August 11, 2017

Judge rules ten Martinez vetoes invalid, says they will become law

A judge ruled that ten of Gov. Susana Martinez vetoes from this year’s legislative session were invalid–and ordered that the bills become law.

Earlier this year, the Legislature sued the governor, arguing she failed to follow the state constitution by not providing an explanation of her vetoes.

Judge Sarah Singleton in the 1st Judicial District Court made the decision Friday.

“We’re disappointed in this decision because there is no question the governor vetoed these bills,” spokesman Joseph Cueto said in an email Friday afternoon. “It’s telling how some in the legislature love running to the courts when they know they don’t have the support to override a veto.”

Cueto did not answer if the governor’s office intends to appeal the decision.

Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said in a statement Friday she was “pleased” at the decision. The bills include one to allow industrial hemp research and another to allow students to use a computer science class as a math credit for graduation requirements.

“With the enactment of these ten bills, our students will be better able to learn science and math for good careers in the future, small businesses will have a better opportunity to thrive, and we will strengthen our state’s economy,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, called the decision “a win for the process and the people of New Mexico” in a statement.

“This case was about computer science opportunities for school kids, economic development in agriculture, and defending the state’s constitution,” Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said in a statement. “Today’s ruling is a victory for our youth, our farmers, our communities and our constitution.”

Still, this doesn’t mean the bills become law immediately.

Deputy Secretary of State John Blair said the ruling from the bench did not mean the bills will be chaptered yet. Instead, the office will wait for a written order, which Blair said is due in approximately three weeks.

It also would depend on whether or not the governor chooses to appeal the decision.

“At the hearing today, Governor Martinez’ attorney, Paul Kennedy indicated that he is considering filing a motion to appeal the decision and that he would likely request a stay of the decision pending their appeal,” Blair said. “If that’s the case, the ten bills wouldn’t be chaptered until the stay is lifted.”

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Vetoes not in time

The vetoes came during a contentious 60-day session during which Martinez clashed frequently with members of the Legislature on budget and crime issues. She vetoed many bills that passed on narrow, party-line margins. These included explanations of her objections to the bills.

Others, however, were less controversial among legislators, including those in this list of ten. The one allowing a computer science class to count as a math credit, for example, received bipartisan and widespread support. Within both houses, only four senators voted against that proposal. Members of the business community, usually allies of Martinez, wondered afterward why the governor vetoed the popular bill.

Two of the bills in question outlined the process by which the state could allow research of industrial hemp at New Mexico State University.

Martinez had vetoed similar legislation in previous years, despite wide bipartisan support, but had provided explanations.

The bills Singleton said were improperly vetoed were split into two categories. In one, Martinez vetoed the legislation within the three-day period but provided no explanation of her “objections” as required by the state constitution. In the other, Martinez vetoed five bills on the same day she received them but did not explain her objections. The governor later sent “a blanket statement concerning all ten bills without a specific objection on any bills” according to the Legislature.

This year, the Legislature also sought to sue to overturn Martinez’s veto of the state budget. Martinez had vetoed the entire legislative budget and all funding for higher education. The state Supreme Court did not hear that lawsuit, saying the Legislature and Martinez could work it out through a special session.

The Legislature and Martinez were able to come to a budget agreement during the special session.

Here are the ten bills:

  • HB 126, Financial Assistance For Medical Students
  • HB 144, Industrial Hemp Research Rules
  • SB 6, Industrial Hemp Research Rules
  • SB 24, Local Gov’t Broadband Infrastructure
  • SB 64, Public School Capital Outlay Time Periods
  • SB 67, Notification Of TIDD To County Treasurers
  • SB 134, Computer Science For School Graduation
  • SB 184, Horse Racing Licenses, Health & Testing
  • SB 222, “Local Public Body” Exemption
  • SB 356, Notification Of Public Improvement Districts

Update: Added the list of stories.

Update: Added statement from Brian Egolf.

Update: Added statement from Joseph Cueto and statement from John Blair.