May 11, 2017

NM Supreme Court slaps down legislative suit over vetoes

Print

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse, via Wikicommons.

The New Mexico Supreme Court denied the Legislature’s lawsuit against  Gov. Susana Martinez for her line-item budget vetoes, saying that the case is “not ripe for review.”

Their denial was announced Thursday morning, a day after the Legislature filed its response to the governor’s filing. All five members of the Supreme Court concurred with the order.

Now, legislators and the governor will have to battle over the vetoes in a special legislative session, which Martinez called to begin on May 24.

Note: This is a breaking news story and more information will be added as it comes in.

The Legislature sued over line-item vetoes of the entire legislative and higher education budgets. The Legislature argued the vetoes were unconstitutional but the governor’s office argued the vetoes were well within her rights outlined by the state constitution.

A spokesman for the governor said she “appreciates” the ruling. He went on to slam the Legislature.

“This comes down to out-of-touch Santa Fe trial lawyers in legislative leadership who are suing the governor because they want to raise gas taxes, and she is the only one standing in their way,” Michael Lonergan said. “Having been rebuffed by the Court, the Governor hopes Democratic legislators will now come to the table and actually negotiate in good-faith.”

In a joint statement, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said they “respectfully disagreed” with the ruling.

“We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision not to act on the Governor’s unconstitutional elimination of funding for student financial aid, every college and university, Carrie Tingley Children’s Hospital and the entire legislative branch of government,” they said. “Despite the lack of a Court decision, the fact remains that the Governor’s vetoes were irresponsible and have created unprecedented instability in our economy and in our households.”

This comes down to out-of-touch Santa Fe trial lawyers in legislative leadership who are suing the governor because they want to raise gas taxes, and she is the only one standing in their way. Having been rebuffed by the Court, the Governor hopes Democratic legislators will now come to the table and actually negotiate in good-faith.

Martinez’s attorney, former state Supreme Court justice Paul Kennedy, argued the Legislature filed the case too quickly and accused legislators of attempting “to bypass the special session and judicially override the Governor’s item vetoes.”

Attorneys for Legislature, in a response filed Wednesday, said the vetoes “so disturb the balance of power essential to our constitutional system of government that they threaten the continuation of the legislature in its role a co-equal branch of government, and the constitutionally recognized system of higher education.”

The Supreme Court noted that Martinez announced a special session later this month. The budget and tax reform are on the agenda.

The hearing for the case, originally scheduled for Monday, May 15, is now canceled.

Legislators and the governor have been at odds over the vetoes since she announced them earlier this year. Legislators filed the lawsuit last month after approval by the Legislative Council.

The Council, which is made up of members from both parties in both chambers, voted behind closed doors to allow for the suit. They did not announce who voted for and against approving the lawsuit.

Update: Added a statement from a spokesman for the governor.

Comments

comments