Martinez loses another Supreme Court case

By Matthew Reichbach
On Wednesday, Governor Susana Martinez lost another case before the New Mexico Supreme Court. This one involved the state’s high court telling the Governor that vetoing a single digit from an appropriation, in this case slashing a $150,000 to $50,000, overstepped her authority as laid forth by the state Constitution.

The illegal veto would have slashed money appropriated to the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority. Two state Senators and two members of the state House of Representatives filed suit to invalidate the veto.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for our constitution and the people of New Mexico,” Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Silver City, said in a joint statement following the Supreme Court’s decision. “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.”

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Martinez’s veto.

Reps. Luciano “Lucky” Varela of Santa Fe and Henry “Kiki” Saavdera of Albuquerque were also party to the lawsuit and the four legislators split the cost of bringing the lawsuit.

“The Court has now given guidance that the only way for the governor to prevent these types of excessive spending measures is to veto the entire amount,” Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said according to Reuters. “The governor is hopeful that the Legislature will work with her to prevent such vetoes from becoming necessary in the future.”

This isn’t the first setback in the Supreme Court by the Republican governor.

Martinez has not had much luck with the state’s high court, losing three rulings including one on slashing regulations and another on her decisions involving the state labor board. The state ruled unanimously that Martinez exceeded her authority in removing two members of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

Martinez defended her vetoes by noting that governors had previously used similar line-item vetoes. These were 70 years ago and were not challenged at the time.

The Supreme Court did not make a decision on another lawsuit that Martinez is facing over one of her vetoes. The lawsuit contends that Martinez’s line-item veto of the portions of an unemployment insurance bill that raise revenue is illegal. The six lawmakers filing suit against Martinez argue that the bill does not appropriate money and therefore cannot be line-item vetoed.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Commerce and Industry both backed the bill that would stave off insolvency in the state’s unemployment fund. Already most states in the country have seen their unemployment funds go broke.

Gov. Martinez Faces Fifth Suit in Supreme Court

By Claus Whiteacre

For the fifth time since she took office on Jan. 1, Governor Susana Martinez is being sued at the New Mexico Supreme Court.

This time, several unions are questioning the legality of her actions in firing all members of the state’s labor relations board.

Like the other four suits, this latest legal action revolves around the question of whether Gov. Martinez violated the state’s separation of powers by exceeding her authority as chief executive.

Unions Sue the Governor

In the suit, filed last week, the New Mexico Federation of Labor AFL-CIO and several of its affiliates challenge the legality of her dismissal of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board and its executive director.

In New Mexico, the Public Employee Labor Relations Board enforces public sector bargaining rights and handles disputes.

By law, the board consists of three members appointed by the governor: one recommended by labor, one recommended by public employers (effectively, the governor’s choice), and a third, jointly recommended by the other two appointees. The board itself then hires an executive director.

The Firings

Gov. Martinez fired executive director Pam Gentry on Feb. 5 and has interviewed prospective replacements — usurping the PELRB’s personnel decisions.

On March 1, Martinez removed board members John Boyd, recommended by labor; Martin Dominguez, recommended by public employers; and Duff Westbrook, who was jointly recommended.

State law guarantees unions the right to seek redress on behalf of wronged employees, but the removal of the labor board and its executive director means they have nowhere to go, union lawyers have said. Any negotiations, including collective bargaining, are also on hold.

In a statement last week, NMFL AFL-CIO president Christine Trujillo said:

“Governor Susana Martinez exceeded her authority in firing the entire Public Labor Relations Board in violation of state law. Her agenda is no different from that of Republican Wisconsin Governor Walker…she, along with the Tea Party-controlled Republican Party across the United States are attempting to pick off the rights of American workers to collectively provide safe and equitable work environments.”

What’s Next

In the lawsuit, the unions are seeking an order directing the governor to reinstate or reappoint the current PELRB members (specifically members John Boyd and Duff Westbrook) to their positions on the board.

Additionally, the unions are seeking an order prohibiting the governor from interfering in the board’s decision to hire an executive director of the PELRB.

