Roswell Reps. Nora Espinoza and Candy Spence Ezzell and Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, (left) talk with Roswell community leaders Wednesday during the Chamber of Commerce’s third annual Legislative Lunch and Learn. (Ilissa Gilmore Photo)
On Wednesday the Roswell Chamber of Commerce hosted its third annual Legislative Lunch and Learn to allow local leaders to connect with area legislators and discuss the issues of this year’s session in Santa Fe.
Dorrie Faubus-McCarty, executive director of the chamber, said the event allows those involved in the Roswell’s education, business and medical communities to interact directly with senators and representatives.
“Our concerns are in their hands, they’re there for us,” she said.
The panel featured Roswell Reps. Candy Spence Ezzell and Nora Espinoza, as well as Sens. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo, Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell.
Ingle said it was important to meet with people involved in “what makes the community tick.” He said he tries to attend as many similar events as possible.
“It’s my job to do that, so that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
Pirtle and Burt discussed the Legislature’s adoption of policies that will make the state more business-friendly. However, Ingle and Ezzell addressed potential threats to the state’s business, particularly its oil and gas industry.
Ezzell said most people forget that the industry contributes more than a third to the state’s budget.
“It’s not all about northern New Mexico — they seem to forget we exist until they want us to send money,” she said.
County Commissioner Greg Nibert agreed that the oil and gas industry has been under attack and said the Legislature should weigh in on counties that try to prohibit the development of natural resources that benefit the state.
Hobbling the oil and gas industry, Ingle said “robs students and all children in the state,” since most of the revenue benefits education.
“This state is rich in natural resources and if we didn’t have them, God knows where we’d be,” he said.
One issue that could impact the state’s oil and gas exploration is the potential listing of the lesser prairie chicken as endangered. During the legislative session, the House passed a memorial sponsored by Ezzell to oppose the listing.
In conjunction with the Artesia Chamber of Commerce, the Roswell chamber has organized for representatives to meet with several agencies in Washington, D.C. throughout next week. Nibert and others plan to meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe to discuss what listing the species could mean to the industry.
Pirtle also discussed the efforts the Legislature made toward improving the state’s education, such as retaining Hanna Skandera as secretary of education. He also talked about efforts to help vocational training and education services such as Job Corps.
“The future of the state is children,” said Espinoza.
During the session, Espinoza was criticized for her opposition to certain books, such as “Message to Aztlan: Selected Writings of Rodolfo ‘Corky’ Gonzales,” in schools. Yet, she said instead of culture and diversity, the books had messages of Marxism, communism and racism.
“I’m Hispanic, I’m Latin, but I’m American first,” she said.
Tom Burris, superintendent of the Roswell Independent School District, agreed with Espinoza, saying he experienced a similar situation as a principal.
He also thanked the legislators for their support of the Public School Facilities Authority. This year, he said the state will contribute more than $30 million for RISD school reconstruction projects.
Mayor Del Jurney thanked legislators on behalf of the city.
“This community certainly respects the work that you do and the things that you accomplished in this session have given us the tools that we need to be able to compete,” he said.