The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Tuesday that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration does have the legal authority to impose hefty fines upon businesses found to be in violation of New Mexico’s public health orders. The decision upholds The Governor’s key enforcement power to limiting the transmission of COVID-19: the ability to impose civil penalties of up to $5,000 a day for violating health orders.
Republican leaders and business groups have lashed out at Lujan Grisham, describing her orders as heavy-handed regulations that stifle business activity. The case began May 20 with a lawsuit filed by K-Bob’s Steakhouse in Clovis, Frontier Auto Inc., Body & Sol Fitness LLC, the Colfax Tavern & Diner, J. Jones Massage and others. The business owners said the state’s health order dramatically reduced their revenue and made it difficult to survive – all while they faced “potentially ruinous financial penalties” if they violated the rules.
Prior to the ruling, NM Attorney General (NMAG) Hector Balderas in a formal opinion issued by the attourney General’s office ironically confirmed that the governor has authority to issue fines “… not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100)…” for alleged violation of the NM Public Health Act. And that the governor’s office erroneously conflated powers given to the state Department of Health in other statutes with the Public Health Emergency Response Act. The Supreme Court disagreed with the NMAG and unanimously sided with the Governor’s ability to impose fines. Read more HERE.