“An extraordinary breach of New Mexico’s constitutional order lies at the heart of this case—a veto of a veto that effectively enacted law without a governor’s signature and without a veto override by the New Mexico State Legislature.
This end-run around New Mexico’s Constitution began in early 2017, when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 96 (“SB96” or the “Bill”). Governor Susana Martinez, however, exercised her constitutional prerogative and vetoed SB96. On the very same day that the Governor vetoed the Bill, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced that she would make the policies and provisions of SB96 law through rulemaking. Just five months later, the Secretary adopted her Campaign Finance Rule (the “Secretary’s Rule” or the “Rule”)—a regulation substantively identical to SB96, altering, modifying, and expanding the reach of New Mexico campaign finance laws. An executive department administrator thereby accomplished the extraordinary feat of using an administrative decree to veto a veto, resurrecting the policies and strictures of a dead bill and creating a Rule that is very much alive.
The New Mexico Constitution does not confer such authority upon the Secretary of State, nor does it permit her to override a veto. The Secretary’s Rule arrogated the Legislature’s exclusive Article IV authority to establish public policy 3 and to make law, and it nullified the exclusive Article IV, Section 22 prerogatives of the Governor’s veto and the Legislature’s veto override.
The Petitioners ask this Court to issue a writ of mandamus to vacate the Secretary’s Rule as unconstitutional. To be clear, this case does not challenge the wisdom or folly of the policy choices underlying the Secretary’s Rule, nor does it challenge the procedure used to enact the Rule. The legal foundation upon which this Petition rests is constitutional bedrock—Article III of the New Mexico Constitution. Article III’s separation of powers clause expressly prohibits any one of the departments of New Mexico government from exercising the authority constitutionally reserved to another department.
Given the extraordinary constitutional absurdity of an administrator’s expropriation of legislative and gubernatorial authority and the threat it poses to the essential nature of New Mexico government, nothing short of extraordinary relief from this Court can restore constitutional order to the citizens of New Mexico.”