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Teacher sick leave bill vetoed; override sought

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

Martinez said that although she understood the desire to help teachers, the proposal went too far. The attendance component of evaluations, she said, had resulted in a substantial drop in absences, saving money and helping 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.

One of the bill’s sponsors, 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.

Brandt said he didn’t know whether a similar attempt would be launched in the House, but he 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.