Civil Rights Act leads to higher insurance, officials say [The Santa Fe New Mexican]

Civil Rights Act leads to higher insurance, officials say [The Santa Fe New Mexican]

July 31—A.J. Forte he seemed to have many questions but no answers as he looked at the stack of papers on his desk New Mexico Municipal League Championship office in Santa Fe.

Among the documents were numerous legal claims and information — and one court case — that would be subject to the new federal Civil Rights Act.

One involves allegations against a Raton police officer based on an incident in November — about eight months before the law took effect — while the other involves the suspension of a business license to. Santa Rosaand the fall of ’21.

Others are based on the argument of moving a business from one place to another Populaceand 24 defendants with charges that include abuse of process and power, false representation, illegal investigation and violation of human rights and violations of the law.

“Not everyone says the New Mexico Civil Rights Act,” said Forte, head of the municipal league. “So how do we know? [which are]?”

Changes are not difficult, and a year after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Civil Rights Act into law, some state and local governments find themselves vulnerable. Not only do they doubt which lawsuits will fall, but many are looking for an increase in the cost of insurance that they say is coming to answer the lawsuits that may happen.

The new law allows New Mexicans to file civil complaints against federal agencies in the state’s District Court if they believe their civil rights have been violated – essentially, eliminating “sufficient immunity” as a legal defense to such complaints.

This law has over the years protected government employees, including law enforcement officers, from liability for alleged human rights violations.

Forte said the new law creates a problem for local governments. Even the Civil Rights Act does not allow plaintiffs to file lawsuits against any government employee and they pay fees for their claims. $2 millionorganizations in New Mexico those paying in insurance pools expect higher fees as a result of the law.

Where will the money come from? Forte said that the possibilities include “raising wages, quality of life programs, basic services. Our municipalities will have to make difficult decisions.”

He also said that the increase in insurance is already coming in anticipation of actual cases.

Beyond that, there are questions about the scope of the Civil Rights Act, critics said. The league is reviewing more than 90 cases as it tries to determine what will happen under the new rules. The courts will eventually decide, Forte said — which he says will take time and money.

The argument is familiar: Time and money were two of the main issues cited by some in opposition to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 2021, as they argued that the provisions would unfairly burden governments that are already strapped — particularly criminal. related to claims by police and sheriff’s offices.

The bill’s trip through the 2021 legislative session came amid some of the biggest hearings of the past Minneapolis A police officer Derek Chauvinwho was accused May 2020 the death of George FloydAn unarmed Black man.

Debate over the law has grown, with supporters saying it will hold government agencies accountable and critics saying it will raise costs for taxpayers while doing nothing to prevent such crimes.

Showing two reinsurance contracts between his organization and Company Profile NLC Mutual Insurance Co., Ltd.Forte also pointed out the annual difference in insurance premiums between July 2021 and July 2022 – jump approx $700,000to $1.1 million to $1.8 million.

The Municipal League the product looks better than the one offered to New Mexico Association of Countieswhich represents most of the 33 districts of the state.

Council of Counties’ The insurance carrier, Berkley Public Entity, posted an unavailability to the agency, indicating that its reimbursement policy “shall not apply to any damages, losses, costs or expenses incurred or any lawsuit filed pursuant to the New Mexico Civil Rights Act.”

Association of Counties a lawyer Grace Phillips said the non-profit organization, which helps governments govern themselves, has reviewed 80 claims under the Civil Rights Act. All but 10 involve legal proceedings.

Forte and Phillips said they are not opposed to the law’s provisions, but said they believe lawmakers did not take into account the needs of insurers, who pay large premiums before they hesitate.

“The proponents of the bill said, ‘There will be no cost if you do things right,’ but the problem is not how insurance works,” Phillips said. “There’s a prescription, there’s an expectation, there’s, ‘How much risk is going to come with this?’ “

Sen. Joe CervantesD-Crossesone of the bill’s sponsors, said lawmakers should look at what would happen if states could pay more for insurance.

But he added those worried about such a hike are not taking into account that many government agencies are already paying “legal fees and premiums that far exceed insurance costs.”

“Looking at insurance rates in isolation is a misunderstanding of what cities and counties are facing today with lawsuits,” Cervantes said. “Most of them reach into their own pockets to pay for themselves, and some reach very deep.”

Speaker of the house Brian EgolfD-Santa FeThe person who paid the bill was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

At the state level, Thom Colegovernment spokesman General Services Departmentwrote in an email that the government has not changed insurance premiums in anticipation of possible legislation under the Civil Rights Act.

To date, he wrote, “we have had no judgments or settlement of actions brought under the new law.”

Human rights advocate Laura Schauer Ives he said the increase in insurance will be temporary while the government agencies respond by providing “better education, better policies and lower fees for defense attorneys to address the question of adequate protection.”

“I think this will save taxpayers money in the long run,” he said.

Ives said organizations like Association of Counties and New Mexico Municipal League they can take action and ensure that government agencies provide adequate training to their staff, including the police, to ensure that they do not violate citizens’ rights.

“If training is going well, if accountability is going well, if the money that we as taxpayers have spent on defense is instead going to improve the quality of law enforcement, we’re going to save money,” he said.

Most importantly, he added, “Less accidents will happen.”

But Mr Phillips said the early signs of increased insurance coverage were “worrying” for governments and the taxpayers who pay for them.

“We live in a country with limited money, and if you put it all in a money box, there are very few dollars to provide services to all people,” he said.

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