NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – From firefighter bonuses to a statewide anti-litter campaign, we’re getting a better look at all the bills the governor decided not to act on: the pocket vetoes. These are the bills left unsigned, without explanation. As of Monday afternoon, 21 bills are listed as falling under this category.
One of those bills is House Bill 345 would have created the firefighter recruitment fund and given signing bonuses of $5,000 dollars to first-time firefighters; but now, the bill is dead without explanation.
A similar fate befell a bill to shake up how commissioners are appointed to the state Game Commission: “I don’t think there were any surprises, as a result of this pocket veto. It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating. Thousands, and I’m not exaggerating, thousands contacted the governor’s office urging her to sign this bill,” says Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and advocate for House Bill 184.
Deubel says the governor currently appoints all seven members; this bill would allow the legislature to appoint a majority of them, and would not allow the governor to remove a commissioner without cause and approval from the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Deubel says the bill was widely supported—just not by the governor. “Nobody expected the governor to sign this bill because in doing so she would be deteriorating her power,” Deubel says.
However, not everyone whose bill didn’t get the final green light is confident they understand why. “[I] didn’t know. It did surprise me a bit. And I don’t know why and can’t speak to that. But yeah, disappointed. Would have been a really great bill for the state,” says Senator Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces), who cosponsored Senate Bill 182.
Steinborn says the bill would have updated grant programs that help communities get recycling infrastructure; it would have enhanced the ‘Keep New Mexico Clean and Beautiful’ program; and it would have started a statewide anti-litter campaign.
“This bill would have done all of that and then finally it would have required all of our state agencies to collaborate together on these strategies so, yeah, would have been a real step forward,” Steinborn says.
Those News 13 spoke with Monday say they intend to bring their bills back again next session.
News 13 reached out to the governor’s office for an explanation on why the aforementioned bills were vetoed. A spokesperson for the governor’s office gave us the following statement:
“HB 184: This bill would decrease geographical representation (theoretically six of the seven commissioners could represent only three counties). In addition, the Supreme Court removal process lacks specificity as to who could petition the court and the terms and definitions of incompetence and malfeasance.
SB 182: The actions described within the bill do not require legislation to implement.
HB 345: The governor is supportive of firefighter recruitment efforts, but there were several issues in this bill as drafted. We are committed to working with firefighters and lawmakers in the interim to craft an improved version of the bill for next session.”Maddy Hayden, Director of Communications
Office of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham