April 7, 2017

Banning guns for domestic abusers vetoed, conversion therapy ban signed among Martinez actions

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. Joseph 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. “Governor Martinez’s shameful veto of this life-saving bill implicitly denies the irrefutable link between guns and domestic violence.”

“Governor Martinez has tied the hands of judges who would have been able to protect the victims of domestic abuse, and reduce risks of gun violence in dangerous domestic violence situations,” said Cervantes.  “Allowing this cooling off period would have undoubtedly helped save lives.”

House Bill 442, Vetoed; Senate Bill 386, Vetoed

Martinez vetoed two bills that would have raised the minimum wage. The House version would have raised the minimum wage to $9.25 per hour, and included some concessions to businesses. The Senate version would have raised the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour. For more details, see our Thursday post on the vetoes.

Senate Bill 121, Signed

Martinez signed legislation that would bar conversion therapy for minors. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque. Candelaria is the first openly-gay member of the Legislature.

Supporters of the legislation said that it would stop harmful “pseudoscience” that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation. Some Republicans, especially in the House, argued the therapy could provide a path to heterosexuality for minors.

“I do not lightly enact legislation that makes government a party to the medical care decision-making of a parent and child,” Martinez wrote. “Yet, at the same time, numerous reputable medical organizations like the American Psychological Association have rebuked this practice, stating it may lead to depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, self-hatred, substance abuse and suicide.”

Martinez rarely writes messages in bills she signs.

“Today’s historic action by Governor Martinez confirms that our shared commitment to protecting all children from abuse transcends party labels and ideological differences,” Candelaria said in a statement. “In New Mexico, we value and celebrate every child for who they are. I want to thank Governor Martinez for having the courage to stand up for the simple truth that every LGBT kid in NM is born perfect.”

Senate Bill 96, Vetoed

Martinez vetoed a bill introduced in reaction to the landmark Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Senate Bill 96 would have required some disclosure from “dark money” groups that spend money in elections. With the veto, organizations who do not coordinate with candidates can continue to keep their donors secret.

“While I support efforts to make the political process more transparent, the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances,” Martinez wrote in her veto message.

“I am disappointed but not surprised that the Governor would side with the Koch brothers and ALEC and ignore the 90% of Republicans and Democrats in New Mexico who support campaign finance transparency,” Wirth said. “This is one more responsible bipartisan bill to add to the 2019 ‘to do’ list.”

Wirth was referring  to the first legislative session after Martinez is out of office.

The bill also would have set a $5,000 donation limit on contributions to candidates and PACs.

House Bill 157 – Vetoed

Martinez vetoed a bill that would have added Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of health conditions associated with being a firefighter. Introduced by Reps. Deborah Armstrong and Michael Padilla, the Firefighter PTSD and Mental Health Act was criticized by the Municipal League. According to the bill’s fiscal impact report, the league said that the bill could result in increased workers’ compensation costs to government agencies. The bill passed the House by a vote of 54 to 14 and the Senate, 25 to 11.

In her veto message, Martinez wrote that the firefighters can already receive disability benefits for PTSD and the bill could “require fire departments to pay for medical costs related to a firefighter’s PTSD, even if that firefighter had not developed the condition as a result of his or her time as a firefighter.” She added: “While I believe firefighters—and all first responders who are just as exposed to traumatic events—should get treatment for PTSD, it is unfair to require employers to cover a worker’s treatment for an injury not sustained at work.”

House Bill 179 – Vetoed

Martinez rejected the Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act, which would have compelled employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant women in the workplace. Proponents said these accommodations could include allowing a pregnant woman to walk around the office  or drink  water at her desk. The bill passed the House by a vote of 51 to 14, and only narrowly passed the Senate, 17 to 16.

In her veto message, Martinez wrote that “professional women with needs are already protected” by state Human Rights Act, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Family and Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. Only businesses with 50 or more employees must comply with the state Human Rights Act, This act would  have expanded the protections to businesses of four employees or more. Martinez also warned that the bill would “expose our business owners to liability and penalties like [triple the amount of damages] and punitive damage.”

House Bill 211 – Vetoed

Martinez vetoed the Next Generation Science Standards Act (which the Santa Fe Reporter’s Matt Grubs wrote about last week). New Mexico hasn’t updated its science standards for public schools since 2003. Though the Public Education Department started a process in 2012 to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, which 18 states and Washington D.C. have put into place, New Mexico  still hasn’t followed through on those recommendations, which were compiled by math and science experts.

Martinez wrote in her veto message that “the Public Education Department has already been working diligently to route the standards through the appropriate vetting process.” She also argued the standards don’t belong in statute because that would “make it more difficult to update science standards in response to scientific advancement in the future.”

Advocates of the updated standards don’t understand why New Mexico won’t adopt them, though Grubs reported that one former PED staffer testified during the session that she was told to “politically sanitize” the standards, which include lessons on scientific advances, evolution and human-caused global warming.

Senate Bill – 175 Vetoed

Senate Bill 175, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, would have required the state’s Human Services Department to create a home visiting program for infants, toddlers and their families. The program would have been funded through federal and state Medicaid money. The bill’s fiscal impact report noted there was no appropriation in the bill and the actual cost of the program was hard to calculate.

In her veto message, Martinez noted the importance of a child’s early development.

“I have long recognized the importance of love and support in every child’s life,” Martinez wrote. “I also recognize that the first months of any child’s life are essential to their health and development.”

Still, Martinez said, there were too many “uncertainties” in the proposal.

“It is unknown the degree to which Medicaid would refuse to pay for uncovered services. Under our state’s current budget crisis, it would be extremely difficult to expand such programs to serve the entire state and for Medicaid to absorb the burden that this bill would create.”

Senate Bill 462 – Vetoed

Martinez vetoed Senate Bill 462, the Capital Improvement Projects bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa.The bill would have moved $46.1 million in severance tax bonds, which are usually used for statewide capital outlay projects, to a fund for public school projects. SB 462 passed the Senate by a vote of 33 to 8, and the House, 49 to 20. In her veto message, Martinez wrote the Legislature failed to find solutions to the state’s fiscal challenges. She continued, “Its members wasted 60 days debating things like holiday songs about tamales and posole,” and wrote about a special session.

House Bill 527 – Vetoed

Sponsored by House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, House Bill 527 would have made sweeping changes to the state’s medical cannabis law. The bill would have expanded qualifying conditions to include opioid use disorder, allow reciprocity for patients from other states and prevent the state from removing children from a home for the sole reason of a parent’s medical cannabis use.

Martinez issued a lengthy veto message outlining her concerns with expanding qualifying conditions through statute instead of Department of Health rules.

“Inclusion of additional conditions in statute would eliminate an important responsibility of the Board,” Martinez wrote.

She also opposed allowing patients from other states to buy medical cannabis in New Mexico.

“About 28 states have a medical cannabis program, and each of them has different standards,” She wrote. “Therefore, the bill allows reciprocity based on standards set in another state.”

Lastly, Martinez criticized the bill for not requiring background checks for producers and caregivers conducted through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). She acknowledged the current background check methods, but said the NCIC check “would simply make them more thorough.”

House Bill 48 – Signed

House Bill 48 updates how state agencies process and adopt rules and was passed unanimously by both chambers. In her message about the bill, Martinez wrote that the bill would enhance transparency and accountability throughout state government.  “Transparency has always been among my highest priorities,” she wrote. “I have fought to ensure that the citizens of New Mexico are closer to their government than ever before and that their voices are being heard.”

Senate Bill 4 – Signed

The Carlsbad Brine Well Authority and Fund bill creates a remediation advisory authority to address the Carlsbad brine well’s potential for collapse. Two “sudden and catastrophic” brine cavern collapses, associated with oil and gas development, occurred near Carlsbad in 2008, which raised concerns about the collapse of the Carlsbad brine well, too. According to the bill’s fiscal impact report, after the company responsible for the cavern declared bankruptcy, the state began monitoring and studying the Carlsbad brine well. New Mexico has spent more than $5 million already and the estimated cost of backfilling the well is $25 million.

Senate Bill 110 – Signed

Introduced by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, the Lower Rio Grande Water Works Rights and Liens bill amends the statute that created the Lower Rio Grande Public Water Authority.

Senate Bill 303 – Signed

The Pipeline Safety Act Penalties bill removes the state penalties for violations of the Pipeline Safety Act and adds the amount established by federal statutes.

House Bill 64 – Signed

This Wastewater System Financing bill moves $1.3 million from the state’s public project revolving loan fund to the wastewater facility construction loan fund. The state match will then leverage $6.5 million in federal funding.

House Bill 415 – Signed

The State Agency Wastewater Project Financing bill amends the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund to allow state agencies to receive those funds. At the beginning of 2017, the fund had a balance of $150 million, $90 million of which was not able to be spent. HB 415 will allow more entities to be eligible for that funding for wastewater and stormwater projects.

Senate Bill 217 – Pocket Vetoed

Martinez’s veto of a bill that would allow Medicaid providers accused of fraud to challenge the allegations against them in an administrative hearing and court prompted outrage from Senate Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Los Cruces, the bill’s sponsor. Her bill was a response to the Martinez administration’s controversial allegations against 15 behavioral health providers in 2013. Her administration cut off funding from all of the behavioral health providers that year and replaced them with five Arizona-based providers. Each of the New Mexico providers said they didn’t get due process, and the Attorney General’s Office eventually cleared them all of fraud.

“All this legislation sought to do was ensure transparency and independent analysis in these situations when it is needed,” Papen said in a statement. “What has happened during the last four years in behavioral health in New Mexico must never occur again.”

Patsy Romero, CEO of Easter Seals El Mirador, one of the 15 providers that the state cut funding from, called the veto “a sad day for New Mexico.”

But Michael Lonergan, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said the bill was written in a way that “would have made it difficult to investigate Medicaid fraud, as well as make it difficult for law enforcement to prosecute.”

Lonergan added that Martinez “believes that Medicaid dollars should go toward our most vulnerable, and any abuse will not be tolerated.”

Correction: This story originally reported that SB 259, which would bar domestic abusers from having guns, was sponsored by Jacob Candelaria. It was actually Joseph Cervantes.

Update: Added quote by Cervantes to SB 259 section. Also added information about SB 217 and quotes from Mary Kay Papen, Patsy Romero and Michael Lonergan.