Q&A: Senate District 28 Candidate Siah Correa Hemphill

  • NAME: Siah Correa Hemphill
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Educator
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Silver City
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Public school educator for 25 years; former president, Grant County Federation of Democratic Women; State Democratic Party Central Committee member
  • EDUCATION: M.A. school psychology, B.S. elementary education
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: siahforsenate.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 need to embrace the concept of economic fairness. That means repealing the 2013 corporate tax giveaway, and returning income tax to fairer tax rates. We need to review and overhaul all tax credits, deductions, and rebates, and eliminate ones not needed. I won’t support cuts to health care and education.

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?

We need to meet the needs of all our students – especially in rural New Mexico. Students with disabilities and those who are at-risk need to be provided social skills curriculum, bilingual and bicultural curriculum, broadband and technology.

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

New Mexico has over 100 exemptions and deductions in its gross receipts tax system. Unfortunately, the Legislature has no meaningful way to evaluate their effectiveness. We need to assess and close these loopholes and strengthen the tax expenditure budget law to ensure tax breaks aren’t just handouts to special interests.

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

I support legalizing recreational marijuana in New Mexico. With proper regulation and taxation, marijuana sales could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue for schools, roads, and health care, not to mention free up law enforcement to address more pressing criminal activity.

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?

The Legislature may revisit the emergency powers act to make it more clear. I support the governor’s action to follow the science and move aggressively to keep our senior citizens and communities safe.

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

I support the decriminalization of abortion in New Mexico. Abortion is a deeply personal decision that should be made by a woman and her health care provider without interference from politicians. We need to focus on ensuring women have access to reproductive health care and family planning, paid maternity leave, and childcare.

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?

During the special session, the Legislature created a commission to review changes and options regarding qualified immunity. One possible option is to allow citizens to sue the police department, which would encourage members of the police department to enforce responsible behavior on the part of their colleagues.

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 a constitutional amendment to use a small percentage of money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to invest in our children so we start to reverse the cycles of poverty and trauma caused by years of underfunding education and mental health services.

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 the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party, because it would encourage more voter participation in our elections.

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. The millions of dollars in capital outlay funding given to legislators for projects in our community is taxpayer money and it should not be done in secret or used as political favors.

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 build upon our strengths: renewable energy (wind and solar), outdoor recreation, tourism, local food production, and hemp. We need to continue to increase investments in local small businesses and essential infrastructure such as first-rate broadband to help them restart and thrive.

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?

We must work to reduce the environmental consequences of fracking while simultaneously moving aggressively to wind and solar energy. We need to be laser focused on diversifying our economy in order to remove our dependence on the boom-and-bust cycle of oil and gas.

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

I support a dual approach to crime: provide police with the staffing and equipment critical to keeping communities safe, and investing more in public education, job training, mental health services, and evidence-based drug treatment programs.

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?

Police body cameras provide visual and audio evidence that can verify events and demonstrate transparency in our communities. However, care should be taken to prevent exposure of private medical conditions such as mental illness and protect victims of crimes and informants or witnesses.

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?

New Mexico needs to ensure access to top-notch broadband service throughout the state so that businesses small and large can operate effectively. We also need to work with our congressional delegation to obtain federal help for businesses during the COVID crisis, which threatens the very existence of so many.

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?

Yes, I filed for personal bankruptcy in 2004, after my 4-year-old son was diagnosed with bone cancer and needed a year of chemotherapy and a left leg amputation.

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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