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NM Supreme Court to hear arguments over vetoes

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on a high-profile dispute between Gov. Susana Martinez and leading legislators.

The April 25 hearing could precede a landmark decision about whether governors must provide a specific reason when vetoing any piece of legislation that lands on their desk.

At stake is whether 10 bills passed by the Legislature during last year’s 60-day session – and then vetoed by Martinez – should take effect.

A district judge in August invalidated the governor’s vetoes and paved the way for the bills to become law, but a divided Supreme Court blocked that from happening last month after Martinez filed an appeal.

The five-member Supreme Court had previously issued a unanimous order accepting the case from the Court of Appeals.

Before the oral arguments take place, the state’s highest court has also instructed both sides to file additional briefs in the case.

Martinez, the state’s two-term Republican governor, has insisted the vetoes were legally valid. They came in March, after the Senate voted to override Martinez’s veto of a bill dealing with teacher absences. A subsequent override vote in the House failed to gain the necessary support to succeed.

Top-ranking lawmakers have argued the 10 vetoes were not properly carried out – because the governor either took too long to act on them or did not provide an explanation with each vetoed bill.

They filed a lawsuit over the vetoed bills in June, after a contentious 60-day session in which the Democratic-controlled Legislature sparred frequently with the Governor’s Office over budgetary matters.

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

The 10 bills in question include measures allowing computer science to count toward high school math and science requirements, allowing industrial hemp to be grown for research purposes and giving local governments more leeway to expand broadband access.

Most of the measures passed with broad, bipartisan support during last year’s legislative session.