Q&A: House District 57 Candidate Billie Helean

  • NAME: Billie Helean
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Teacher
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Rio Rancho
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Union president of RREU 423; previous candidate for House District 57
  • EDUCATION: B.A. at University of New Mexico, master’s of education
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: votehelean.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?

New Mexico is required to balance their budget every fiscal year, so the real question is how we increase revenue while oil and gas prices have decreased. I propose we diversify our economy by investing in alternative energy resources and agriculture, including legalizing marijuana.

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?

As a first-grade teacher, I believe we need to invest in early childhood education by asking voters to vote on a constitutional amendment to do so. If we take a cradle-to-career approach, we can make sure children and parents have the resources they need and we will have fulfilled our duty as legislators.

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

In general, I support a change to the tax code. However, that would take time to iron out. I am open to lowering GRT in some counties – however, this will have to wait until our economy becomes more diversified and stable. We simply can’t afford a tax cut right now.

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

Yes. This is a no-brainer. We can no longer afford our hard earned money going to neighboring states while our education and infrastructure suffer. Of course, I do want to address any public safety concerns and make sure that driving under the influence would not increase.

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?

I believe the governor does have the ability to issue mandates such as wearing masks – which I support. However, the Legislature needs to be involved, and be completely bipartisan when future laws are made.

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

I support repealing this antiquated law. The government should never come between a woman and her physician when making these decisions.

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 this, however, state courts are not in charge of litigating qualified immunity – that is a federal issue. I do believe that everyone, including criminals and law enforcement, need to be held accountable.

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 support the amendment in order for it to go to voters who would make the final decision. As an advocate and a fighter for our educational system, I believe we can’t sit idly by anymore while our children suffer from poor resources.

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 an open primary system that allows non-major party voters to vote in a primary election of their choice. Those same voters pay taxes in order for these elections to happen and need to be included in the process.

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?

I support transparency in the process. We should be required to disclose which projects we fund. Moreover, I believe that capital outlay should be directed to the districts that the representatives serve. Too often, Sandoval County, for example, does not get its fair piece of the pie.

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?

We need to continue to invest in a stronger tax base, which would include alternative energy and agriculture, while encouraging small businesses to succeed. Most importantly, legalized marijuana could cover nearly all of the projected losses we are looking at in FY ’21.

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 don’t support a complete moratorium on fracking as we still rely on it for revenue, but I do believe that we should not be handing out new fracking permits until studies and task-forces can adequately assess any ill-effects to the environment and community members.

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

Community policing needs to come first. I do not believe in de-funding the police department, but rather reassess our priorities. I believe our law enforcement can do better with certain types of training programs, such as de-escalation and mental health awareness.

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 do support it. This would not only be good for the aspect of accountability, but would be good for the police officers, who I believe get things right more often than not.

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?

The state must begin by investing in infrastructure, including broadband, to make doing business in the state more attractive. Additionally, we must consider diversifying subsidies, and bringing new supply chains into the state. Small businesses currently make a sizable portion of employers in New Mexico, so we must support them first.

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.

Yes, I received a DUI in 2002 and accepted the consequences, and I am a strong advocate for anti-DWI programs, including MADD.

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