bill blocking local anti-abortion ordinances from being enforced is exempt from repeal. Toulouse Oliver said the law meets the constitutional exemption for laws that provide for the “preservation of the public peace, health or safety” of the state. The Secretary of State said the bill ensures New Mexico women and transgender individuals will not be discriminated against based on their health care choices. On May 26, Toulouse Oliver wrote in her ruling:
“Such health and safety purposes are clearly within the state’s inherent police powers exempt from referendum”.
New Mexico’s Constitution gives voters the ability to annul laws passed by the Legislature, but there are major exceptions. Those exceptions are bills dealing with public peace, health and safety. Other exceptions are budget bills and legislation dealing with public school maintenance.
If successful, this year’s referendum efforts could put targeted laws on the November 2024 statewide ballot for possible repeal. Before that happens, however, the referendum petitions must met legal requirement and be approved by the Secretary of State’s office.
Even if a repeal referendum measure is approved by the Secretary of State, the State Constitution requires that valid signatures must be obtained from more than 71,470 registered state voters or at least 10% of the number who voted in last year’s general election. The State constitution also has a geographic requirement that a certain amount of the signatures must come from at least 25 counties.
Links to quoted news sources are here:
STATE JUDGE UPHOLDS NM SECRETARY OF STATE’S AUTHORITY TO BLOCK REFERENDUM PETITIONS
Backers questioned Secretary of States Toulouse Oliver’s legal authority to decide whether the targeted laws are exempt from repeal, arguing it’s up to the court system, not the secretary of state, to make such a determination. Toulouse Oliver has denied 23 referendum petitions since a 60-day legislative session ended in March due to technical problems with the paperwork and legal objections.
Carla Sonntag, the founder of the nonprofit group “Better Together New Mexico” said this:
“We don’t feel like we need her blessing to move forward. … We will see this through to the end [going to court if necessary].”
In April of this year, within weeks after the 60-day New Mexico legislative session ended, a court challenge against the Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver was filed by Ramona Goolsby of Rio Rancho. Goolsby is involved the coalition of groups seeking to get the targeted laws on the November 2024 ballot for a repeal vote. In her petition, she argued Toulouse Oliver overstepped her authority by ruling the abortion law is exempt from referendum, saying only the Legislature can determine whether laws or necessary for the public peace and welfare.
On June 8, 13th District Court Judge James Noel rejected a challenge by the New Mexico Family Action Movement to Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s authority to determine whether New Mexico laws targeted for repeal are exempt from referendum under the state Constitution. The specific challenge was to Toulouse Oliver’s ruling denying the referendum petition targeting House Bill 7 which prohibits public bodies from limiting access to abortion services and gender-affirming care.
Judge Noel granted the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Secretary of State’s Office. The court upheld Toulouse Oliver’s determination that the bill meet the exemption for “public peace, health or safety” of the state.
Toulouse Oliver said this about the court ruling:
“This is a win for the rule of law and for all New Mexicans. … I’m pleased to see the court clarify this matter today with their ruling in favor of our position that the laws currently being targeted for referendum are, in fact, exempted from the referendum process. Bottom of Form … It is very disappointing that New Mexicans are being misled about the referendum petition process by certain groups and individuals.”
Goolsby who filed the law suit and who is representing herself, responded to the case dismissal by Noel by citing his appointment to the judiciary by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2020 by saying this: .
“Partisan politics are alive and well in our courts.”
Links to quoted news sources are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The petition drive by New Mexico Family Action Movement to use the referendum process to repeal the 6 laws enacted by the New Mexico legislature is totally within their rights and the rights of the Republican party. The lawsuit filed by against Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s challenging her authority is also a legitimate exercise of rights.
Notwithstanding, both are a reflection of the extreme length’s ultra right conservative organizations opposed to woman’s right to chooses and the Republican party will go to interfere with the legislative process and to interfere with a woman’s right to choose, access to abortion services and gender-affirming care, and to stop protections and expanding voters rights. No politician, no voter, no government, and no one else has any right to tell a woman what she can do with her body and decide reproductive rights for her.
It is painfully obvious that when Republicans are not successful at the ballot box, not successful in the legislative process, they revert to the courts. When they are not successful in the courts, Republicans then call into question the motivations of the judiciary. Thus far, New Mexico politics is experiencing a bumper crop of Republican “sour grapes”.