Despite pleas from local governments and concerned citizens over the extreme increases in insurance costs to municipalities, along with other issues, Democrats in the legislature rammed through 2021’s H.B. 4, which threatened to bankrupt localities by stripping away their qualified immunity rights. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the disastrous piece of legislation.
This dangerous move impacted every level of city and municipal government, with negative consequences facing police departments most. The law allowed workers to be sued personally for alleged infringements to one’s “civil rights,” which now creates a massive problem for local governments.
As we reported in March 2021:
The bill has the ability to bankrupt local communities with slews of frivolous civil rights lawsuits, end qualified immunity and put a target on law enforcers’ backs. Local governments from all across the state are vehemently opposed to the measure, as well as many local law enforcement officials from all over New Mexico.
“More money for insurance or claims means less money for essential services or higher taxes,” said Santa Fe County Attorney Greg Shaffer during testimony against the bill. “This shifting of risk impacts all citizens,” he said. “More money for insurance or claims means less money for essential services or higher taxes.”
In a previous hearing of the bill, Detective Shaun Willoughby of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association said, “This particular bill takes away our ability. This is basically a tax increase. We are taxing the public all over the state of New Mexico. Hurting budgets that can be used for training on the mental health, can be used for resources and social programs in the poorest state in the nation.”
Proponents of the police-attacking bill came sponsored by dark money groups like billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s “Moms Demand Action,” the Soros-funded “Sierra Club,” “ProgressNow New Mexico” and “Equality New Mexico.” These groups’ supporters claimed H.B. 4 was a necessary reform for civil rights while not addressing how it would cripple local municipalities’ budgets, open these localities to million-dollar frivolous lawsuits, and put targets on peace officers’ backs.
Now, as predicted, municipalities’ insurance rates are skyrocketing through the roof, being characterized as a “problem,” according to A.J. Forte of the New Mexico Municipal League.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:
Forte said the new law is shaping up to be a problem for local governments. Though the Civil Rights Act does not allow plaintiffs to file lawsuits against individual government employees and caps a payout for each claim at $2 million, agencies in New Mexico that pay into self-insurance pools expect higher fees as a result of the law.
Where will the money come from? Forte said potential sources include “pay raises, quality-of-life programs, basic services. Our municipalities are going to have to make some hard choices.”
He added insurance coverage increases are already coming in anticipation of actual lawsuits.
Displaying two reinsurance contracts between his organization and NLC Mutual Insurance Co., Forte pointed out the yearly difference in insurance premiums between July 2021 and July 2022 — a jump of about $700,000, from $1.1 million to $1.8 million.
The “woke” bill carried by civil rights attorney Rep. Brain Egolf (D-Santa Fe), who personally benefits from his bill’s passage, now is creating destruction and carnage in local governments — many still trying to pick up the pieces following the Democrats’ stringent lockdowns during the pandemic that killed the workforce and set progress back years.
“We live in a world with finite dollars, and if you put them all in the claims bucket, there’s fewer dollars for providing services to the community as a whole,” said Association of Counties attorney Grace Phillips. Although the so-called “social justice” activists are pleased with the law, local governments continue to suffer through the bad lawmaking which threatens to bankrupt their communities.