Q&A: House District 25 Candidate Stephen A. Verchinski
- NAME: Stephen A. Verchinski
- POLITICAL PARTY: Green Party
- OCCUPATION: Retired. Community organizer.
- CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
- RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Former solar small business owner, Realtor, chairman of Public Involvement Committee MRCOG, founder and president of Classic Uptown Neighborhood Association, chairman of Albuquerque group of the Sierra Club. Natural resources experience. Camp supervisor Young Adult Conservation Corps, professional forester, soil conservation, contract surface mining reclamation specialist. Served as commissioned law officer New Mexico State Parks (National best program award NASBLA-USA, State Directors Award) Legislative experience with passage of the Boating Education Law and Boating While Intoxicated Law. Former endorsed candidate for District 7 city council, Green Party chair Albuquerque Metropolitan Area 2017, National Delegate Green Party NM 2018-2020 serving on national platform reviews and International and Eco Action Committees.
- EDUCATION: University of Connecticut, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources B.S., Syracuse University M.S., State University of New York M.S., and at UNM, post graduate studies.
- CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: stephen4nm.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?
Do five things. Freeze pay increases and hiring. Delay spending for new projects. Trim across the board agency budgets. Address income sources such as industry property taxes and fees. Coordinate with our U.S. representatives to get the word out to maximize use of federal funds for COVID-19 impacted small businesses.
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?
Education budget was increased for 2020 till the oil and gas income crash. Legislators may have failed to take necessary actions to prevent education cuts. Must reduce construction, operations and maintenance costs so funds go directly to metric of student performance. Provide accessible fiber optic linked to online learning centers in rural school districts.
What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?
Having had my own business that had to pay gross receipts tax, I think the system is OK but could always stand a continued review of business deductions given for each industry and why they are being done and if are they outdated and impacting other businesses unfairly.
Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?
Support. Regulate sales, distribution and taxes. Worked a permit for an 80-acre California farm so very aware of laws written. Considering Colorado, NM must insure organically grown, non-GMO, no recreational ultra-high THC products. Must examine grows and dispensaries for compliance and testing with fees covering state, county and local costs.
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?
Yes. Governor must anticipate emergencies, plan accordingly. Powers taken lacked discussion of expenditures, economic impacts. Treatments may have caused a number of COVID-19 patients to die unnecessarily. Further, automatic assumptions about vaccines made now seek to violate our rights as citizens only revoked for a declared war.
Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances?
The subject matter impacts me having known victims of both rape and incest. The statute though does intrude on doctor-patient relations protected by HIPPA and by federal Supreme Court. We must reduce abortions by instituting a system of visiting pregnant mothers for prenatal and preventative care, and ensuring health coverage for all children born.
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?
Support. As former LE, 18 years certified and commissioned, as very aware of the possibility of a federal civil rights lawsuit in any action, particularly as a federal officer. The issue of state qualified immunity must allow litigants to seek redress in state courts for violations of civil rights in our Article II of the State Constitution.
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?
I know, unlike the severance tax permanent fund, land grant permanent fund currently balances between current and future generations providing equal benefits. Would not oppose an amendment with land grant permanent fund used but only if we first address the extractive minerals royalty rate increases necessary for income to fund it.
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?
We have an undemocratic primary system, petitioning by minor parties begins/ends after the major parties. Majors show up on the primary ballot so voters do not see the minors. We should begin at the same time. Open primaries cause issues with voting selecting minor candidates that major parties would like to run against.
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?
Yes. It should be a collaborative process with consensus.
Yes. Every legislator must be required to disclose projects he or she funded. This nation and state is founded on republican principles of a democratically elected, representative government that requires transparency and accountability from people holding legislative office.
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?
State has uncertain future with oil extraction (two decades), with agriculture water declines (one decade). Transition national labs to doing climate adaptation work promoting energy efficiency and new materials. Support building with indigenous materials. Complete Rio Trail and support communities with agro-tourism income. Continue with alternative energy and taxing e-commerce. Fund studies of economic renewal for local community development.
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?
Considering our outdated oil and gas royalty rates costing us billions of dollars, yes. The state needs new policies for the industry to maximize revenue and protect funds for future generations.
What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety?
All officers statewide need to be trained extensively and minimum education requirements for LE Academy re-evaluated. Community policing needs funding and support. Continuing education needs officer mandatory verbal judo practice. We need task force on sex trafficking and pedophilia. Require the state AG to review all police shootings for prosecution.
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?
As a former certified and commissioned LE officer for New Mexico I do support the public right to inspect footage. As a legislator I would listen to arguments as to under what circumstances a video should be withheld from the public after hearings with national reform groups and the department of public safety.
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?
All agencies need a systematic review of applicable laws and regulations. During my time with the state I actually contacted businesses impacted by and got rid of unnecessary regulations that was not needed for public safety.
1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
No, I have however, sued a client for breach of contract here in New Mexico.
2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
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.