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Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham — like her counterparts across the country — has been in the unenvious situation of making public policy decisions during a pandemic. Yet even during these trying times for governors and lawmakers, opportunities present themselves to allow our leaders to get down to everyday practical matters that remove barriers to employment and encourage an economy that expands rather than contracts.

As the census drives changes in political map-making, public health emergencies drive change across the economic map ranging from reciprocity laws regarding healthcare providers to service industry employment.

In January of this year, the Liquor Control Act was amended, among other things, to allow 18-year-old persons to serve alcoholic beverages. Not only was it a pragmatic response to the needs of employers and potential employees, it reflected a collective understanding that laws need to be modernized lest we fall victim to antiquated policies.

The pandemic has provided fertile ground to place barriers on employment. And earlier this year lawmakers sought to mitigate those barriers by removing age restrictions on certain service activities. In my opinion there is another potential amendment to the Liquor Control Act that would remove another employment barrier while holding public safety harmless. Currently, if you are seeking employment at Premier Distributing or Admiral Beverage Co. to transport sealed and itemized packages of beer, you must possess a commercial driver’s license. 

The aged provision of the Liquor Control Act that provides this requirement was crafted when the beer industry’s transportation model looked starkly different and does not reflect today’s sleeker, more agile model.

The CDL requirement to deliver unbroken, sealed adult beverages is an absolute financial and logistical barrier to hiring and being hired. An argument could be made that at the time the statute was adopted this pre-qualification made some sense. However, the changes made in HB 255 during the 2021 legislative session regarding employment and age requirements render the CDL filter moot. The Governor and the legislature have a premium opportunity to once again act pragmatically and responsibly (and I would argue compassionately) in the face of lingering employment barriers and remove this unnecessary requirement.

The best part of the our U.S. Constitution are its amendments. Save but for a few amendments (one which was eventually repealed) our country’s seminal document has been amended 27 times, reflecting expanded civil rights. Much the same as the constitutional amendments, some of the best aspects of state statutes are their amendments. They represent the fluidity of the law making process as shifts in economies, demographics and politics alike take place triggering demands from the body politic or the marketplace to modernize existing statutes. At a crucial time for New Mexicans, when the Delta and Omicron variants continue to de-stabilize our workforce, policy makers can — and should — seek responsible ways to eliminate barriers to employment.