April 25, 2018

Supreme Court: Martinez vetoes of ten bills invalid, bills are law

The saga of ten invalid vetoes ended Wednesday, when the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Gov. Susana Martinez failed to follow the state constitution. That means the bills she vetoed more than a year ago without explanation remain law, upholding a lower court ruling.

During the 2017 legislative session,  Martinez vetoed ten laws, but failed to explain those  vetoes. The state Legislature sued, saying she had violated the state constitution. With the court’s ruling, those laws are in effect immediately.

The laws include allowing for research into industrial hemp and allowing a computer science class to count as a math credit toward high school graduation.

The state Public Education Department said Tuesday in a surprise announcement that it would allow computer science classes to count as math credit.

The bills themselves were chaptered into law in September by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver after a ruling by a First Judicial District Court Judge. Then at the beginning of 2018, the state Supreme Court granted a stay of the bills—putting the bills on hold until the Supreme Court could decide their fate.

State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, a Las Cruces state senator who opposed Martinez’s actions, responded on Twitter Wednesday.

“The law was clear [and] over a year ago I advised the Governor to accept her errors and move on with the important accomplishments in the legislation despite her vetoes,” Cervantes wrote.

Cervantes is a Democrat running for governor.

“Obviously the Executive can exercise her veto authority, but the ruling today makes it clear that it has to be done right,” Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said after the ruling. “The Constitution means something, and this now sets a very important precedent. I don’t think you’ll ever see a governor make this mistake again. I’m glad that these 10 pieces of legislation are now on the books.”

Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said he was “pleased the Supreme Court recognized the importance of the legislative process.”

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Martinez attorney Paul Kennedy argued the lack of an explanation of the vetoes was due to “clerical errors.”

“Today’s ruling shows one can pick and choose when it comes to following the constitution. There is no dispute these bills were vetoed and yet partisan legislators along with submissive judges can circumvent an entire branch of government,” Martinez spokeswoman Emilee Cantrell said in a statement. Those ruling against Martinez included her appointee, Republican Judith K. Nakamura.

“This is disappointing, but not surprising as this is the same court who ruled that the plain text of the constitution should be ignored when determining whether a violent criminal, who has committed a capital crime, should stay in jail before trial,” Cantrell continued.

The ten bills Martinez failed to validly veto are:

  • 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 statement form a Martinez spokeswoman.

Update 2: Added statements from Wirth and Egolf.