Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

35 bills vetoed in total: here’s what didn’t make it into the New Mexico lawbooks

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham directly vetoed 14 bills by the end of Friday – the deadline for action on bills passed through the 2023 legislative session. Another 21 went unsigned Friday, and were “pocket vetoed.”

The legislature can override vetoes with a 2-3 majority vote in both houses. Pocket vetoes are absolute and cannot be overridden.

Some of the vetoes with messages from Lujan Grisham struck legislation appropriating funds to some cities and counties to offset gross receipt tax changes made last year, school graduation requirements, a Smokey Bear license plate and more.  

Senate Bill 84, which would have revised the system overseeing probation and parole violations, was vetoed. Lujan Grisham wrote in the veto message the bill “failed to get the support of district attorneys and other stakeholders.”

Senate Bill 187, which would have eliminated drug possession or DWI charges in another jurisdiction when considering sentencing for “habitual offenders.” In her veto message Lujan Grisham said she “fully supports” the intent behind the bill to treat people with drug and alcohol addiction rather than incarcerate them, but wrote that SB 187 would produce “the opposite of the intended effect,” by not allowing prosecutors to “encourage defendants to get treatment for their addiction.”

“By taking away this tool, we risk losing an important incentive for defendants to get the help they need,” Lujan Grisham wrote. 

House Bill 125, which would create a task force to oversee dual credit programs across the state was vetoed in March. In the veto message, Lujan Grisham wrote the board overlapped with an existing board at the Public Education Department, and also did not fund the creation of a report. 

Senate Bill 2 was also vetoed Friday. A similar bill passed through both houses in 2022 but was pocket vetoed last year. SB 2 would have increased judicial salaries, in part by attaching New Mexico Supreme Court salaries to the salaries paid to federal magistrate justices. Since all state court judicial salaries are calculated as percentages of justices’ salaries, this would also include a pay increase for district and appellate court judges.

Legislative finance analysts estimated that state Supreme Court judges would need to receive an 18% pay hike on average to match federal judge salaries.

In her veto letter, Lujan Grisham wrote “I acknowledge that we need to raise judicial salaries to remain competitive. However, I am not convinced SB2 is the answer.”  Lujan Grisham went on to say that she would consider hiring additional judges and justices, and approve funding to “streamline” court systems. 

Pocket vetoes ranged from littering campaigns to how New Mexico would identify abandoned property. Some significant bills included one that would establish a new office in the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General and another that would enshrine Public Regulation Commission salaries into the law. 

Lujan Grisham did not sign Senate Bill 426, which would have created a Civil Rights Division in the attorney general’s office, which would investigate any violations of civil rights including discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or nationality. 

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez said in testimony and statements that one of the focuses of the office would be on children’s rights, in addition to other vulnerable groups including elderly people and people with disabilities. 

While the governor pocket vetoed Senate Bill 521,which offered a 1% raise for State employees, the actual appropriation was kept in the budget, and will be in effect this year. 

Senate Bill 136 which would raise Public Regulation Committee Member’s to at least $190,000 a year or tie it to annual salaries for district court judges, whichever is higher. 

All the current commissioners are paid $190,000 – more than double the salaries of the prior elected board’s salaries of $90,000. In 2020, New Mexicans passed a constitutional amendment which reduced the PRC from five elected officials, to three governor-appointed commissioners. 

The governor directed the PRC to budget for higher salaries to attract “competitive and qualified candidates,” in 2022, a fiscal impact report for the bill said. Before the constitutional amendment, the legislature set PRC commissioner salaries. Legislative analysts wrote that it is “unclear” if the legislature still has that authority. 

By not acting on these bills before April 7, 2023, the governor pocket vetoed the legislation below:

HB 165 Uniform Unclaimed Property Act 

HB 184 State Game Commission Changes

HB 189 Educational Retirement Changes

HB 286 Motor Vehicle Sun Screen Materials

HB 309 Nonprofit Gaming Machine Max Award

HB 345 Firefighter Recruitment

HB 365 Geothermal Center and Fund

HB 375 Charter School Expenditure Plan

HB 471 Alizheimer’s Disease and Other Dementia Council

SB 83, Telecomm Act “Cramming” Definition

SB 94 Transfer Rio Grande Trail Administration

SB 111 Temporary Suspension of Licensing Fees

SB 117 Prescribing Psychologist Practice Act

SB 178 Tobacco Fund Not a State Reserve Fund

SB 182 Recycling and Litter Reduction

SB 203 Developmental Disabilities Data

SB 357 Parents of Children in Performing Art

SB 398 Housing Authority Commissioner Employment

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