State legislature finds rough sledding at the Roundhouse

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Politics > Many of the bills don’t make it out of committee

By The Staff

It’s been a busy week for Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Sandoval and Rio Arriba) with its ups and downs.
Efforts to stop drunk driving and protect the rights of victims suffered a huge blow in the House Transportation and Public Works Committee Thursday.
House Bill 10, a package to target repeat drunk drivers, was tabled in committee.
The action came on the same day the bill’s sponsors were honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Along with Garcia Richard, sponsors of the bill, Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Bernalillo), Rep. Tim Lewis (R-Sandoval), as well as Speaker W. Ken Martinez (D-Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley, Socorro, San Juan, Valencia), were given MADD’s “Legislative Champions” award.
“We heard the committee’s concerns regarding treatment and rehab,” Garcia Richard said. “But we feel there is urgency to this bill to close some of the loopholes that exist in current law. This is a huge disappointment.”
“I’m extremely disappointed the bill didn’t go through,” Thomson added. “This is legislation that has been scrutinized and passed the House last year on a vote of 67-0. Our goal is to prevent more people from being injured or killed at the hands of someone who has been drinking and driving.”
HB Bill 10 had three major components: requiring clean blows into the ignition interlocks during the last six months of an offender’s sentence, stiffer sentences for repeat offenders, and requiring and allowing breathalyzers for those under house arrest.
Tuesday, Garcia Richard welcomed Los Alamos Advance Placement teachers and students and commanded a room full of her peers and press, as she spoke out in support of the Education Budget in House Bill 3.
“It was a privilege to honor the Los Alamos High School Advance Placement students and teachers for becoming the first high school, in New Mexico, placed on the AP Board Honor Roll,” said Garcia Richard. “Los Alamos Public High School is one of the shining stars in our community and I am working tirelessly to ensure LAHS continues to get the funding and recognition it deserves, here at the legislature.”
Later Tuesday, Garcia Richard hosted a press conference with Representatives Mimi Stewart, Rick Miera and Luciano ‘Lucky’ Varela to discuss House Bill 3 and the education budget included within it.
“We feel this education budget is truly a compromise of what’s needed for our schools to thrive and funds a number of Governor Martinez’s initiatives,” Garcia Richard said. “This is the first time in years that we have more than enough revenue to adequately increase funding to our schools, invest in Governor Martinez’s endorsed school programs and give our teachers a much deserved raise.”
But on Friday, the $6.2 billion budget proposal failed in the House on a tie vote Friday as Republicans and Democrats clashed over education spending and school-improvement initiatives advocated by GOP Gov. Susana Martinez.
Also, Garcia Richard co-sponsored House Bill 333 which requires CYFD to immediately take custody of children showing specific injuries of abuse, and requires the parents, guardians or custodians to complete counseling before taking custody of a child in certain circumstances.
The bill adds language to the Children’s Code that if specific injuries are found on a child’s body CYFD is to take custody of the child immediately. The bill requires mandatory hold and hearing.
The injuries that are listed are: burns, bruises, multiple bruises, lacerations, welts, bone fractures, bite marks, multiple similar injuries or bruises, simultaneously present on a child’s body, that are in various stages of healing, and any other injury that can be reasonably believed to be caused by abuse.
After the child is taken into custody a hearing will be held within in 48 hours. Under certain circumstances, parents, guardians, custodians, with history of substantiated abuse and neglect claims will be required to attend counseling before the child is returned home.
Omaree Varela was beaten to death in Albuquerque. There were substantiated reports of abuse reported and bite marks.
Garcia Richard said, “In 2012, the New Mexico Department of Health found that 92 percent of child abuse and neglect were caused by the child’s primary care giver. Omaree’s Law is a piece of legislation that aims to protect these children and quickly remove them from a dangerous and life threatening situation. Had Omaree’s Law existed the repeated calls for help from Omaree Varela tied to the record of abuse from his caregivers would have been taken seriously and his life spared. I am proud to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation for our state and the well-being of New Mexico’s children.”