The New Mexico Legislature filed a lawsuit against Gov. Susana Martinez Friday morning. The suit accuses Martinez of violating the state constitution when she vetoed the entirety of the budgets for the state Legislature and all higher education in New Mexico. Filed by the Legislative Council’s lawyer Tom Hnasko, the lawsuit calls the line-item veto of legislative funding an “attempt to eviscerate the ability of the other branch [of government] to perform its essential functions.”
In his filing, Hnsako asks the court to invalidate Martinez’s line-item vetoes of both the Legislature and higher education. “They’re suing the Governor because they want to raise taxes, and she’s the only one standing in their way,” Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan said in a statement. “It’s disappointing because it shows a refusal to compromise as this is nothing but an attempt to bully her by short-circuiting the legislative process before a special session.
Gov. Susana Martinez’s veto of the entire higher education budget is getting national attention. First, the Washington Post covered the veto earlier this week. Now, the Chronicle of Higher Education weighed in with a story. Martinez has said the veto was necessary to balance the budget, even as she says the budget—including higher education funding—will be addressed in an upcoming special session. The Washington Post analysis said the veto meant “nothing good” for students, adding the impasse could lead to “significant tuition increases at public universities.”
The newspaper cited a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that found, when adjusted for inflation, higher education funding in New Mexico dropped by 32.2 percent since the Great Recession, the third-largest such drop in the nation.
The New Mexico Legislative Council voted to sue Gov. Susana Martinez over some of her controversial budget vetoes and is planning for an extremely rare extraordinary session. “Following the legal briefing given by attorneys to the Legislature, the Legislative Council has made the decision to officially begin the legal process necessary to ensure the state constitution is upheld,” Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen said in a statement. “As legislators we take our oath to support the constitution and the laws of the state seriously. A strong system of checks and balances is crucial to the success of our democracy.”
It’s unclear how individual members voted. Democrats hold a 9-7 advantage on the panel, which is made up of members of both chambers.
A progressive group is advocating for legislators to override Gov. Susana Martinez’s vetoes of portions of the budget and an entire tax package. The odds of veto overrides are slim. The bills passed the Senate with wide, bipartisan support but passed more narrowly on party lines in the House. New Mexico Voices for Children urged supporters to contact their legislators to override the vetoes, citing the zeroing-out of the entire higher education budget. “New Mexico’s legislators delivered a balanced budget that funds critical services like education, health care, and public safety, and they came up with a responsible way to pay for it,” the email says.
Gov. Susana Martinez continued her criticism of the state Legislature in a brief press conference Monday in Las Cruces. Martinez appeared with Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral, and praised his work during the legislative session while at the same time criticizing the Legislature as a whole and the Senate specifically. Martinez echoed her previous criticisms of legislation that would have raised some taxes. “Raising taxes to bail out big government while punishing the families of New Mexico is not the right answer. Or raising taxes on small businesses is not the right answer,” Martinez said.
Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill to create a speciality chile license plate—but chile lovers will still be able to get a license plate featuring chile without the extra cost of a specialty plate. The new black license plate says in yellow lettering “Chile capital of the world” and has yellow license plate numbers. It also features a green chile pepper in front of a red chile pepper. “With the creation of this license plate, we are sending a strong message that New Mexico is the only chile capital of the world,” Gov. Martinez said in announcing the new license plate. “Not only does chile play a significant role in our state’s culture – it is one of our state’s greatest treasures, and this license plate will let the world know.”
This came after Martinez vetoed legislation that would have created a specialty chile license plate whose funds would have went to educational programs with the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces.
Friday at noon was the deadline for Gov. Susana Martinez to act on bills. Any bills not explicitly signed or vetoed are automatically vetoed without explanation.These are called pocket vetoes. If we learn of any more actions on important bills, we will add them to this story. Previously, we wrote about her actions on the budget and the veto of the tax package. Here are some of the bills Martinez took action on today: Senate Bill 259 – Vetoed This bill, sponsored by Sen. Josepth Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, would have required courts to prohibit people charged with domestic abuse and who “present a credible threat” from purchasing or possessing firearms.
In her veto message, Martinez explained that judges “already have the power to prohibit individuals that are subject to a restraining order from possessing a firearm.” She added that she encourages judges to “exercise this power whenever the facts and circumstances before them require it.”
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence denounced Martinez’s veto as “disgraceful” for defending “armed abusers” rather than protecting domestic abuse victims.
“By removing guns from domestic abusers, this law would have helped protect the lives of New Mexican women,” Coalition General Counsel Kelly Roskam said in a statement.
The governor signed the Legislature’s state budget plan Friday morning—but with $800 million worth line-item vetoes, making a future special session a reality. The vast majority of the money vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez came from vetoing all funding for New Mexico colleges and universities. She cited the Senate’s lack of hearings for nominations of regents for “several higher education institutions,” calling it “a clear violation of its constitutional duty.”
In a separate statement, Martinez said she had to take out the “entire higher education budget” to balance the budget, but said this would be fixed in the special session. Related: Banning guns for domestic abusers vetoed, conversion therapy ban signed among Martinez actions
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth denounced the veto of the higher education money. “Governor Martinez has chosen to play extreme political games rather than act responsibly,” Wirth said.
Gov. Susana Martinez officially kept her promise that she would veto minimum wage increases. In her Thursday veto message of one of the bills, HB 442, Martinez said increasing the minimum wage would hurt small businesses throughout the state. The bill would have increased the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 per hour to $9.25 per hour. It also would have barred local governments from passing or keeping current laws that require employers to give advance notice of work schedules to employees. Related: Martinez signs, vetoes dozens of bills; the highlights
“This bill was part of a wider effort in both chambers to provide increased opportunity to hardworking New Mexicans,” House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said in a statement Thursday night.
In a press release Thursday, Gov. Susana Martinez announced that she signed 66 bills and vetoed 28 bills. Even with the 94 bill actions, there are still 126 bills she hasn’t taken action on yet—including next year’s state budget and a revenue package passed by the Legislature. Martinez has said she would veto the budget and revenue bill and call legislators into a special session to pass a new budget that doesn’t raise taxes. She has until Friday to take final action on bills passed in the recent legislative session. Update: Martinez took action on more bills Friday.