Q&A: House District 12 Democratic candidate Nicole Michelle Olonovich - Albuquerque Journal

Q&A: House District 12 Democratic candidate Nicole Michelle Olonovich

Nicole Olonovich

NAME: Nicole Michelle Olonovich

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

OCCUPATION: CEO, CSolPower LLC

CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque

RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I have been advocating in the Roundhouse since 2014 with grassroots nonprofits such as OLÉ! NM and organizations like the National Association of Social Workers — NM Chapter. I am a voting member the Democratic Party of New Mexico State Party and Resolutions Committee, Congressional District 2 chair of the DPNM Environmental Justice Caucus, administrative director of the DPNM Adelante Progressive Caucus. I have worked in Joint Caucus Legislative Action Committees during the session. I am the president elect of the New Mexico Solar Energy Association and on the national Green Amendments for the Generation board. I am a combat veteran of the United States Air Force.

EDUCATION: Master of Business Administration and Master of Social Work (MSW) Summa Cum Laude from New Mexico Highlands University; dual B.A. Magna Cum Laude in psychology and communication from University of New Mexico.

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: olonovich4hd12.com

1. 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 Legislature take to diversify the state’s economy and revenue base?

New Mexico has abundant solar and wind production potential. We can power our state with renewables and storage, utility scale, and decentralized community and rooftop solar. We should also be a renewable energy exporter creating a revenue stream in perpetuity, stimulating job growth, improving health, and building a stable economy.

2. During the last regular legislative session, there was an unsuccessful push to make it easier to keep certain defendants behind bars until trial. Should New Mexico law be changed to make it easier to hold individuals charged with violent offenses such as murder and first-degree child abuse behind bars until trial?

Poverty, crime, and drug abuse are systemic problems, and we need to invest in systemic solutions. We know “lock ‘em up” policies have failed to solve the problems. Mass incarceration for nonviolent offenders is ineffective and harmful. Simultaneously, offenders who are a true threat to public safety may require incarceration.

3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety amid a rise in violent crime rates?

Multiprong approach: pass legislation that bans the purchase/sales of “ghost guns,” safe gun storage, ban automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, universal background checks and close loopholes in the law around buying/selling firearms. Strengthen and expand mental health and substance abuse treatment programs and tackle failing systems like education, housing and unemployment.

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

While we need to reduce or eliminate the gross receipt tax, which would help lower income New Mexicans, we’d need to balance that out with an increase in personal income tax on the state’s wealthiest and/or a personal favorite, taxing second (or third) homeowners.

5. New Mexico is currently the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary, though lawmakers do get per diem payments and can qualify for a legislative pension. Do you support or oppose a salaried Legislature and, if so, how much should lawmakers be paid?

I support paying legislators a minimum of $38,000 and equipping them with dedicated staff. Investing in our legislators and extending the legislative session will pay off for New Mexicans; time and money well spent to research, develop and promulgate prudent and meaningful legislation in pursuit of the public interest.

6. 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, especially Native Americans and those who don’t speak English as a first language?

Legislation that allows students access to reading materials in their preferred language was just passed but that is inadequate. We need to completely overhaul our educational system to emphasize learning (including multi-language classroom settings) not testing, and sufficiently staff and fund intellectually rigorous, artistically exciting, and recreational programs.

7. What should be the priority as New Mexico seeks to strengthen its health care system? How should the state address a shortage of nurses and other health care workers?

Low cost, high quality vocational educational programs are key to addressing nursing and health care worker shortages. Graduate caring nurses and health care workers who are well equipped with critical thinking and communication skills, and who are dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives could transform our health care system.

8. 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 the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would withdraw more money from the state’s permanent school fund to increase funding for early childhood services and K-12 education?

I support the YesForKids ballot initiative and would highly encourage everyone to vote for it on the November 2022 ballot. A critical time to shape productivity is from birth to age 5, when the brain develops rapidly to build the foundation of cognitive and character skills necessary for success.

9. In order to address climate change and air quality issues, do you support or oppose legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the state achieve net-zero emissions by 2050?

Four fires are raging and we are experiencing exceptional drought. Economists and scientists warn that business as usual is unsustainable; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called a “code red” for humanity. Yes, I support legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions and the rapid transition to 100% renewables by 2030. The good news: we can do it.

10. New Mexico recently became the 17th state to regulate and tax recreational cannabis sales? What, if any, changes do you believe should be made to the existing law?

We need to expunge the criminal records of people with cannabis manufacturing, distributing, and possession offenses. Further, we need to release those incarcerated serving on cannabis related offenses of less than 30 grams. Finally, we need to eliminate barriers of entry for Black, Indigenous, and people of color who want to work in the cannabis industry.

11. 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?

As a disabled combat veteran with respiratory illness from my service to this country in Iraq, I am thankful to the governor for her handling of the COVID pandemic, and I would not support any changes to the Executive Office emergency powers.

12. 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 expanding voting rights, supporting greater access to voting by ensuring everyone who wants to vote can do so, and I would vote to make Election Day into a state holiday to encourage voting. I am also of fan of open primaries.

13. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding?

Transparency and representation are hallmarks of my campaign and that includes capital outlay allocation. I believe in the use of objective criteria to distribute capital outlay. Yet, we need to ensure flexibility as well, to honor the specialized knowledge representatives and senators have to deliver for the communities they represent.

14. Do you support or oppose authorizing an independent redistricting commission to perform the once-per-decade task of redrawing New Mexico’s political boundary lines?

I support the Citizens Redistricting Committee. Our maps should be drawn with the best interest of constituents in mind, and any changes must be made transparently and supported by science, data, and facts to ensure we are not putting “incumbent protection” above voter rights.

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?

The last presidential administration signed an executive order making graduate student stipends taxable. As a result, in 2018, I was forced into bankruptcy in order to “afford” my Ph.D. program.

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?

In 2008, I was honorably discharged. I was struggling to reacclimate after war (Iraq, 2004) and I was arrested for drinking and driving. Luckily, I appeared before a judge who sentenced me to court mandated therapy. I stopped drinking, went back to school, got MBA and MSW degrees, while advocating in the Roundhouse for mental/behavioral health access.

 

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