Published in the Cloudcroft "Mountain Monthly," June 2011
The First Legislative Session: Comparing Richardson and Martinez
Governor Martinez has concluded her first interaction with the New Mexico legislature,
with several headline-making events. The Democrats almost got a new Speaker, Democrat
Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces, but the Republicans couldn’t quite bring themselves to
unite behind him without some concessions which they didn’t get. They didn’t get any
concessions from Lujan either of course. Neither did (former) Democrat Andy Nuñez, a strong
supporter of Cervantes. Lujan replaced Nuñez as Chair of the HAWRC (House Agriculture and
Water Resources Committee), so Nuñez changed from D to DTS, leaving the Democrats with
an even slimmer majority of 36D to 34R in the House. There were some interesting votes in
the House, with Democrats Donna Irwin and Sandra Jeff joining with Nuñez to vote with the
Republicans on some bills.
Then there was the fracas over HB 78, which would have required everyone to produce a
Social Security card in order to obtain a NM drivers license. They could still get a drivers license
if they didn’t have the card, but their license would identify the driver as a foreign national.
I do wish liberal Democrats would take more notice of the Hispanics who are strongly in support
of this bill. I was talking to a Hispanic supporter of mine last fall, and he was upset about the
house a block away from him that had a steady stream of “visitors,” who he suspected were here
just long enough to pick up a drivers license and then leave. Nuñez, who sponsored HB 78 and
blasted it through to the House floor when it was killed in committee, stated in an interview with
the Capitol Report that he had observed the same thing in Hatch.
The photo ID for voting bill didn’t get even as far as HB 78, and Martinez was left with not much
accomplished, especially in terms of balancing the budget and jobs.
But how does this Martinez legislative session compare, in general, with Richardson’s first
session back in 2003? I had to extrapolate a bit to get any information about Richardson, as the
web page for “Bills acted on by Governor” on the legislative web site only goes back to 2004.
But there are alternative pages, such as “Bills That Have Passed Both Houses,” that go back to
The first surprise was the difference in the number of bills introduced. Under Richardson,
legislators enthusiastically produced nearly 2,540 bills, while only 1,203 were introduced this
spring. In 2003 782 bills passed both Houses, of which 523 required action by the governor; in
2011 only 325 made it, of which 285 went to Martinez’ desk. Now when it comes to vetoes,
Martinez beat Richardson with 98 vetoes, 33 of which she personally signed. Richardson only
vetoed 84, and only signed about 12 vetoes personally. The final count of bills chaptered,
that is, actually made into laws, was 439 in 2003, and only 187 this spring.
The ones vetoed without a signature are titled “Pocket Vetoes,” and I do somewhat admire
Martinez for publicly axing 33 of her 98 vetoed bills. It seems to me that a governor should
have to stand and deliver all vetoes, instead of letting the unsigned ones get shoved under
Of course, the other problem with our state system is that the legislators seem to have no
way to override a governor’s veto. Sixteen of the 33 Martinez personal vetoes had passed both
Houses unanimously (or with only a couple of votes in opposition). The legislature could easily
override those vetoes (if they were in session). Are they not ALLOWED to do so?
Just a final word on how our local legislators fared. Senator Adair (SD 33) and Representatives
Little, Gray, Kintigh and Espinoza did not get any bills through. Adair came the closest, one of
his bills passed both Houses, but Martinez pocket vetoed it. Now veterans Jennings (SD 32) and
Asbill (SD 34) succeeded in pushing 4 and 3 bills respectively all the way through and obtained
Martinez approval. Representative Zack Cook, HD 56 (who is a lawyer), successfully sponsored
4 bills, and first timer Yvette Herrell (HD 51) scored with one bill.
I am rather appalled that HD 54 representative Bill Gray did not even introduce any bills! Zero
in, zero out. Republicans do generally seem to want to shrink the size of government, but should
Gray be getting an allowance of around $150 per day for doing nothing except voting the party line?