Stateline Story

First Session a Mixed Bag for New Mexico's Martinez

  • March 21, 2011
  • By Daniel C. Vock
Susana Martinez, a former border county prosecutor who became New Mexico's first female governor this January, scored a number of political victories in her first legislative session.

Martinez successfully pushed for limits on her state's famously generous movie tax credits , which were a favorite project of her predecessor, Bill Richardson. The new Republican governor pushed through tax exemptions for locomotive fuel, in a bid to attract a Union Pacific refueling hub to the state. She also won an expansion of "Katie's Law" to allow for the collection of DNA from criminal suspects; the law is named after a college student whose murderer Martinez prosecuted as district attorney.

Her most high-profile defeat came on the issue of driver's licenses for unauthorized immigrants. Martinez campaigned on the promise of ending the practice of granting them. In an interview with Stateline last summer , Richardson correctly predicted that Martinez would not be able to get the change through the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Still, Miles Simonich of the (Carlsbad) Current-Argus writes that "Martinez's relentless pressure on driver's license got the bill closer to passage than almost anybody expected, and she promised she would try again."

"But while everyone involved knew for days that this bill had little chance of making it," writes Steve Terrell of The (Santa Fe) New Mexican , "the failure of an education bill aimed at ending the practice of social promotion — passing elementary school students on to the next grade even if the student is failing — seemed to rankle Martinez even more." Martinez also failed in her bid to reinstate the death penalty in New Mexico.

Although the Legislature officially concluded business this weekend, its work for the year is not yet done. Martinez vowed to veto a change designed to shore up the state's unemployment insurance program, which could prompt legislators to override her, writes The New Mexican's Trip Jennings .The chambers are also expected to reconvene in a special session to handle redistricting.