The Supreme Court has ordered Gov. Martinez to respond to the union’s lawsuit by April 1. The court has scheduled oral arguments in the case for April 13.

An Obsessive and Frightening Zeal

Gov. Susana Martinez

By Tracy Dingmann

As the 60-day legislative session winds to a close and Gov. Susana Martinez completes her first few months in office, the people of New Mexico still lack a coherent plan from the executive-in-chief to generate jobs and stimulate the economy.

What New Mexicans DO have from Gov. Martinez is a solid, three-point plan to persecute undocumented immigrants.

She’s been working overtime on that.

Today’s Albuquerque Journal detailed the Governor’s plan to give Secretary of State Dianna Duran a list of New Mexico driver’s licenses issued to foreign nationals so they can be cross-checked against the state’s voter registration rolls.

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Which Path, Governor?

By Tracy Dingmann

On Monday, Jan. 31, Governor Susana Martinez issued an executive order requiring state police officers to inquire into criminal suspect’s immigration status and “report relevant information to federal immigration enforcement authorities.”

It was the latest in a troubling stream of executive orders to come from Governor Martinez’s office since literally the moment she took office.

Like the other executive orders emanating from her office, it sought to aggressively reverse key decisions made by her predecessor, Gov. Bill Richardson. And like the rest of her executive orders, it appears to be extremely vulnerable to legal challenges on purely constitutional grounds.

Add Monday’s executive order to the rest of the group and I think it’s time for the people of New Mexico to ask sincerely – which path are you taking us down, Governor?

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Martinez Now 0 for 3 at NM Supreme Court – “Greener” Building Codes Will Be Published

Governor Susana Martinez

Check it out – our new Gov. Susana Martinez is now 0 for 3 at the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The following story is courtesy of Eric Mack at Public News Service:

SANTA FE, N. M. – Clean energy and conservation proponents are three-for-three, and it seems New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has struck out in the “new rules” department. The Sierra Club has withdrawn a lawsuit against the Martinez administration in exchange for her agreeing to publish new state building codes adopted last year to achieve greater energy efficiency.

The reversal comes after the State Supreme Court ordered the administration to publish two other sets of new environmental rules. Gov. Martinez had put a 90-day delay on implementing all such new rules and codes, but the high court said that move was overstepping her authority.

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Gov. Martinez Sued Again in State Supreme Court

Gov. Susana Martinez

By Tracy Dingmann

The head of the state Worker’s Compensation Administration has filed suit against Gov. Susana Martinez in state Supreme Court, saying she is breaking state law by attempting to remove him from office before the expiration of his five-year statutory term.

In a suit filed Jan. 14, Albuquerque attorney Glenn R. Smith says Gov. Martinez has no authority as governor to remove him from office before his term ends in January 2012.

Smith, a former Deputy Attorney General and special counsel to the Attorney General, has been director of the Worker’s Compensation Administration since Gov. Bill Richardson appointed him to the position in January of 2007. He was confirmed by the state legislature.

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Citizens Coalition Sues Governor In NM Supreme Court Over Printing Of New Dairy Rule

By Tracy Dingmann

Late today (Jan. 13) came news of the second suit filed in New Mexico Supreme Court against Gov. Susana Martinez over her move to halt printing of a regulation designed to protect New Mexicans from groundwater contamination.

What follows is the word, straight from the Citizens Coalition, a local group made up of Caballo Concerned Citizens, Citizens For Dairy Reform, Rio Valle Concerned Citizens, the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, Food And Water Watch and Amigos Bravos:

SANTA FE, N.M. – The Citizens Coalition filed suit today in New Mexico Supreme Court against the State Governor, Susana Martinez, the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, and the New Mexico State Records Administrator, in response to the move to halt printing of the adopted dairy regulation in the State Register. Papers were served on the above offices this afternoon.

The Citizens Coalition, represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), petitioned the court for a writ of mandamus to compel the Governor and NMED Secretary, F. David Martin, to comply with existing law, and to compel Sandra Jaramillo of the State Records Center to codify and publish the dairy regulation in the State Register.

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