New Mexico Gov. Martinez challenges law stripping gubernatorial authority for out of state travel
As stated in Article V, Section 7 of the New Mexico Constitution, “when the governor travels outside New Mexico’s borders . . . the lieutenant governor shall act as governor.” Governor Susana Martinez recently told the Albuquerque Journal that she’d like to amend this 1948 amendment in such a way that she would retain all the authority of her office when traveling outside the state.
Having grown up in El Paso, Texas, which sits about five miles from the New Mexico border, Martinez makes frequent trips back home to visit her father and other relatives. Not entirely illogically, Martinez would prefer it if every time she did so she did not have to relinquish her power and duties to her lieutenant governor, John Sanchez. Martinez called the 63-year-old article “silly” and “archaic.”
When the state governor leaves the state, she is not only required to cede her authority to the lieutenant governor on every leave but to inform the lieutenant governor’s office of her plans.
It’s a practice that not every governor has adhered to. Former governor Bill Richardson, for example, attended the 2008 Kentucky Derby without alerting his lieutenant governor, Diane Denish, beforehand.
Changing the state’s Constitutionally approved succession-of-powers, though, is no easy task: it requires majority approval of both chambers of the legislature as well as approval by voters statewide. In order to get even that far, Martinez’s idea, which she has not yet proposed, only voiced her frustration with, would need to make it through this upcoming January’s legislative session, and the earliest a state referendum could be voted on would be next November.
In an age of cell phones and internet communication and other technologies, the governor’s desire to stay in control while out of state sounds more reasonable than it might have even just 10 years ago. Such was the logic of her spokesman, Scott Darnell, when he implied that “if the Legislature were to pass an amendment that appropriately brings the Constitution up to date, she would support it.”