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Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Gov.'s 1st Veto Hits Oil Agency

By Loie Fecteau
Journal Politics Writer
    SANTA FE Gov. Bill Richardson vetoed his first bill on Monday, saying the Legislature was trying to reorganize a state agency without his involvement.
    The measure (HB 33) would have given an oil and gas database operation more autonomy and would have moved it out of the state Taxation and Revenue Department.
    In other action Monday, Richardson signed a bill (floor substitute SB 390) into law that is designed to give convicted felons more time to try to prove their innocence with DNA evidence.
    The vetoed database bill would have allowed the Oil and Natural Gas Administration and Revenue Database (ONGARD) to hire its own personnel and do its own budget request. The automated information system, which monitors taxes owed the state by the oil and gas industry, is used by the state Taxation and Revenue Department, the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, and the state Land Office.
    Richardson's predecessor, former Gov. Gary Johnson, had vetoed a similar measure in 2001.
    "This bill attempts to reorganize parts of the executive department and, in my opinion, usurps the power of the governor," Richardson, who took office Jan. 1, told reporters. "Legislators did not ask for my input or my administration's in a reorganization that directly affects this branch of government."
    Richardson said his administration is presently conducting comprehensive performance reviews and audits of all state government agencies and departments. Richardson said he would likely pursue some kind of government reorganization next year.
    However, Richardson complained that the bill he vetoed would have created an independent database agency.
    "I just feel this entity should have some oversight," Richardson said.
    The bill had been approved without any dissenting votes by the House and Senate.
    The Democratic governor stressed, as he vetoed the bill, that he still wanted to work in a bipartisan fashion with legislators. He said he was "still reaching out to both sides of the aisle on education reform, on DWI, on health care, and water."
    "That doesn't mean that we're going to agree on everything," the governor said.
    Richardson said the DNA bill sets "procedures for people convicted of felonies who believe that DNA evidence may establish their innocence to petition a court to have the evidence disclosed, preserved and tested."
    He said the bill "loosens the standard required to approve new testing, eliminates time limits for filing, and directs the state to pay for testing when people cannot afford it on their own."
    Richardson also signed a bill (SB 546) into law, which he said strengthens the state's regulatory power over out-of-state credit unions.