By Cailee Nelson
The Las Cruces Convention Center buzzed with excitement the early morning of September 17. Filled with breakfast croissants and coffee, business members, politicians, and everyday citizens were charged, ready for another full day of public policy at the 2015 Domenici Public Policy Conference.
The conference kicked off Wednesday, September 16, with speeches on education’s role in economic development and aging U.S. infrastructure. Keynote speakers included: James B. Hunt, Jr. (the former Governor of South Carolina), and Mary E. Peters (the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation).
NM Governor Susana Martinez, on Thursday, addressed regional economic development, detailing her “sweeping” energy plan.
“This new plan maps out an energy policy for the 21st Century,” she says. “It supports an all-of-the-above energy approach. Promoting all sources of energy as a means to create jobs, diversify a key sector of our economy, and to help our nation secure energy independence.”
Speaking to New Mexico’s natural resources, Martinez says the state needs to harvest all it can.
“We must bolster our energy infrastructure,” she says.
She addressed the possibility of creating a new rail line from the Four Corners to I-40, in order to cut down on transportation costs for all energy costs in the state, thereby also making better sources of energy more affordable for the general population.
“By creating new rail lines and improving electric transmission, we can expand our market opportunities,” she says.
Martinez also spoke to New Mexico’s water conservation concerns.
“By using non-potable water in energy production, exploring opportunities to recycle our water, and more fully taking advantage of our brackish water resources, we can revolutionize energy production,” she says.
Martinez went on to speak about education reform, not only in lower education levels but in the higher institutions, such as NMSU.
“When we fail to graduate our students or when we allow our students to take such a long time to graduate, the cost to the state, the cost to the institution, the cost to the parents and the students, the cost to our employment pipeline, it is enormous,” Martinez says.
Continuing on, she proposed several ideas to improve graduation rates and times. Included was unifying degree programs to require solely 120 credits in total.
Aitiana Zamora, a sophomore at NMSU, attended the conference.
“Her (Martinez) education reform is interesting,” Zamora says. “It will be nice to see how she will implement it in the future.”
Zamora’s parents are teachers. She says education reform should be stressed on those teachers who are not performing well, as opposed to laying it on those who are performing at “exemplary” levels.
Martinez’s speech was followed by some student volunteer questions and closing remarks from NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers.
Other conference keynote speakers included Pete V. Domenici (the retired U.S. Senator for New Mexico and the conference’s namesake), Francisco J. Monaldi, Ph. D. (Fellow in Latin American Energy Policy), and Robert S. Ford (former U.S. Ambassador to Syria and Algeria, former Deputy U.S. Ambassador to Iraq).