City of Raton v. Sproule

Decision Date19 June 1967
Docket NumberNo. 8214,8214
Citation78 N.M. 138,1967 NMSC 141,429 P.2d 336
PartiesCITY OF RATON, a municipal corporation, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Eva Mae SPROULE, City Clerk of Raton, New Mexico, Defendant-Appellant, and O. L. Anderson, William Crawford, Joe V. Torres, Reuben F. McBride, Bob B. Blaine, and Ray Durrett, Intervenors-Appellants.
CourtNew Mexico Supreme Court
OPINION

OMAN, Judge, Court of Appeals.

The City of Raton, Colfax County, New Mexico, filed suit in the district court of Colfax County, whereby it sought a judgment declaring the constitutional validity of the following:

(1) The amendment to article 9, § 12 of the New Mexico Constitution, which was submitted to the voters on November 3, 1964, as Proposal No. 7;

(2) Chapter 300, New Mexico Laws of 1965, insofar as the same implements the said constitutional amendment, and which implementing provisions now appear as §§ 14--29--1 to --9, N.M.S.A.1953 (Supp. 1965);

(3) An election resolution, passed by the governing body of the city, calling for a special election on a general obligation bond issue for flood control purposes, adopted pursuant to the provisions of article 9, § 12 of the New Mexico Constitution and the said implementing provisions of the New Mexico statutes.

The suit was brought against the City Clerk, who refused to publish the resolution and to proceed with the election. Her reasons for her refusal were that the said constitutional amendment was not validly adopted, and that the implementing legislation is unconstitutional and void.

The intervenors, Blaine and Durrett, are resident taxpayers of the City of Raton, and their position is that the amendment is valid and was validly adopted, insofar as the same authorizes the calling of special elections for the purposes of incurring indebtedness, but that the amendment is invalid insofar as it provides that nonresidents of the city, who are residents of the county wherein the city is situate and who own property within the city and have paid a property tax therein during the preceding year, are qualified electors at an election for the purpose of incurring municipal indebtedness. They further contend that the claimed invalid portion of the amendment is severable, and, thus, does not affect the validity of the other portion.

The intervenors, Torres and McBride, are residents of Colfax County, but do not reside within the City of Raton. They do own property within the city, and they paid a property tax thereon within a year of the filing of the petition in this cause.

Their position is that the amendment is valid in its entirety. However, they attack the validity of the implementing legislation which requires them to register and vote in a precinct within the City of Raton. They further contend that the amendment is self-executing, and therefore, they can properly vote in their regular voting precincts, outside the city, when voting at an election for the purpose of incurring municipal indebtedness.

The intervenors, Anderson and Crawford, are residents of Santa Fe County and Bernalillo County, New Mexico, respectively, but they own property situate within the City of Raton and paid a property tax thereon during the year preceding the filing of the petition in this cause.

Their position is that the amendment and the implementing legislation are invalid, because the limitation of electors to residents of Colfax County is an arbitrary and unreasonable classification and violates either or both the 'due process' and 'equal protection' clauses of amendment 14, § 1, Constitution of the United States.

The trial court upheld the validity of the amendment, implementing statutes, and the election resolution in all respects, and entered judgment accordingly. The defendant and all the intervenors have appealed.

We shall first dispose of the attacks upon the validity of the entire amendment and then proceed to the attacks upon the validity of a portion of the amendment and the implementing legislation. The disposition of the attack made upon the election resolution will depend entirely upon the disposition we make of the questions concerning the validity of the amendment and the implementing legislation.

We have repeatedly held that every presumption is to be indulged in favor of the validity and regularity of legislative enactments. Board of Directors, etc. v. County Indigent Hosp. Bd., 77 N.M. 475, 423 P.2d 994; Silver City Consol. Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. Board of Regents, 75 N.M. 106, 401 P.2d 95 (1965); Gruschus v. Bureau of Revenue, 74 N.M. 775, 399 P.2d 105 (1965); Moruzzi v. Federal Life & Cas. Co., 42 N.M. 35, 75 P.2d 320, 115 A.L.R. 407 (1938). A statute will not be declared unconstitutional unless the court is satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the legislature went outside the constitution in enacting the challenged legislation. State ex rel. Hovey Concrete Prod. Co. v. Mechem, 63 N.M. 250, 316 P.2d 1069 (1957); State v. McKinley, 53 N.M. 106, 202 P.2d 964 (1949).

