Inside the Capitol

Sunday, April 24, 2011

4-27 Vetoes

WED, 4-27-11
SANTA FE � Gov. Susana Martinez promised bold action, which she now is delivering in a fashion that reminds us of her two predecessors.
Former Gov. Gary Johnson announced for president a few days ago. Predictably, he featured his 742 vetoes during an eight-year period. It was an all-time record for the state of New Mexico. Johnson told a crowd in New Hampshire that he now wants to become the �veto president.�
With 98 vetoes in her first legislative session as governor, Martinez is on schedule to at least equal Johnson�s record. Remember, we have a special session on redistricting scheduled for September. The Democratic Legislature is sure to send Martinez something she can veto. Gary Johnson vetoed redistrict ting bills that ended up in court.
Besides her 98 vetoes, Martinez also partially vetoed three other bills. Those line-item vetoes totaled over 50 and included two questionable vetoes of measures that weren�t really appropriation bills and some other questionable vetoes lowering the amount of appropriations.
Some of these vetoes are likely to end up in court, especially one that wiped out the total appropriation to the Commission on the Status of Women. The court may be asked whether a governor can terminate a commission established by law.
In another bold action, Gov. Martinez removed two members of the three-member Public Employee Labor Relations Board that the governor doesn�t even appoint. The state Supreme Court ruled against the governor in that situation, saying she can�t fire people who aren�t gubernatorial appointments. It was the second time the Supreme Court has ruled against the governor in her three-month tenure.
In the other case, Gov. Martinez sought to block publication of greenhouse gas emission rules the Richardson administration had approved shortly before she took office.
It isn�t unusual for governors to test their limits. Before Congress would approve New Mexico�s original constitution, it wanted to guard against any one person gaining too much power. New Mexico was known for lawlessness.
Congress seemed to trust our state Legislature more than any other body. It didn�t want laws being made �in the street� either so it declined to allow voters to put items on the statewide ballot to be voted upon by referendum.
Since New Mexico always has had a weak executive branch of government; governors always have tried to exert their powers as much as possible. Former Gov. Johnson didn�t have much luck with his efforts to strengthen his office. The court kept knocking him down so he began referring to the justices as people arranging chicken bones in order to divine a decision. That didn�t help him much either.
Gov. Martinez based her removal of the entire Labor Relations Board on Gov. Richardson�s court-backed total dismissal of the Judicial Standards Commission. But the court explained that all seven members of that commission are gubernatorial appointees and unless the law specified that members could not be removed until the end of their terms, Richardson�s action was lawful.
Gov. Martinez explained that some of her actions may seem anti-state employee but she is proud that she has prevented any layoffs or furloughs. She hasn�t explained what she calls the action taken against the Commission on the Status of Women. With its total budget eliminated, there won�t be any salaries for the seven employees.
Elimination of the entire budget of the Afro-American Performing arts Center at the State Fairgrounds, just might involve some people too. A few other people have contacted me saying they always thought they were classified state employees but are now discovering that they are not. That sounds like a fault of the Richardson administration.
The state Personnel Office, which administers the state Personnel Act, has had its problems during the Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson administration. Johnson thought it was too difficult to fire people. Richardson thought it was too hard to hire them. That entire systems needs reworking.
Sorry for the mix-up in dates. Next column will be Mon, 5-2.


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