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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NM Supreme Court Unanimously Rules Against Susana Martinez's Line Item Veto on Housing Authority Funding

Great news for the separation of powers in New Mexico government. As reported by the AP's Barry Massey, today the New Mexico Supreme Court struck down a line-item veto by Gov. Susana Martinez that reduced money for a housing agency:

In striking down the housing veto, the court said the governor exceeded her powers by lowering an appropriation in a budget bill from $150,000 to $50,000. She did that by striking the "1'' from the $150,000. The money is for oversight of a housing program.

The court did not explain its decision after it was announced. A written decision likely will be issued later.

Senator Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez and Senate Finance Committee Chair John Arthur Smith, petitioners in the lawsuit challenging Governor Martinez’ authority to line-item veto a numeral to reduce an appropriation to the regional housing authority, issued the following joint statement after learning of the Supreme Court's unanimous decision:

Today’s ruling is a victory for our constitution and the people of New Mexico. The principle of separation of powers is the cornerstone of our government. The balance of power is equally divided among the three branches of government and the court’s decision reaffirmed this by preserving the legislature’s exclusive appropriating authority.

In response to today's ruling, Javier Gonzales, Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico (DPNM), released this statement:

At a time when New Mexicans are searching for solutions to the jobs and education crisis, Susana Martinez has once again proven to New Mexicans that her priorities are not in sync with their own. Her cavalier approach to governing New Mexico has led the Supreme Court to overturn her decisions 3 times in 6 months.  She continues her .000 average with following the law.

This latest decision is an embarrassment to her office. She needs to get on with the business of governing New Mexico according to the law of our State -- not what she thinks the law should be. Susana Martinez ran her campaign on "Bold Change," yet New Mexicans continue to scratch their heads in search of that change. Between the broken promises with back door meetings with oil lobbyist to draw up environmental law, hypocritical misuse of the state plane, or nice cushy appointments for her largest donors, Susana is showing a reckless record of following the law.

Representatives Luciano "Lucky" Varela of Santa Fe and Henry "Kiki" Saavedra of Albuquerque joined Senators Smith of Deming and Sanchez of Belen in the successful lawsuit.

Attorneys for the legislators had noted that if the court allowed Martinez's partial veto, she and future governors would have the power to usurp a core segment of the Legislature's constitutional powers to decide how to allocate taxpayer money for programs and services. Not good.

As noted in an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican when the suit was filed, 

Martinez's record before the New Mexico Supreme Court has not been good. The state's high court has rebuffed the governor twice in five months. In April, the state Supreme Court ruled the governor lacked authority to arbitrarily remove two members of the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board, as Martinez had done early in her term. In January, the high court unanimously decided that Martinez acted improperly when she asked the state records administrator to delay publishing greenhouse-gas emissions rules that the state Environmental Improvement Board approved shortly before she took office. 

Thank goodness New Mexico's highest court is taking the side of the legislature -- and the people -- in response to Gov. Martinez's attempted power grabs for the executive branch. Perhaps she needs to carefully read the state's constitution to get a clearer picture of what her legal responsibilities are as governor -- and what they aren't.

Six other Dem legislators -- House Speaker Ben Luján of Nambé, Rep. Mimi Stewart, Rep. Eleanor Chavez, Rep. Miguel Garcia and Sen. Cisco McSorley, all of Albuquerque, and Rep. Antonio Luján of Las Cruces -- had also filed suit against another Martinez veto which stopped a $128 million tax increase on businesses to pay for unemployment benefits. The court said they'll issue a decision later on that issue.

June 22, 2011 at 01:19 PM in Housing, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink


Give it up, Susana! Start governing instead of creating headlines to please your extremist supporters. She had to know this would be struck down but she wanted the publicity. Same with her two other defeats in the court. Has she helped create one job in New Mexico?

Posted by: E.P. | Jun 23, 2011 1:41:05 PM