By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Local lawmakers are preparing to head to Santa Fe in the next couple of weeks for a 30-day session.
Although completing the state’s budget is the top task for the Legislature, local representatives say there are other issues they hope to address during the session.
State lawmakers from Roosevelt and Curry counties shared their top three priorities for the legislative session that begins Jan. 21:
Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan
Represents Roosevelt and Curry counties.
As an educator, Roch said he was privileged to be on the task force to look at several different options to find a funding solution to an ailing lottery-financed college scholarship program.
The program covers full tuition for about 15,000 students statewide. Qualifications for the program include enrolling in a public college or university after graduating from high school, attending full time and maintaining a 2.5 grade point average.
Roch said “Probably doing a set award would be the way we have to go because the (lottery) revenues aren’t keeping the pace.”
2. Promoting the state’s new teacher evaluation system: “Right now New Mexico schools are using a new teacher evaluation system. I believe once we get the results of those evaluations in, those results ought to be the a way for teachers to get an advancement in licensing and a raise,” Roch said.
He believes state schools are doing away with a system educators don’t have a lot of faith in but wants them to adopt a new one that promotes educators based on evaluations from the people that work with them daily.
“The results will be a much better indicator that they’ve mastered competency,” Roch said. “I think it’s a real opportunity for us.”
3. Water issues: As a resident of Logan, Roch said locals are concerned with the life of Ute Lake and the Ute Pipeline Project.
“I think we need to have everyone at the table and explore every option,” he said. “It’s going to be an uphill battle to get any money out of (Washington, D.C.) for the pipeline project.”
He said having conversations can achieve the area’s short-term goals in addressing issues of drought condition without putting anyone at risk.
“Every option would be considered, with the latest data about rainfall and flow considered to make the best decision.”
Rep. George Dodge, D-Santa Rosa
Represents Roosevelt County.
Dodge also wants to push forward with the Right to Farm Act, a piece of legislation that would prevent legal action against farmers and dairy producers because of property issues with their neighbors.
“It will help dairy farmers on the east side of the state,” Dodge said.
2. Education: Dodge, a retired educator, said with the extra money the Legislature has this year, he’d like to work on getting funding for additional education programs, getting teachers raises and improving early childhood education in the state.
3. Spending wisely: “I want to make sure we spend our money wisely and conservatively,” said Dodge about this budget session.
Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell
Represents Roosevelt County.
Wooley said there are two companies in Roswell that do maintenance for commercial airlines but airlines are hesitant to get that service done here because of the tax they have to pay.
Wooley said if the tax is eliminated, he predicts hundreds of airplanes will be serviced in New Mexico for maintenance, which will boost the state’s economy and create jobs.
2. Help for veterans: “I’m a (Vietnam War) veteran and that’s one of my biggest passions is working for veterans in this state,” Wooley said.
He hopes to get funding for a veterans’ wellness healing center in Angel Fire that he says treats veterans for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
He said the organization has a proven track record of “Really helping vets.”
3. Veterans’ cemetery funding: Wooley wants to get capital outlay money for a veterans’ cemetery in Roswell.
Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.
Senate minority leader. Represents Roosevelt and Curry counties.
Ingle also wants to increase funding for state jobs.
2. Money for highway improvements
3. Lottery scholarships
CMI staff writer Eric Norwood Jr. contributed to this story