Five bills become law after lawmakers say Gov. didn’t follow Constitution

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – In a strange turn of events that could end in legal proceedings, five bills have become law without Governor Martinez’s signature. They were bills she vetoed over the past week and half.

When the Governor vetoes a bill, under the New Mexico Constitution, he or she must send the vetoed bill back to the House in which it originated “with [their] objections.”

Since last week, Governor Susana Martinez has vetoed 11 bills – mostly Senate, democrat-backed bills with wide bipartisan support. Some passed each chamber unanimously.

Those 11 bills were vetoed with no explanation as to why in the veto messages from the Governor. The veto memos simply stated that she has vetoed each bill.

This left many lawmakers frustrated as they couldn’t understand why she vetoed them. “A Governor can give just about really any reason at all for a veto, but the problem for the Governor here is that she gave no reason,” Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said.

Legislators now allege that her veto messages didn’t fulfill the Constitution’s requirements for including her “objections” and now lawmakers have legally challenged the validity of the vetoes. It’s a move Sen. Cervantes says he and his colleagues have been preparing for several days.

“The reason for the constitution to require that give the objections is so that the legislature can respond to those objections, perhaps an amendment, perhaps a modification perhaps a narrower piece of legislation. Or again, perhaps a veto override,” Sen. Cervantes said.

On Thursday night though, the Governor delivered a message to lawmakers – one giant explanation for vetoing the 11 bills – in what appears to be an attempt to abide by the Constitution before it was too late (read that message below).

But due to the legislative timeline, it was too late for five of those 11 bills: HB 126, HB 144, SB 6, SB 67 and SB 134. That’s because the Governor only has a certain amount of time to act on legislation when it reaches her desk before the final three days of the legislative session.

Now, those five bills are considered “law without signature” of the Governor. Two of them are for industrial hemp research, another is for medical school scholarships, one relates to TIDD taxes and the last is for high school computer science courses.

The other six bills that she vetoed are still within a period of time that the Governor’s new, all encompassing veto message applies.

Sen. Cervantes points to case law out of Colorado from about twenty-five years ago when a nearly identical situation happened at the Colorado legislature. In that instance, the Colorado Supreme Court ultimately sided with lawmakers. “My hope is the Governor will recognize error of her vetoes so that we don’t have to go through a long legal battle, an expensive legal battle to try and demonstrate the law to the Governor,” he said.

We reached out to Gov. Martinez’s office for comment.

Chief of Staff Keith Gardner said, “Those bills were vetoed, they are not law, we disagree with the lawmakers.”

He said lawmakers should be focusing on more important issues, but also said a legal battle on this issue will likely ensue down the road.

Governor’s Executive Message