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Slower city petition process proposed

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Two Albuquerque city councilors want to ask voters this fall to make it a little more difficult to use petition drives to propose legislation.

SANCHEZ: Proposed measure on Monday

SANCHEZ: Proposed measure on Monday

Ken Sanchez and Brad Winter introduced a resolution on Monday that would put a City Charter amendment on the Nov. 4 general-election ballot.

If voters approve, the measure would establish a committee that would evaluate the legality of legislation brought forth through petition initiatives. A three-member group led by the city attorney would advise the city clerk on whether there were any “legal defects” that should keep the proposal off the ballot.

The idea comes after the city spent $1.2 million in a recent 13-month period on elections triggered by petition drives, ending with the election last fall on whether to impose new abortion restrictions in Albuquerque.

The abortion proposal faced significant criticism over whether it would have survived a court challenge if passed by voters. Opponents asked why the city was holding an election on something that might not be legal.

In any case, voters rejected it, and the proposal’s legality never was settled in court.

WINTER: Plan seeks to avoid special elections

WINTER: Plan seeks to avoid special elections

The ballot measure proposed by Winter and Sanchez on Monday would slow down the petition process. Under the current system, the city is required to hold an election within 90 days if a petition drive succeeds in gathering enough signatures to trigger an election.

The Winter-Sanchez proposal calls for putting successful petition drives on the next regularly scheduled ballot, avoiding the need for expensive special elections.

Their proposal wasn’t discussed in detail at Monday’s council meeting. It’s expected to come up for final action next month.

In addition to sending a charter amendment to voters, the Sanchez-Winter bill also would establish a task force that could propose other changes to the City Charter. The areas to be examined include:

• The charter provision that prohibits city employees from running for or serving in office. A city firefighter, Emily Kane, already serves in the Legislature, but she’s had to beat the city in court to do it. The city filed an appeal that’s pending.

• Whether the nine-member council should remain that size or be expanded.

• Updating the public financing system for campaigns.

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