March 14, 2017

Senate votes to override Martinez veto on teacher absences bill

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New Mexico State Senate. Wikicommons

The Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill regarding teacher evaluations Tuesday. It was the first vote to override a veto by the Senate since 2010.

The bill would allow teachers to use their 10 allotted days of sick leave without penalties to their evaluations. Currently, teachers are penalized in their evaluations if they use more than three days of sick leave.

Note: This is a breaking news story and more information may be added.

It takes a two-thirds majority of both legislative bodies to override a veto. The Senate easily cleared that threshold on a 34-7 vote, with more Republicans voting to override the veto (eight) than voting against the override (seven).

The original bill passed the Senate unanimously 39-0.

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There was no debate on the veto override, but Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, one of the bill’s sponsors, did read a statement before the vote.

“I respect the Office of the Governor and the constitutional authority of a governor to veto  legislation, and I respect the New Mexico State Legislature’s constitutional authority and responsibility to override a governor’s veto when they think it does not serve the state,” Brandt said before the vote. “This bill is important to every teacher in our state and to every family. It provides the right balance to protect the health of our state and our students as it protects the rights of the local governing body to set its own policies.”

Gov. Susana Martinez said in her veto message she would support raising the number of unpenalized teacher absences to five.

Martinez vetoed the legislation because she said it would “lead to more teacher absences” which would negatively impact students and cost school districts more for substitute teachers.

It’s unclear if the House, whose Republican caucus is generally more aligned with Martinez, will vote to override a veto. If the House does vote to do so, the bill becomes law.

The House passed Brandt’s original bill this session on a 64-3 vote.

The last House vote to override a veto was in 2004, in a funding dispute with then-Gov. Bill Richardson. That time, the House voted unanimously for the override.

This is the first time either chamber has even voted on a veto override of Gov. Susana Martinez.

The last time the Senate voted to override a veto was in 2010, when the chamber voted 34-8 to override a veto by Richardson. The Democratic governor vetoed legislation that year to require a “tax expenditure budget” each year to analyze the impact of tax credits and other exemptions.

The House attempt to override the veto never made it out of committee and was not voted on by the full chamber.

In 2014, two state senators started the process to override vetoes by Martinez, but the Senate never voted on those attempts, likely because there were not enough votes to do so.

One of those vetoes was a tax expenditure budget bill, similar to the one vetoed by Richardson.

The last time a veto override succeeded in clearing both chambers was under Gov. Gary Johnson, when the Legislature voted to override his veto of the entire 2003 budget.

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