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Papen Says Governor's Appointments Can Wait

Senator Mary Kay Papen (D)

  SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The president of the New Mexico Senate said Monday there will be no confirmation hearings for appointments by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez during a special legislative session.

Senate President Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces said the Democratic-led Legislature will be focused on restoring vetoed funding for state colleges and universities and will not vet executive appointments when lawmakers convene on Wednesday.

"We have too many things to do in terms of fixing our finances," Papen said. "The session is about fixing the state budget, and in particular higher education."

Papen says the Senate Rules Committee will meet after the special session and review appointments to speed up the confirmation process when the Legislature convenes next year. The Rules Committee gives a hearing to each appointee before a vote by the full Senate.

Martinez has described continued delays in the confirmation of state university regents as a violation of the Legislature's constitutional duty. She highlighted the concern in her written decision to veto $745 million in general fund spending for state colleges and universities in the coming fiscal year.

Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan indicated Monday that the clash over appointments would not derail negotiations to balance the state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

"The governor expressed her disappointment to (Papen) over her decision to shirk the Senate's responsibility to continue to stall hearings for confirmations," he said.

Martinez nominated lobbyist and former Republican state lawmaker and John Ryan and Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce CEO Alex Romero to the Board of Regents, but neither received a confirmation hearing from the Senate Rules Committee during a 60-day legislative session that ended in March. That leaves in place long-serving regents Jack Fortner and Bradley Hosmer on the school's governing council.

Amid confirmation delays in early March, Martinez withdrew 53 appointees from consideration in a move to keep those officials on the job. That still leaves at least 15 appointees awaiting Senate consideration.

The Senate this year approved appointments for six Cabinet secretaries.