March 21, 2015

Session recap: Martinez characterizes Dem leadership as “gross failure”

Flanked by members of her staff, Gov. Susana Martinez delivers statements to members of the press following the 2015 regular session of the state Legislature. Photo Credit: Margaret Wright

Gov. Susana Martinez’s rhetoric was unsparing during a press conference following the conclusion of a Legislative session that saw few of her top priorities reach her desk.

Flanked by members of her staff, Gov. Susana Martinez delivers statements to members of the press following the 2015 session of the state Legislature.

Flanked by members of her staff, Gov. Susana Martinez delivers statements to members of the press following the 2015 session of the state Legislature.
Photo by Margaret Wright

She employed the word “killed” seven times in her opening statement, referring to the implosion of the statewide capital outlay proposal during the session’s final 48 hours.

The failure of that funding measure constituted a “failure of leadership” on the part of Democrats, she said, particularly those in the Senate.

“Look at their track-record throughout this session,” she told a throng of reporters. “Their leadership displayed rampant partisanship, some of the worst that I’ve seen, and constant gridlock, delays and feet-dragging. They did that on many critical issues.”

She pointed in particular to the failure of Republican-backed right-to-work bills as well as stalled proposals to retain third-graders with lagging reading skills. For the latter legislation, said Martinez, “Senate Democrats refused reasonable or fair hearings, not even allowing the legislation to go to the education committee.”

She did, however, applaud House Republicans for what she called “a fair and inclusive process” during the drafting and successful passage of a state budget compromise.

“I think it reflects the priorities of New Mexicans very well,” said Martinez, adding she still plans to review the final document line by line. “I’m optimistic it gives us a lot of tools to help the state in the coming year, whether it’s closing fund money, job training, Main Street [projects] or education reforms.”

Martinez said that throughout the session, she and members of her staff met with Democratic and Republican members in both legislative chambers in an attempt to forge compromise. Those attempts were stymied, she said, particularly in the Senate.

“Throughout the session, conversation after conversation with Democrat senators, they’d say, ‘The leadership won’t budge. There’s no give. They just want to stop everything.’ Then today, they refused to honor agreements on the budget and refused throughout the session to allow any input from the House majority or the executive on capital outlay.”

When a reporter said they’d heard the same accusations of partisan brinkmanship from Democrats in the House and Senate, Martinez pivoted.

“The best thing for New Mexicans is for all three branches of government to come together and to compromise, and we did exactly that. In fact, that was done on the budget, that was done with the driver’s licenses [bill].”

Moments later, however, she continued to lay blame on Senate Democrats for the jettisoning of the capital outlay proposal.

“By it not being passed by the Senate Democrats, they killed many jobs. It includes roads, wastewater infrastructure, fixing roofs for correctional facilitiesa variety of infrastructure in every corner of the state.”

Martinez said Senate Democrats drafted the capital outlay bill without including input from House Democrats, House Republicans or the executive branch.
“We have always had input from the very beginning. They sent over a Senate capital outlay that spend all $270 million without the input of the House or the executive. That has never happened.”
Regarding the sudden resignation from the Senate of Phil Griego, Martinez echoed wording in a Supreme Court legal filing to speed up the process for nominating his replacement. The fact that the session ended without the appointment of Griego’s replacement meant that “50,000 New Mexicans in that district were disenfranchised,” said Martinez.
“They were not represented during the last week of this session, and the Democrats chose to litigate, chose to delay and chose not to allow those 50,000 people to have a vote in the process.”
Martinez was also pressed about her stance on HB 560, a measure to restrict civil asset forfeiture. It passed both of the Legislature’s chambers with unanimous support, but Martinez, Doña Ana County’s former chief prosecutor, said, “I just don’t know. I have to see what it looks like.”
Martinez said she had “no plans at this time” to call a special session of the Legislature.


  • Margaret Wright

    Margaret Wright is a freelance writer and editor born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. She has also worked as a teacher, social worker and waitress. She was promoted from contributor to managing editor of Albuquerque’s alt.weekly Alibi before going on to co-found the New Mexico Compass (R.I.P.), a digital news and culture outlet with an emphasis on mentoring fledgling journalists.