Secretary Of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver Determines Petition To Overturn Background Check Law Does Not Meet Strict Legal Requirements
SANTA FE – Today, after a thorough review, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver determined that the proposed petition referendum to overturn New Mexico’s background check law does not satisfy the necessary technical and legal requirements of New Mexico law.
On March 7, 2019, the Secretary of State’s Office received a letter from House Republican Floor Leader James Townsend and House Minority Whip Rod Montoya informing the Office of their desire to initiate a referendum petition to overturn the recently-enacted gun background check law. Following her duties under New Mexico law to determine if the petition meets the technical and legal requirements for a referendum, the Secretary informed House Republican Leaders in a March 7, 2019, letter that upon receipt of a draft petition she would review its contents and make a determination. The Secretary of State’s Office received a draft referendum petition from House Republican Floor Leader Townsend on March 11, 2019.
In Secretary Toulouse Oliver’s letter sent to Republican Floor Leader Townsend today she specifies the legal deficiencies of the draft petition and why she is unable to approve and certify the petition for circulation. One of the key deficiencies is that laws providing for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety are not subject to referendum. New Mexico courts have consistently ruled that legislation is exempt from referendum under the New Mexico Constitution if the legislation “bears a valid, reasonable relationship to the preservation of public peace, health, or safety.” Whether or not legislation bears this reasonable relationship is determined by a number of factors, including what declarations were made by the legislature as to the purpose of the law and the specific conditions the law seeks to address. The letter lays out myriad examples of public statements by the legislature and others that clearly demonstrate the public safety goals of the background check law. The legislature enacted the background check law with the purpose of increasing public peace, health, and safety and thus the law is not subject to referendum. In making her determination, the Secretary of State consulted with the Office of the Attorney General.