Q&A: House District 20 Ilena Estrella

  • NAME: Ilena Estrella
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Medical Science Consultant
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: As a proven and successful community leader, most voters already know me and know that I have already laid the groundwork for a safe and a prosperous future for my district and for New Mexico. I have successfully mobilized communities, business groups, community organizations, law enforcement, government entities and others to work cohesively for common objectives. As a Neighborhood Association President, I am experienced on how to be a resource for the community during any crisis while simultaneously and tirelessly advocating for those who would not otherwise have the time or resources to sound their collective voice.
  • EDUCATION: Music Performance and Biochemistry (Ph.D.)
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: EstrellaNM.com

1. What steps should the Legislature take to ensure New Mexico has a balanced budget amid falling oil prices and an economic downturn prompted by the coronavirus outbreak? Circumstances place us in a moment of extreme adaptation. In the short term, the legislature must suspend, re-evaluate and prioritize capital outlay projects. For the future, we are forced to put forth a strategy to utilize our natural resources in order to keep, encourage and build sustainable businesses, jobs and wealth which will generate sustained revenue.

2. What more, if anything, should the Legislature do to address a court ruling that found New Mexico is failing to provide a sufficient education to all students? It is obvious that there is a disconnect when we have the greatest scientists in the world but the poorest performing schools. There needs to be an urgently orchestrated cooperation among our institutions of higher learning, the National Laboratories, businesses, etc. to nurture both students and educators.

3. What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code? Any changes to the existing code would have to balance the encouragement of business with any potential impacts to families and local governments.

4. Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales? 75% of New Mexicans support legalized recreational marijuana. If we are to move into a new economy with less reliance on oil and gas revenues, this is one avenue. A regulatory framework which would include public safety and public health considerations must be established.

5. In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, prekindergarten and child care assistance, and created a new early childhood trust fund. Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment that would withdraw more money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase funding for early childhood services?  The Trust should be given the authority to determine its own priorities for protecting citizens, the State’s property, and their educational mission. I oppose a constitutional amendment withdrawing additional funds from the land grant at this time.

6. Do you support or oppose opening the state?s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party? I support opening the primary elections to independent and non-affiliated voters.

7. Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances? The 1969 State law is largely unenforceable due to existing Federal law however, it is extremely important that we not criminalize physicians and patients for making difficult decisions in extraordinary circumstances.

8. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding? Representatives should ultimately decide how money is spent in their district but some type of merit-based recommendations should be made. Should each legislator be required to disclose which projects he or she funded? Yes, there should be absolute transparency.

9. Do you support or oppose requiring lobbyists to disclose which bills they advocate for or against? I support.

10. New Mexico is highly reliant on the oil and natural gas industries to generate revenue to fund state programs, as evidenced by recent oil boom and bust cycles. What are the things you would do to diversify the state?s economy and revenue base? We have an opportunity during our recovery to put forth a strategy to utilize our natural resources and existing brain power in order to keep, encourage and build sustainable businesses, jobs and wealth. Education, culture and quality of healthcare are also important factors that will encourage the growth of industries in the state.

11. Do you support or oppose updating the current prohibition in the law on assisted suicide in order to allow aid-in-dying under certain medical circumstances? I oppose the current prohibition in the law on assisted suicide under certain medical circumstances.

12. Would you support or oppose a moratorium on fracking? And should the state impose additional renewable energy mandates as a way to address climate change concerns? During our post-COVID-19 recovery, a renewable energy mandate is an important piece of the solution. We have 360 days of sunshine and we should pursue all types of renewable energy as part of our new diversified economy.

13. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety? First, the Legislature should revisit the “no bail” constitutional amendment. Areas of high crime see a revolving door of repeat offenders being back on the streets within hours. Our retirees, families and children cannot thrive where they don’t feel safe. New Mexicans can continue to be empowered by making sure trusted and proven leaders like myself continue to be in place.

14. Do you support or oppose the practice of legislative budget-writing committees holding closed-door meetings during the crafting of state spending bills?

I am against closed-door committee meetings of any kind. If government is to be accountable and transparent to the citizens who pay for public programs and governance, then they have the right to observe policy-making and procedural work.

Editor’s note: candidate did not answer questions on tax liens, bankruptcy, DWI and possible arrests.