Albuquerque Journal

Bid to end ‘pocket veto’ advances in Senate

Voters would have to approve constituti­onal amendment

- BY DAN BOYD

SANTA FE — For years, New Mexico governors have been able to squash bills passed during the final days of a legislativ­e session simply by not acting upon them.

But that would change under a proposed constituti­onal amendment to eliminate the “pocket veto” that cleared its first Senate committee on Wednesday with bipartisan backing.

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerqu­e, the sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 2, said the current system allows the governor to veto bills without providing any explanatio­n, which would change if the proposal is ultimately enacted.

“This is an unnecessar­y anti-transparen­cy and anti-good government provision in our state Constituti­on,” Candelaria said Wednesday.

Republican senators also voiced support for the proposal, which passed the Senate Rules Committee 8-1, with Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, casting the dissenting vote.

“It’s not a partisan issue — it’s a legislativ­e versus executive issue,” said Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerqu­e.

Under the Constituti­on, the governor has 20 days after a session’s end to act on bills passed during the session’s final three days. Any bills that are not signed or vetoed during that period are automatica­lly vetoed.

Pocket vetoes have been used frequently by some New Mexico governors.

In her first year in office in 2011, former Gov. Susana Martinez pocket-vetoed 65 bills — out of 98 total vetoes.

The Legislatur­e filed a lawsuit against Martinez in 2017 challengin­g her vetoes of 10 bills. The state Supreme Court ultimately invalidate­d the vetoes a year later, ruling that the then-governor had not followed the proper constituti­onal procedures.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who issued 15 pocket vetoes during her first two years in office, opposes this year’s proposal, with the Governor’s Office arguing it would intrude into the governor’s executive authority and disrupt the balance of power among the branches of government.

“It’s unclear what the resolution is attempting to express beyond the animus of its sponsor,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoma­n Nora Meyers Sackett said Wednesday. “The governor has pocketed bills — in accordance with the authority afforded her by the state Constituti­on — sparingly, and her veto messages have been thorough.”

However, Lujan Grisham would not ultimately be able to veto the proposal.

That’s because, if approved by both the House and Senate during this year’s 60-day, it would go before statewide voters for final approval, likely in November 2022.

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