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Governor seeks time to appeal ruling on vetoed bills

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez has asked a state district judge to block 10 vetoed bills from becoming law, arguing that allowing them to take effect before an appeal can be heard would set off a “chain of events” that could prove difficult to undo.

Gov. Susana Martinez

In a landmark decision, District Judge Sarah Singleton ruled last month that the governor did not follow proper constitutional procedures in vetoing the 10 bills – she either took too long to act on them or did not provide an explanation with each vetoed bill – and paved the way for the bills to hit New Mexico’s books.

However, Martinez has indicated she plans to appeal the ruling and doesn’t want Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to chapter the bills into law before that can take place.

In a recent motion, attorneys for the two-term Republican governor said that enacting one vetoed bill that would authorize the growing of industrial hemp for research purposes, for instance, could lead to an “entire crop of hemp” having to be confiscated if the governor’s appeal is successful.

And enshrining a separate vetoed bill that would add computer science to the list of allowable math and science requirements for high school graduation could put the state in a similar predicament, the attorneys argued.

“There would be no feasible way to ‘un-graduate’ high school students who used a computer science unit to fulfill their math and science credit requirements under (the legislation),” Martinez attorney Paul Kennedy argued in the motion.

A group of top-ranking lawmakers filed a lawsuit over the vetoed bills in June, after a contentious 60-day legislative session in which the Democratic-controlled Legislature sparred frequently with the Governor’s Office over budgetary matters.

Martinez’s office has insisted the governor’s vetoes were legal, and has blasted Democratic lawmakers for wasting time and taxpayer money in spearheading the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was authorized in a closed-door vote by the Legislative Council, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, but GOP lawmakers have been largely silent about the effort.

Meanwhile, Martinez vetoed most of the 10 bills in question on March 15, the day after the Senate voted to successfully override the governor’s veto of a teacher sick leave bill.

Singleton, who recently retired but is still presiding over the veto lawsuit as a pro tem judge, gave the legislators until Friday to file a response to the governor’s latest motion. She’s expected to rule on it shortly thereafter.

The Secretary of State’s Office has said it will wait for legal direction before moving forward on enacting the 10 bills in question.

In all, Martinez vetoed 145 bills passed during this year’s regular session – or roughly 52 percent of the bills approved by lawmakers. The veto rate was the highest of the governor’s tenure, which started in 2011.