Q&A: House District 17 Candidate Deborah ‘Debbie’ Armstrong

  • NAME: Deborah “Debbie” Armstrong
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Small business owner (association and nonprofit management company)
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Elected state representative in 2014. Chair, House Health & Human Services Committee; vice-chair, House Rules Committee; member, House Judiciary Committee. Cabinet secretary, Aging & Long-Term Services Department 2004-2007. Engaged in all facets of health care for more than 40 years. Former physical therapist. Inactive attorney. Alumni of Leadership NM.
  • EDUCATION: B.S. in physical therapy (University of Michigan 1975) J.D. (University of New Mexico School of Law 2001)
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: DebbieArmstrong4NM.com

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?

We should not simply take an across-the-board percentage cut to the budget. Rather, budget design should be strategic and thoughtful to preserve or expand health care, maintain education, support the unemployed, invest in small businesses hurt in this crisis and expand economic development initiatives.

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?

The Legislature has broadly invested a lot of additional funding in public education. Now, we should focus our attention on adequacy of funding and support to children with special needs and Native American and other underserved student populations to make sure adequate systems are in place to achieve desired outcomes.

What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?

I favor reforming our gross receipts tax system to make it more fair and less complicated. To that end, I am open to eliminating most special-interest deductions and exemptions; and those that remain should meet a clear public policy or economic objective, with periodic assessment of continued effectiveness.

Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?

Yes, I support legalizing recreational marijuana and taxing sales. However, it’s not just for tax revenue that I support it. I also believe it will decrease criminal behavior and it is the only way we can regulate the quality and quantity, conduct research and educate on appropriate and responsible use.

Do you believe changes should be made to the emergency powers held by a governor during a pandemic or other time of crisis. If so, do you believe such powers should be expanded or reduced and in what specific ways?

During a crisis the governor needs to be nimble and act swiftly, without waiting for a legislative session. Current emergency powers are about right, although there were areas the Governor could not act upon that might have been useful. Additional powers that are limited to the interim are worth considering.

Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances?

I support repealing the antiquated state law that criminalizes abortion and requires that, to be granted one of the very limited exceptions, a woman must seek permission from a hospital-created committee of strangers. Such decisions should be between a woman and her provider, in consultation with her family and faith.

Do you support or oppose enacting a new state law that would allow police officers and other public officials to be sued individually by abolishing the defense of qualified immunity?

I support establishing the Civil Rights Commission to consider this issue. I lean in favor of changes to how this defense can be utilized so as not to protect acts of police brutality from punishment and deny victims’ rights. But complete elimination is probably not a good idea.

In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, prekindergarten and childcare 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?

Yes. Investing early in children is one of the best long-term economic investments we can make, particularly given our record of poverty and poor educational outcomes and child well-being. Such an investment will reap long-term benefits in not only education but workforce readiness, decreasing crime and reliance on public benefits.

What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its election laws and primary system? 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 primary elections to ensure that all voters can participate in every part of the electoral process. Increased participation strengthens our democracy. I also support initiatives that make voting easier, including mailing ballots, voting convenience centers, same-day registration and making election day a holiday.

Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding? Should each legislator be required to disclose which projects he or she funded?

Disclosing projects funded by each legislator is appropriate and I have done so. The capital outlay process needs revamping. Establishing criteria for prioritization of projects would be helpful but there should also be room for some district-specific small projects that may not fit priorities but aren’t effectively funded other ways.

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 steps should the state take to diversify its economy and revenue base?

Areas that are a particularly good fit for New Mexico and worth maintaining or expanding include cannabis, hemp, film, tourism, tech and space industries, research, small farms, health care, and renewable energy. Also, infrastructure investment and creating a friendly and supportive environment for retirees and an aging population would be good.

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?

I support a moratorium. Fracking shouldn’t expand unchecked without clear guidance and oversight of where and how it should be allowed, in order to protect our water and geologic structural integrity. I support moving as quickly as we possibly can to renewable energy, as we cannot wait to address climate change.

What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety?

We should invest in rebuilding our behavioral health and substance abuse system and address homelessness. We should legalize recreational cannabis and further develop proactive strategies of community policing and pretrial diversion to keep nonviolent offenders out of jail. Economic development and educational investment will also have a positive impact.

Do you support or oppose the public’s right to inspect footage taken by cameras worn by law enforcement officers? Under what circumstances, if any, should police video be withheld from the public?

I support law enforcement officers wearing cameras to video all activities. However, public disclosure policies should protect the privacy rights and safety of victims and witnesses. For example, it could be released with permission of person filmed or if determined that the public’s interest outweighs the privacy of the individual.

Members of New Mexico’s business community contend some state laws and regulations need changing so the state can better compete with Texas and Arizona when it comes to attracting companies. What steps do you believe should be taken to improve New Mexico’s economic competitiveness?

I am not familiar with specific barriers that the business community wants to change. However, to attract business, we must continue our focus on education and child wellbeing; and we should continue programs to incentivize and support small or new businesses. I do not support relaxing environmental protections.

Personal background

1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

No

2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

No

3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain.

No

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