New Mexico Urban County Charter, Amendment 4 (2014)
The New Mexico Urban County Charter, Amendment 4 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in New Mexico as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure, upon voter approval, would allow certain counties, based on size and population, to become “urban counties” by appointing a charter commission of not less than three persons, drafting an urban county charter and submitting the proposed charter to voters. A county would need to be 150,000 square miles in area and have a population of 300,000 in order to become an "urban county."
If voters approve the charter by a majority, then the county becomes an “urban county.”
An “urban county” is essentially a “home rule county,” which may exercise all legislative powers and perform all governmental functions not denied by law.
Text of measure
- See also: Article X, New Mexico Constitution
|A. A county that is less than one thousand five hundred square miles in area and has |
majority of those
B. An urban county may exercise all legislative powers and perform all governmental functions not expressly denied
C. A charter of an urban county shall only be amended in accordance with the provisions of the charter.
D. If the charter of an urban county provides for a governing body composed of members elected by districts, a member representing a district shall be a resident and elected by the registered qualified electors of that district.
E. The purpose of this section is to provide for maximum local self-government. A liberal construction shall be given to the powers of urban counties.
F. The provisions of this section shall be self-executing.
In 2000, New Mexicans approved Question 1, which allowed Bernalillo County to become an “urban county.” However, county voters rejected an urban county charter in 2001. The county is permitted to initiate the process again at any time.
Question 1 did not provide for any other counties to become “urban,” not because the amendment was specific to Bernalillo County, but because the amendment contained a deadline. Bernalillo County was the only county at the deadline to meet geographic size and population requirements.
The New Mexico Legislative Council Service provided arguments for and against the constitutional amendment. The following are the council's arguments in support:
|“||1. Expands the number of counties eligible to acquire urban county status.
￼Currently, every county in New Mexico except Bernalillo County is barred from becoming an urban county. If this amendment is adopted, any county that is less than 1,500 square miles in area and that has a population of at least 300,000 residents would become eligible to acquire urban county status.
2. Promotes greater self-government and reduces dependency on the state legislature.
3. Sets up a cautious approach to potentially improving local government.
4. Clarifies what constitutes a majority of voters.
—New Mexico Legislative Council Service
The New Mexico Legislative Council Service provided arguments for and against the constitutional amendment. The following are the council's arguments against:
|“||1. Increases expenditure of public resources.
This amendment would create potential for a waste of resources and an increase in expenditures. If a board of county commissioners chose to pursue the process of becoming an urban county, public resources would be used to create a charter commission, draft a charter and hold an election. If voters later reject the proposed urban county charter, those expenses will not have achieved what the commission sought. If voters approve the urban county, the county would be required to expend resources to modify the county government to carry out the provisions of the urban county charter. In both instances, passage of this amendment would increase public spending.
2. The contours defining the powers of an urban county are unclear.
3. May result in duplication and confusion.
4. Amendment would not immediately affect counties.
—New Mexico Legislative Council Service
Path to the ballot
- See also: Amending the New Mexico Constitution
According to Article XIX of the New Mexico Constitution, a simple majority was required in the legislature to refer the amendment to the ballot. SJR 22 was approved in the New Mexico Senate on February 19, 2014. The amendment was approved in the New Mexico House on February 20, 2014.
February 19, 2014 Senate vote
|New Mexico SJR 22 Senate Vote|
February 20, 2014 House vote
|New Mexico SJR 22 House Vote|
- New Mexico Legislative Council Service, "Summary of and Arguments For and Against the Constitutional Amendments Proposed by the Legislature in 2013 and 2014," accessed September 11, 2014
- New Mexico Legislature, "Status of SJR 22: Urban Counties & County Charters, CA," accessed April 3, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- New Mexico Legislature, "SJR 22 Final Senate Passage," accessed April 3, 2014
- New Mexico Legislature, "SJR 22 Final House Passage," accessed April 3, 2014
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