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Gov. Martinez vetoes bill on teacher leave

SANTA FE — Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have allowed teachers to take more sick leave without damaging their annual evaluations.

The bill had broad bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature, and one of the sponsors said he will push for a veto override.

Martinez, for her part, said she understood the desire to help teachers, but the proposal went too far. The attendance component of evaluations, she said, had resulted in a substantial drop in absences, which saves money and helps students learn.

“I believe in the importance of having our full-time teachers, not short-term or long-term substitutes, in our classrooms with the students who depend on their expertise,” Martinez, a Republican, said in the veto message.

House Bill 241 was sponsored by a mix of Democrats and Republicans, and it won approval 64-3 in the House and 39-0 in the Senate.

It would take support of two-thirds of the members in each chamber to override. The Legislature has never overridden a Martinez veto.

Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said Thursday that he planned to move to override the governor’s veto today.

“People are nervous about overriding a governor’s veto, especially a governor of their own political party, but I feel that strongly about it,” he said in an interview.

Brandt said he wasn’t sure if a similar attempt would be launched in the House, but said he felt action needed to be taken before the legislative session ends March 18.

“If the governor was being reasonable, she would have just signed the damn bill and I wouldn’t be doing this,” Brandt said.

The bill proposed to allow teachers to take all their contractual free time — 10 days annually in most school districts — without facing a deduction on their evaluations.

Under the current system, educators can be absent from the classroom for three days without penalty but lose points on the fourth day.

Martinez said her administration would support increasing the leave penalty to five days.

The co-sponsors of the bill are Brandt and Reps. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho; Dennis Roch, R-Logan; Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos; and Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque.