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Notebook: Martinez vetoes hemp bill

SANTA FE — Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed two bills on Saturday, including one that would have authorized the state Department of Agriculture to oversee the growing of industrial hemp for research purposes.

Hemp is related to marijuana but has low levels of the chemical makes people feel high.

Martinez has repeatedly clashed with the Legislature on hemp.

Supporters say the growing of hemp — which can be used to make clothes and other products — would help farmers and boost the economy. Senate Bill 6, the legislation vetoed Saturday, passed the Senate and House with bipartisan majorities.

Martinez, however, has argued that allowing hemp would complicate law-enforcement efforts aimed at marijuana.

The governor on Saturday also vetoed a bill to expand the pool of school employees eligible for a salary increase if they pass national tests. The school proposal is Senate Bill 200.

Open primaries

A House committee on Saturday rejected a proposal that would have opened New Mexico primary elections to independent voters.

Opponents raised questions about its legality, among other concerns.

The bill was tabled on a 9-4 vote, blocking it from advancement to the House floor.

Supporters of House Bill 206 say it would have encouraged participation in primary elections at a time when young voters are increasingly opting against registering as a Democrat or Republican.

It was sponsored by Reps. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, and Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos.

The vote of the House Judiciary Committee didn’t fall along party lines. Both Democrats and Republicans voted against it.

Pay raises

A union group that represents some state workers urged Democrats in the Legislature to more aggressively confront the Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in budget negotiations.

Dan Secrist, executive vice president of the local Communications Workers of America union, said state employees deserve a raise, especially as they’re asked to do more amid New Mexico’s budget crunch. Democrats ought to support a pay raise, even if the governor is sure to veto it, he said.

“In the past, we’ve seen the Democrats give up a lot to the governor in negotiations with little in return,” Secrist said.

Martinez and the state lawmakers are still trying to reach agreement on a budget for the coming fiscal year. Low oil and gas prices have squeezed the budget, cash reserves are almost exhausted and the state has already endured a downgrade to its credit rating.

Dan McKay: