Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Lawmaker proposes taking away governor’s power to ‘pocket veto’

A state lawmaker has introduced proposals to change the way bills are passed in the Roundhouse.

Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo) prefiled three pieces of legislation on Tuesday, including one that would make future lawmaking sessions longer and another that would place limits on the governor’s power to veto bills.

House Joint Resolution 1 would make each regular session last 45 days instead of 30, remove the restrictions on what legislation could be considered in even-numbered years, and allow for lawmakers to override the governor’s veto.

House Joint Resolution 2 would get rid of the “pocket veto,” where the governor can prevent a bill from becoming law by not acting on it after it is sent by lawmakers to the executive’s desk.

Both proposals would require an amendment to the state constitution that can only be passed by voters statewide. If the proposals are passed by lawmakers in Santa Fe the questions could appear on the next general election ballot in November or on a special election if that were to be convened.

For example, after the last session, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham left 21 pieces of legislation unsigned.

State law allows the legislature to override vetoes with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses.

Pocket vetoes are absolute and cannot be overridden by legislators.

HJR 2 would also require the governor to attach explanations to all rejected bills..

McQueen, chair of the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee and vice chair of the interim Water and Natural Resources Committee, was not immediately available Tuesday for comment on the resolutions.

McQueen criticized the pocket veto in the past. He told a local newspaper columnist that any governor should explain why anything is vetoed.

“Otherwise, there is no opportunity to correct whatever the governor saw as a problem,” McQueen told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Paul Gibson, co-founder of the progressive leaning advocacy group Retake Our Democracy, wrote after the last session the pocket veto should be banned.

“A better process would be if the Governor does nothing, the bill becomes law, as is the practice in Colorado,” Gibson wrote. “No escape hatches. If you oppose something passed in the legislature, veto it with a message explaining why. Otherwise, make it law.”

Former state senator Jacob Candelaria tried to eliminate the pocket veto in 2017 and 2021 but both of those bills died before reaching the governor’s desk.

He also tried to require explanations for all vetoes back in 2014, but that bill never got out of committee.

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