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Judge tosses 10 vetoes, says governor failed to follow rules

SANTA FE — Bills dealing with industrial hemp, broadband and allowing computer science to count toward math and science requirements are on track to hit New Mexico’s books, despite being vetoed in March by Gov. Susana Martinez.

First District Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that ten of Gov. Martinez’ vetoes were unlawful. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

District Court Judge Sarah Singleton ruled today that the governor did not follow proper procedures in vetoing 10 bills — either because she took too long or did not provide an explanation with each vetoed piece of legislation.

Top-ranking lawmakers filed a lawsuit over the 10 vetoed bills in June, after a contentious 60-day legislative session in which the Democratic-controlled Legislature clashed frequently with the two-term Republican governor.

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House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who attended today’s court hearing, called the ruling a “win” for New Mexico farmers and schoolkids.

Gov. Susana Martinez

Gov. Susana Martinez

“It’s about defending the Constitution,” Egolf told reporters. “I don’t think of it as a fight between political people.”

In her order, the judge directed Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to chapter the 10 bills in question into law once final paperwork is submitted. That’s expected to take no more than three weeks.

The Governor’s Office could also appeal the ruling, but it would be up to Singleton to decide whether to allow the bills to take effect or not before such an appeal could be heard.

Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, called on the governor not to file an appeal.

“We urge Governor Martinez to accept the court’s decision and allow the people of New Mexico to move on,” Papen said in a statement after today’s ruling.

Meanwhile, the ruling could set a veto precedent in New Mexico.

While Martinez’s attorneys had argued the state’s Constitution doesn’t require her to provide an explanation for every piece of vetoed legislation, Singleton ruled to the contrary.

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She said constitutional language requiring a vetoed bill to be returned to the Legislature with by an objection must be strictly followed due to New Mexico’s short and often chaotic legislative sessions.

“To me, this section (of the Constitution) sets up a procedure that is mandatory and that must be followed,” Singleton said.

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