March 8, 2018

Some Martinez vetoes get pushback


Gov. Susana Martinez during her State of the State Address in 2016. Photo Credit: Andy Lyman.

Some vetoes by Gov. Susana Martinez are raising eyebrows among legislators and others—and at least one partial veto may be challenged in court.

Wednesday was the final day for Martinez to decide whether or not to sign bills from this year’s legislative session. She signed 80 bills into law, but vetoed 31 others. Some she rejected using her veto pen, while with others she just allowed time to run out in what is called a “pocket veto.”

One portion of a bill that may see a new life was part of the crime omnibus bill the Legislature passed in response to the spike in crime, particularly in Albuquerque.

The bill combined a number of ideas aimed at reducing crimes. These included increasing penalties on convicted felons who possess a firearm, providing retention bonuses for longtime police officers and adding requirements for those convicted of some DWI offenses before they can remove an ignition interlock device.

Martinez excised a portion of the bill that would no longer allow the MVD to suspend a license for being unable to pay or failing to appear on certain traffic citations.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said a line-item veto by Martinez in that omnibus crime bill should not be allowed. Governors have line-item veto authority—that is, they can veto specific portions of legislation—but only for bills that contain an appropriation. The ACLU says the omnibus crime bill has no appropriations attached.

“We urge our state legislative leaders to study this matter closely and take any action necessary to protect their authority and the separation of powers required by our state constitution,” ACLU of NM Executive Director Peter Simonson said in a statement.

Martinez said this portion was “of particular concern,” and said that the bill sought to “remove any enforcement authority MVD has for people that fail to appear in court or pay citations issued by law enforcement or MVD.”

A bill to help nonviolent offenders with a behavioral health diagnosis also fell prey to Martinez’s veto pen.

The legislation was designed to reduce recidivism among those with behavioral health problems who commit crimes, but Martinez called it “unnecessary and burdensome” and said the state Human Services Department already provides the services called for in the bill “to many justice-involved adults.” She added the bill would create “an unfunded mandate” for the department’s Behavioral Health Sciences Division.

State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the legislation, which passed both the House and Senate without a dissenting vote.

“We have a behavioral health crisis in our state, and this bill would have provided support for those who desperately need it,” Williams Stapleton said. “This was a common sense measure with bipartisan support aimed at breaking the cycle of incarceration, and I am very disappointed to see that the Governor did not want to prioritize the safety and well-being of our communities.”

Martinez also pocket vetoed solar tax credit legislation. This is the second time Martinez pocket vetoed a solar tax credit since  it expired at the end of 2016.

With a pocket veto, the governor does not need to explain why she vetoed the legislation.

The group Conservation Voters New Mexico criticized her decision.

“Gov. Martinez’s veto of Senate Bill 79 shows that she is out of step with the values of New Mexicans,” Conservation Voters New Mexico Legislative Director Ben Shelton said. “Gov. Martinez talks a lot about jobs, but when presented with an opportunity to support one of the fastest growing, job-creating industries in the state—she chose to put the private profits of campaign contributors in the oil and gas industry who see solar as a threat to their bottom line over clean air for our children to breathe.”

One veto even prompted a rebuke from within her own party.

Martinez vetoed HB 197, which would have created a special economic district to benefit the Roswell Industrial Air Center. State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, co-sponsored the Senate version of the legislation, which was identical to the version that passed the House.

“We were there, we were in a position to create great paying jobs at the gem of Southeastern New Mexico, the Roswell Industrial Air Center,” Pirtle said in a statement. “But the governor blew our dreams away today. This veto does not make any sense to me and it won’t make sense to Southeastern New Mexico that was all set to get the bulldozers rolling at a prosperous industrial park. This hurts. The veto created a delay that was not necessary.”

Frequent Martinez critic State Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo,tweeted about Martinez’s “veto rampage against children’s playgrounds” in the capital outlay bill.

“Construction of playgrounds creates work as much as any other capital construction project, even if in smaller units, and has lasting benefits for the health and wellbeing of our kids,” McQueen wrote.

This is the final legislative session under Martinez, barring an unlikely special session.