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Group sues city, county over sick leave ballot omission

J.R. Oppenheim
September 09, 2016 12:48 PM

Supporters of a paid sick leave initiative have filed a lawsuit against the Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque for withholding the measure from the November ballot.

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A group called Healthy Workforce ABQ released a statement Friday saying the ballot does have enough room for a summary of the measure, even though most Bernalillo County commissioners say it won’t fit. The commission decided Thursday night the measure will not appear on the ballot.

New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty attorneys filed the suit in New Mexico District Court Thursday night seeking an emergency order for the summary to be on the ballot, according to the statement.

“The City and County are playing politics with the lives of 107,000 Bernalillo County residents who can’t care for themselves or their kids when they’re sick,” Adriann Barboa, field director of Strong Families New Mexico, said in the statement.

Proponents obtained more than 24,000 signatures for the measure, and the Albuquerque City Council unanimously approved the push to add it.

The Healthy Workforce ABQ statement claims Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez “incorrectly” told county commissioners the measure’s full text must appear on the ballot, not a summary. That, the group said, swayed the commissioners’ decision.

County Commissioner Wayne Johnson said Thursday voters should have the full ordinance language available in order to make an informed decision, but the space on the ballot would not accommodate that much text. The Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office said the font would have to be at 7.5-point size. As a point of reference, a typical college essay requires a 12-point font size.

The Healthy Workforce ABQ statement says the New Mexico Supreme Court set precedent in 1972 that summaries may be used. The statement also states the city regularly uses summaries and the county did so with a minimum wage measure in 2012.

“Our Commissioners have the obligation to put a summary of the Earned Sick Days measure on the ballot and followed bad legal advice from the City Attorney in choosing not to,” Barboa said.

KOB 4 is reaching out to city and county officials for comment on the lawsuit.


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J.R. Oppenheim

Copyright 2016 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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