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The signs are clear for all to see. Our kids are back in school, the evenings are beginning to cool down and my husband has already taken out his ski boots to make sure they still fit. I think it is safe to say that summer is over. As a teacher I usually start the school year by asking my students to write a report on what they did during their summer vacation. Well, turnaround is fair play so I think it is only right for me to report to you with some of the details of what I’ve been up to.
To be completely frank with you, this summer has been busy. I have been dealing with fire in the Jemez mountains, participating in numerous legislative interim committees, several issues related to Los Alamos National Laboratory and assigned to a special jobs council tasked with developing policy strategies to spur economic growth and increased employment to meet our projected population needs. During all of this I have also been trying to help residents from throughout the district with issues as they arise.
I’ve learned a lot during the summer and there are several topics I want to share with you. Space is limited here so today I am going to focus on issues related to LANL and in a future column I will bring up other pertinent topics.
Today, let’s talk about LANL. The budget fight in Washington continues to hobble the national laboratory complex as well as many other programs. Sequestration is restricting already tight budgets and directly threatening a variety of programs throughout the complex. The British newspaper the Financial Times actually did some research and determined that nationwide, Los Alamos County leads almost everywhere else in the negative economic impact of sequestration. Budget cuts are hitting LANL hard.
In June, I joined the Coalition of LANL Communities on a trip to Washington D.C to talk with Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration and key members of Congress and staff about funding for LANL. This group has presented a united voice from our entire region letting Washington hear that New Mexico supports LANL and our voices need to be heard. I am proud to have played a small role in this organization that successfully lobbied for reprograming $41 million for LANL.
Once back in New Mexico I stayed on the road and joined the LANL Major Subcontractors’ Consortium on a visit to the WIPP facility outside Carlsbad. It was a very productive trip as we met with local community leaders and toured the WIPP facility. Between my visits to Area G and now WIPP, I’ve been able to watch the TRU Waste stream from cradle to grave. The knowledge I have gained this summer will be put to good use as committee meetings begin again at the first of the year and I continue to tout the needs of Los Alamos and LANL.
I had my first chance to put some of my new knowledge to work soon after coming back from WIPP. On July 17 and 18, I was proud to play host to more than 20 of my legislative colleagues as we held a joint committee meeting of the Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee and the Science, Technology and Telecom Committee. I served as co-chair to this joint committee when we met at Fuller Lodge for hearings to discuss LANL and related issues. Along with providing my colleagues with a tour of LANL, we were able to get into the meat of some topics including ongoing environmental cleanup at the lab, an update on the impact of community programs and some recent procurement changes.
The take away from the work I’ve done regarding LANL is a message for the whole state. LANL is not only the economic and professional core of Los Alamos, but also of northern New Mexico and much of the state. Our laboratory’s positive impact is felt far and wide. It is important that we work as a region and state to support LANL’s core mission and to promote its activities that benefit everyone. Carrying that message off the hill is a job I take seriously. As your state representative, I will continue to work to make sure that the leadership of our state government knows this and is working to support Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Summer has ended now and the pace of legislative activity has temporarily slowed. Over the next couple months I will be submitting other columns about issues including education policy and class size, our forests and the danger of fire, and the jobs council and economic development.
Feel free to call me at 500-4343, or send an email to Stephanie.GarciaRichard@nmlegis.gov. I would love to hear from you.