Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

4-8 Gov's. Decision Day

FRI, 4-8-11
SANTA FE � Today will tell us much more about our new governor, Susana Martinez. This is her final day for acting on legislation. Governors have 20 days after a legislative session to sign or veto legislation.
Governors can also decline to act on a bill. The inaction is referred to as a pocket veto. It has the same effect as a veto but usually doesn�t include an explanation of the reason for the veto. Former Govs. Ed Mechem and Bruce King were known for their pocket vetoes. They made no bones about their feeling that much legislation really isn�t necessary.
Gov. Martinez did not hit the ground running as many governors have done in the past. It isn�t easy for a governor, elected in November, to have a full-scale legislative initiative going by January. But many do, especially those who have been around for a while.
Former Gov. Bill Richardson and his economic development initiatives immediately come to mind. But former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, also from Dona Ana County, probably is the prime example of immediate action.
The day after his election, he began issuing press releases and contacting legislative leaders about his plan to streamline the executive branch of government from over 100 agencies reporting to the governor down to 12 departments. It took his entire four-year term to accomplish the feat
Gov. Martinez came to the Legislature with a much more modest agenda, mostly dealing with law and order issues, education and a promise of no tax increases for her entire term.
So her actions on the nearly 300 bills sent her by the 2011 Legislature will go a long way toward defining the kind of governor we have elected. Gov. Gary Johnson spoke the loudest of any governor on his first bill signing deadline by vetoing over 100 bills. He announced he believed in smaller government and he didn�t care whose bills he vetoed. He said he didn�t even look at the names.
In contrast, Gov. Apodaca vetoed almost no bills during his four-year term. That may be one reason he was so successful in achieving his major initiatives. He probably did look at the names on bills.
Gov. Martinez probably will fall somewhere between Johnson and Apodaca. But what sort of bills will she sign and which will she veto? She already has given some indications. Governors don�t wait until the deadline to sign all bills. As of Tuesday of this week, Gov. Martinez had signed over 50 bills. But the majority of legislation will wait until today.
And it all is likely to happen before noon. The Legislature adjourned at noon on March 19. The law isn�t clear on whether the 20 days ends at noon but any bill signed after noon could be challenged in court by opponents of the law. The status of bills vetoed after noon doesn�t change because bills die anyway unless signed.
Two of Martinez�s early bill signings were an expansion of Katie�s Law, named after a young Dona Ana County murder victim, and a law to grade public schools on an A-F basis. Those signings were consistent with Martinez�s law and order and education goals. A few other law and order bills passed the Legislature but not much else on education.
Martinez campaigned on not cutting public schools or Medicaid. She had to cut back her education promise by applying it only to classrooms and interpreting educational administration broadly. The budget bill she has on her desk cuts public schools by $35 million. It increases Medicaid by $22 million.
Two of Martinez�s vetoes include a bill to require more information from state agencies be furnished to the Legislature. She admits the veto violates her government transparency promise but says it was to protect confidential information. Gov. Richardson vetoed a similar bill last year.
The other veto was to a bill requiring Senate confirmation of the superintendent of Regulation and Licensing. A lot of politics is involved in that bill.


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