Garcia Richard speaks out on first legislative session

The Los Alamos Monitor asked Stephanie Garcia Richard a series of question about her first term as a representative in House District 43. The legislative session ended last week and Garcia Richard returned to her job as a teacher in Pojoaque.


What are your overall thoughts about your first term as a legislator?

I came into this position with the highest of hopes of the change I could influence as a member of the New Mexico House. I ran on issues that mattered to residents of House District 43 and while we may not have resolve on every single issue, great strides were made in a few areas that deserve to be highlighted.

I fought hard to ensure our schools and teachers have equal access to resources, successfully passed the Technology Research Collaborative for LANL, voted to close the tax loophole for out-of-state businesses, voted against the legislator email shield bill that ends transparency in the Legislature, voted to keep the film and television industry in New Mexico, voted to increase minimum wage, and supported the Fair Pay for Women Act. 

What were some of the positives of the session?

It was a big responsibility and an honor to be placed on both the Education Committee and the Appropriations and Finance Committee as a freshman legislator.  My committee assignments kept me in the forefront of some of the biggest legislation heard this session. Having these two committee seats is a big win for House District 43 and a legacy I will continue to build upon in future sessions.

I am very proud to have co-sponsored the JTIP job incentives bill which invests in local workers by offering financial support for hiring and training new employees. My three co-sponsors and I were able to secure $3 million for this program that brings jobs into New Mexico and District 43.

What were some of the negatives?

Besides not having any staff and trying to keep up with 2,000 pieces of legislation and hundreds of calls and emails pouring in daily?

Well, as many people have seen in various articles this session, it can be a difficult task serving as a representative in a true swing district.  There are times where I chose to put the district’s needs over my party’s needs and that didn’t always make me the most popular freshman legislator at the Roundhouse. 

I also wish some of my other pieces of legislation would have made it to the Governor’s desk to be signed.  I believe the voters of New Mexico should have the right to vote on amending the constitution to limit class sizes in our public schools. 
I also want to make sure we successfully close the DWI breathalyzer loophole that allows many convicted DWI drivers to avoid installing breathalyzers in their vehicles.  This bill was lined up for a final vote in the Senate but we ran out of time. I will continue to press these issues, every session, until they are passed. 

Talk about what went on with the immigrant driver license legislation.
Compromise was a word used by our Gov. Martinez and Democrats alike throughout the session, but I saw very little desire to build consensus and do good work both sides of the aisle could be proud of. The game of ‘gotcha politics’ played by the Governor’s political operatives and their relentless attempts to spread lies throughout the district this session regarding my votes, left me with an unsettled feeling.  

The truth is that the bill Gov. Martinez insisted was a compromise on drivers licenses would have left out a portion of residents who are legally here and have obtained federally recognized residency. The fact that the governor was unwilling to correct this grave error is just further proof that this specific issue was only used as a ploy for future elections.
There were four main versions of the drivers licenses bill and all died in every committee where they were heard.  In an attempt to keep my promise to the voters of House District 43, I voted with Republicans to blast one of the bills out of a committee it would have died in and into another committee where it would be heard again.  My commitment has not wavered on repeal and my votes in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee are proof that I voted in favor of repeal.  The fact of the matter is that there were multiple compromises on the table and the Republican leadership failed to negotiate a viable solution to actually make it to Gov. Martinez’s desk to sign. If the Governor chooses to place HB 606 back on the calendar in 2014, I will be ready with a substitute to ensure all legal residents receive a Real ID compliant license.

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