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Several Democrats broke party ranks on Wednesday in supporting a Republican-led attempt to advance legislation to stop New Mexico from issuing driver's licenses to most immigrants who illegally came to the country.
All 32 Republicans supported the parliamentary maneuver and were joined on three separate votes by Democratic Reps. Mary Helen Garcia of Las Cruces, Dona Irwin of Deming and Sandra Jeff of Crownpoint.
Freshman Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Sandoval and Rio Arriba) broke party ranks on the first vote and supported moving a stalled license proposal to another committee. However, she joined Democrats in opposing similar efforts to bypass two other committees.
Freshman Democrat Christine Trujillo of Albuquerque voted with Republicans once, but said she had made a mistake and hit the wrong button in the electronic voting system.
The Governor’s office called out Garcia Richard Wednesday night.
Gov. Susana Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said in a prepared statement, “We're pleased that this important compromise legislation advanced beyond two committees that were intent on keeping it from an up or down vote on the House floor.
“Unfortunately, we just saw the ugly side of politics today when a Representative, who made a crystal-clear promise to those who elected her, to support this measure, broke that commitment after apparently being convinced by her party bosses that politics are more important than keeping her word.”
Knell said several Democrats came over to talk to Garcia Richard after she voted with the Republicans on the first two votes.
“They just twisted her arm,” Knell said. “It was hard-knuckle politics.”
In a statement released Wednesday night, Garcia Richard defended her actions, saying, “I feel disheartened that the Republican leadership is using a procedural vote to discredit my name and lie to voters. I made the decision to vote with Republicans to remove the legislation from a committee that refused to take action on the bill.”
Garcia Richard said she will continue to support the repeal of the current law “but it was apparent that the bill in question was not in line with what the voters of House District 43 have asked me to deliver.”
Garcia Richard said she has talked to the bill sponsor about making the changes to the bill.
“My overarching concern is that bill as currently written is out of compliance with federal regulation,” Garcia Richard said, “I will continue to work with both sides of the House to come up a common sense approach to resolve this important issue.”
On Thursday morning, Garcia Richard was scheduled to meet with Martinez to discuss a compromise on a driver license bill that would be compliant with federal regulation.
“I look forward to meeting with Governor Martinez to begin the process of making the current driver’s license bill more compliant with federal regulations,” Garcia Richard said. “I understand the severity of this issue, but it is undeniable that this bill needs serious attention before it moves to the floor of the House for a vote.”