CHAMBER EVENT: GACC Hosts Congressional Delegation for Discussion of Big Issues

Yesterday, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce hosted three members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation for a timely discussion of federal topics like healthcare, energy, defense, and education.

After a short delay due to some important House Floor votes running behind schedule, Board Chair Bruce Stidworthy kicked off the event with some sponsor appreciation and introductions. Then, Membership Development Committee Chair Mike Canfield asked the representatives about the increasingly politicized environment on Capitol Hill.

“It’s very chaotic here, and very difficult to get legislation passed,” said Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury, discussing the possibility of another change in Speakership. “It’s a dysfunctional time here in Congress.” Her colleagues agreed, but also noted important opportunities for the state, like the Farm Bill that’s authorized every five years and will soon be up for consideration again.

Next, GACC President and CEO Terri Cole opened a discussion on national security and New Mexico’s role in it. Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez talked about Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory and their important contributions in developing technology that keeps our country moving forward. Their work is the basis of our state’s “enchanted innovation economy,” she said, which will only become more important in the future, not only in defense, but also in energy and aerospace.

Public Safety BIG Vice Chair Janice Torrez posed the next question to the group: does the federal government have our nation’s cross-border fentanyl trafficking problem in hand? What should we be doing differently? Congressman Gabe Vasquez said the border situation requires a nuanced approach to account for the humanitarian needs of immigrants and the public safety attention the fentanyl crisis demands. However, there are new tools border patrol agents are using, like advanced inspection technology that uses AI to screen all commercial cargo that moves through the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, all without manual searches. Vasquez said he’s introduced a bill to make this technology available at more ports of entry, both to keep citizens safer and to speed up commerce as well.

The congressional reps also discussed the energy transition in New Mexico. In response to a question from Stidworthy about the potential role of hydrogen and nuclear power in moving away from fossil fuels, Stansbury said Congress passed the most significant clean energy package in history two years ago in the Inflation Reduction Act and its billions of dollars in energy investments. As for hydrogen, she said many means of producing hydrogen are still carbon-emitters that contribute to climate change and nuclear energy isn’t a magic bullet either because disposing of nuclear waste still presents challenges.

Next, Canfield pivoted to public education and how public charter schools – and their potential growth – fit into the K-12 landscape. Leger Fernandez said she’s a supporter of charter schools because of the innovative ways they serve their students. “They are looking to create a smaller school that is responsive to a need that students are asking for in that school district,” she said. However, accountability is also necessary to ensure charter schools are delivering quality instruction, she said.

Each of the representatives made some closing comments about the needs they see in their district and in the state – and there’s no shortage of important issues vying for their attention.

Many thanks to our congressional delegation for finding the time to talk with us about the federal issues that are most critical for New Mexico. And, thanks to all of yesterday’s attendees! If you weren’t able to join us live, you can watch the recorded event on the Chamber’s YouTube channel at the link here or below.

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