Logic and reason compel that a like, or even stronger, presumption must prevail in favor of the validity of a constitutional amendment which has received both legislative approval and approval of the qualified voters of the state at a regularly called election. In the case of State ex rel. Kemp v. City of Baton Rouge, 215 La. 315, 40 So.2d 477 (1949), the Supreme Court of Louisiana, in quoting from the earlier case of Board of Liquidation v. Whitney-Central Trust & Savings Bank, 168 La. 560, 122 So. 850 (1929), stated the rule, relative to the presumptive validity of a constitutional amendment, as follows:

'In reaching the decision, the court must necessarily have in mind the universal rule that, whenever a constitutional amendment is attacked as not constitutionally adopted, the question presented is, not whether it is possible to condemn, but whether it is possible to uphold; that every reasonable presumption, both of law and fact, is to be indulged in favor of the legality of the amendment, which will not be overthrown, unless illegality appears beyond a reasonable doubt. People (ex rel. Elder) v. Sours, 31 Colo. 369, 74 P. (167), 169; 102 Am.St.Rep. 34; People (ex rel. Tate) v. Prevost, 55 Colo. 199, 134 P. 129; Martien v. Porter, 68 Mont, 450, 219 P. 817.'

Keeping in mind our duty to uphold the constitutional validity of the amendment, unless its illegality is made to appear beyond all reasonable doubt, we shall proceed to answer the attacks made upon its validity. It is first contended that the amendment is, in fact, two amendments, and thus, is violative of the requirement contained in article 19, § 1 of the New Mexico Constitution, that: '* * * If two or more amendments are proposed, they shall be so submitted as to enable the electors to vote on each of them separately * * *.'

Constitutional provisions such as ours are common to at least thirty-two other states. Index Digest of State Constitutions, 16--17 (2d ed. 1959). Although we have never before been called upon to interpret or apply our constitutional enjoinder, like enjoinders in many other states have been the subject of litigation seeking their interpretation and application. See the collection of cases in the annotation at 94 A.L.R. 1510 (1935).

The constitutional amendment which is here in question first arose as two separate House Joint Resolutions. The one called for the addition to article 9, § 12 of the New Mexico Constitution of the special elections provision. The other made provision for increasing or enlarging the class of qualified voters. The Senate Rules Committee drafted a substitute resolution combining both provisions. It was this substitute resolution which was adopted by the legislature and submitted to the electorate of New Mexico at the general election held November 3, 1964. The vote was 63,791 for the amendment and 52,237 against the amendment.

Since the changes effected by the amendment consist entirely of additions to article 9, § 12, these changes are clearly demonstrated by setting forth the section as amended, with the additions underlined. The section as amended now reads:

'Sec. 12 (Municipal indebtedness--Restrictions.)

'No city, town or village shall contract any debt except by an ordinance, which shall be irrepealable until the indebtedness therein provided for shall have been fully paid or discharged, and which shall specify the purposes to which the funds to be raised shall be applied, and which shall provide for the levy of a tax, not exceeding twelve (12) mills on the dollar upon all taxable property within such city, town or village, sufficient to pay the interest on, and to extinguish the principal of, such debt within fifty (50) years. The proceeds of such tax shall be applied only to the payment of such interest and principal. No such debt shall be created unless the question of incurring the same shall, at a regular election for councilmen, aldermen or other officers of such city, town or village, or at any special election called for such purpose, have been submitted to a vote of such qualified electors thereof as have paid a property tax therein during the preceding year, and a majority of those voting on the question by ballot deposited in a separate ballot box when voting in a regular election, shall have voted in favor of creating such debt. A proposal which does not receive the required number of votes for adoption at any special election called for that purpose, shall not be resubmitted in any special election within a period of one (1) year. For the purpose, only, of voting on the creation of the debt, any person owning property within the corporate limits of the city, town or village who has paid a property tax therein...

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