Q&A: Senate District 16 Candidate Antoinette Sedillo Lopez

  • NAME: Antoinette Sedillo Lopez
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Consultant, retired UNM law professor
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: New Mexico State Senator for District 16, since January 2019. Law and legal education background.
  • EDUCATION: Undergraduate degree, UNM, law degree, UCLA
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: antoinettesedillolopez.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?

For a balanced budget, we must eliminate wasteful spending and lessen our dependence on oil and gas. Federal funding has filled the gaps in the short term. In the long term, we should roll back the corporate tax cuts for the top 1% passed during the Richardson and the Martinez administrations, and diversify our economy.

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 the Martinez/Yazzie court found, our education system needs more than money. We should eliminate educational policies that have had a disparate impact on Black, Indigenous, Latino and other children of color and enact policies to eliminate achievement gaps. A relevant multicultural and trauma-informed education would make a big difference for our children.

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

The gross receipts tax code is regressive and unfairly places a proportionally larger tax burden on the poor. I support a wholesale review of how we collect taxes to ensure that all people are taxed fairly relative to their income level.

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

I support legalizing marijuana and taxing its sale. All who have ever had a marijuana arrest should have that expunged. Marijuana prohibition started as a racist policy and it is time we start taking steps to undo that wrong. We also need to address social problems that have arisen in other states.

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?

We should clarify the governor’s emergency powers. Since we have a part-time Legislature, the governor needs the flexibility to act to protect the public and allocate resources appropriately. Such use of power must have the potential of being checked by the other branches of government.

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

I support repealing the dormant 1969 state law that criminalizes abortions. It is unconstitutional, antiquated and would require that doctors and their female patients be prosecuted criminally for reproductive health care decision-making.

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?

Qualified immunity is a complex issue requiring much more than the space allotted. In short, I support a law that will hold police accountable without inviting frivolous lawsuits against them. Black Lives Matter. For too long they haven’t mattered enough among our police forces in New Mexico and across our nation.

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 am pleased that we have increased spending on early childhood programs, but the source of funds is not stable. I support a constitutional amendment that would permit us to use some of the income on the Land Grant Permanent Fund to invest in our children. Our children are a better investment than Wall Street.

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 changes that will make voting easier and retain protections against voter fraud. The recent reform that permits same-day voter registration with party affiliation to allow voters who decline to affiliate with a political party to vote in a primary is a step in the right direction. Further reforms may be needed to make primaries open and easily accessible to all voters.

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?

We need a capital outlay system that is a balance between addressing specific local needs and statewide needs. And transparency in government is very important. I believe legislators should be required to disclose which capital outlay projects we fund. I always make my allocations public.

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 should enact policies that encourage a diverse and clean energy economy generating good paying jobs. We should ensure that the oil industry takes responsibility for its waste and pay their fair share. We charge a 20% royalty on the net income on oil extraction in New Mexico; in Texas they charge 25% royalty on the gross income.

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?

My bill in 2018 called for a four-year pause on fracking to evaluate the impacts, costs and benefits to the health of our land, water, air and people. Now that industry has paused itself, we should regulate the potential use of the wastewater it produces, the methane it burns and other impacts. We must enact policies to move toward renewable energy.

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

In the long term we should address the root causes of crime through improved education, expanded economic opportunities, and expanded availability of mental health and rehabilitation programs. In the short term we need to train our officers and ensure they have the support they need.

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?

In general, the footage from cameras worn by law enforcement should be available to the public. An independent entity and not law enforcement agencies should decide on what is and what is not released to the public in accordance with IPRA (Inspection of Public Records Act) and perhaps other limited exceptions such as protecting children.

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?

We should be careful about the industries we attract to New Mexico. We should ensure that businesses we lure with LEDA (Local Economic Development Act) funds and other incentives provide long-term benefits to our state and not environmental, health, or unfair labor burdens. They should provide good paying jobs and benefits and be committed to our state.

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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