Q&A: House District 18 candidate Gail Chasey - Albuquerque Journal

Q&A: House District 18 candidate Gail Chasey

House District 18 candidate Gail Chasey (Courtesy Gail Chasey)

Name: Gail Chasey

Party: Democratic

Occupation: Attorney/retired educator

City: Albuquerque

Experience: Elected to N.M. House in 1996 and have served continuously since then. Sponsor of substantive civil rights and criminal justice reform laws, including outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and the repeal of the death penalty. Past chair of House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee; current chair of House Judiciary Committee.

Education: B.A., University of Arizona – history, French, and secondary education; M.A., University of New Mexico – special education; Ph.D, UNM — special education; JD, UNM School of Law

Campaign Website: gailchasey.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 should continue efforts to diversify its economy by supporting clean, sustainable sources of energy, solar and wind, while carefully implementing the Energy Transition Act. Incentives for solar installation and electric vehicles, plus increased numbers of charging stations, are key.

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?

No, but decision-making about pretrial detention must be improved. Courts rely on prosecutors and defense attorneys to provide thorough, accurate information. The Arnold Tool is not sufficient. Public safety is paramount, but warehousing people, many of whom will not be convicted, is costly, and makes us less safe ultimately.

3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety as New Mexico faces one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation?

New Mexico is not alone. Our current budget invests in public safety: 1) improves pretrial supervision, 24-hour monitoring of participants; 2) expands behavioral health and programs to address root causes; 3) funds law enforcement officer recruitment, retention, training; 4) increases violence intervention programs. Swift and certain punishment is also vital.

4. Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, do you support or oppose codifying abortion protections in state law? And do you support or oppose enacting any restrictions on abortion in New Mexico?

I support codifying Roe protections in both state and federal law. I oppose any restrictions because all complex health care decisions should be made by a woman and her health care provider. I trust women, and respect their privacy and autonomy.

5. New Mexico has already implemented several gun control laws in recent years. Would you support or oppose legislation that banned or restricted the sale of AR-15-style semi-automatic weapons, such as raising the age limit for purchasing such weapons? And what about legislation making it a crime to fail to safely secure firearms around children?

I support legislation that would ban the sale of AR-15-style semi-automatic weapons. Buyers should be 21 to buy any gun. I support legislation requiring safe storage of firearms. We should incentivize the manufacture and sale of smart guns that only the owner can fire, despite reported NRA opposition.

6. The state agency tasked with keeping New Mexico children safe has faced recent scrutiny over transparency issues and its handling of high-profile child abuse cases. What changes would you support to improve the operations of the Children, Youth and Families Department?

We need to focus more on prevention, which will be costly initially, but saves many children and families from trauma, and ultimately provides a return on investment. CYFD needs greater financial support to hire and retain better-skilled staff and change its culture. We need an ombud program for CYFD.

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

The GRT is a regressive tax, but also an important source of revenue in New Mexico. Reducing the GRT and creating greater revenue through progressive changes to the personal income tax would be ideal.

8. 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 a salaried Legislature. Unfortunately, the current structure of volunteer legislators, meeting infrequently, weakens the legislative branch. Salary would depend on the structure adopted, whether full-time or part-time. Legislators should not be mainly retired or wealthy individuals, plus a handful who must balance full-time work with legislative duties.

9. 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?

Though we have made progress on Yazzie, we must provide support tailored to needs of Native students, English Language learners, students with disabilities, and those at risk. Require developmentally appropriate education for young children. Recruit more special educators and English language teachers. Evaluate specific initiatives, including Native language preservation.

10. 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 fully support the proposed constitutional amendment to increase funding for early childhood services and K-12 education.

11. 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?

I support legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The devastation of the 2022 fire season in New Mexico, followed by flooding and the endangerment of water systems following monsoon storms, illustrate a real climate emergency. We cannot fail to act.

12. 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?

If the structure of the Legislature were changed (see No. 8, above), it may make sense for the Legislature to have a greater role during emergencies. Now, it is difficult for the Legislature to act rapidly when it meets infrequently, and can only initiate its own agenda every two years.

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

I would support a merit-based evaluation of proposed capital outlay projects to inform legislators and the executive about the costs, benefits, and urgent needs of these efforts. I am open to improved methods to appropriate such funds, and also believe individual legislators understand best the needs of their districts.

14. Do you believe former President Donald Trump’s claim that he was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election? (Yes or No answer only, please)

No.

15. What changes, if any, would you support to New Mexico’s election laws?

Codify improvements made during the pandemic, which increased voter access while protecting election security. We should simplify the current system of restoration of voting rights for returning citizens. I favor lowering the age to vote in New Mexico elections to the age at which youth can serve as election workers.

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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