As promised, the Legislative Council on Monday filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn 10 of Gov. Susana Martinez’s recent vetoes based on an argument that she didn’t provide a necessary explanation for her disapproval in the time required.
“If successful in the court, we will not only have succeeded in maintaining separation of powers — but in enacting these ten bills our state can better prepare students for high-paying careers in STEM, support small businesses to grow and thrive, and provide opportunity to New Mexicans everywhere,” House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said in a joint statement.
The petition was filed in District Court in Santa Fe. You can read it here.
The move sets up another legal battle between the governor and lawmakers stemming from Martinez’s actions in the regular legislative session held earlier this year. Martinez also vetoed funding for higher education and the Legislature. Weeks ago the N.M. Supreme Court dismissed the Legislative Council’s petition to undo those vetoes, agreeing with Martinez that there was still time for the executive and legislative branches to resolve the dispute. They did just that in a special session last month.
Martinez’s spokesman blasted the new lawsuit.
“This is yet another example of out-of-touch Santa Fe trial lawyers wasting time and taxpayer money going to court when they don’t get what they want,” Michael Lonergan said. “Lawsuits like these aren’t leadership, they’re just more of the same sad failures we’ve come to expect from Democrats in the Legislature.”
The Legislative Council is an administrative committee made up of Democrats and Republicans. It kept its vote to sue the governor secret, so whether any Republicans supported the lawsuit isn’t known publicly.
The new lawsuit, which also names Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, asks the court to overturn the Republican Martinez’s vetoes and compel Toulouse Oliver to chapter the bills into law — which the secretary of state, a Democrat, has thus far declined to do.
The lawsuit argues that the N.M. Constitution requires the governor to state her objections to bills she vetoes. Martinez initially didn’t do that in veto messages about the 10 bills in question. Though she provided written explanations later, the lawsuit argues those didn’t come in the required three-day period after the Legislature approved the bills.
The 10 bills in question are:
- House Bill 126, Financial Assistance For Medical Students, sponsored by Rep. Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces
- House Bill 144, Industrial Hemp Research Rules, sponsored by Rep. Bealquin “Bill” Gomez, D-La Mesa
- Senate Bill 6, Industrial Hemp Research Rules, sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque
- Senate Bill 24, Local Gov’t Broadband Infrastructure, sponsored by Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque and Rep. James E. Smith, R-Sandia Park
- Senate Bill 64, Public School Capital Outlay Time Periods, sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque
- Senate Bill 67, Notification Of TIDD To County Treasurers, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe
- Senate Bill 134, Computer Science For School Graduation, sponsored by Sen. Jacob Candelaria and Rep. Debra M. Sariñana, both D-Albuquerque
- Senate Bill 184, Horse Racing Licenses, Health & Testing, sponsored by Papen
- Senate Bill 222, “Local Public Body” Exemption, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics, D-Cerrillos
- Senate Bill 356, Notification Of Public Improvement Districts, sponsored by Rodriguez