Has Governor Lujan Grisham exceeded her emergency authority by levying excessive fines on businesses? New Mexico Business Coalition believes the answer to that question is ‘YES.’ In the first weeks of the statewide lock down that saw closures of nearly every business, the Governor issued fines of $5,000 per day upon businesses with alleged violations of Public Health Act orders. In support of all businesses in our state, NMBC filed an Amicus Curiae (friend of the court brief) for a lawsuit challenging the fines, which have been as high as $60,000 to one business.
The Supreme Court of New Mexico has agreed to hear the case, including NMBC’s Amicus Brief, on August 4th, 2020. To bolster the argument against the Governor’s overreach, and support NMBC’s position is the State’s top prosecutor, NM Attorney General (NMAG) Hector Balderas. In a formal opinion issued by NMAG Balderas, he 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. NMBC agrees that Governor Grisham has limited authority under public health emergencies and we are pleased that the NMAG has provided this clarity in advance of the NM Supreme Court hearing on this exact issue.
UPDATE: On August 4, The NM Supreme Court sided with the Governor on fines, leaving NMBC and businesses throughout the state disappointed. The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the governor’s authority to fine businesses as much as $5,000 per day for alleged violations of emergency health orders.
The Governor’s attorney told New Mexico’s highest Court that $5,000 per day fines on small businesses are “reasonable and necessary.” From NMBC’s perspective, outrageous and vindictive more accurately describe the fines.