There is a lot to learn about issues over the interim, which is the goal of many of the legislative committees meeting during the summer and fall. This week, committees are convening in Farmington and here at UNM. Here’s a taste of what was presented at the hearings being held in the Rotunda of the UNM Science and Tech Park.

UNM Research
This morning, UNM Vice President for Research Michael Dougher took the Economic and Rural Development Committee through a primer on UNM’s research enterprise, defining research as the “beginning of the economic development pipeline.” UNM can boast areas of national standing like materials science and optics, emerging areas like cyber-security and cross-cutting areas like STEM and Southwest studies. In 2013, UNM faculty submitted 846 proposals for $263.6 million and were granted 1,135 awards totaling $119.7 million. Research expenditures exceeded $190 million. UNM was also ranked No. 56 for patent generation with 51 issued. MIT ranked No. 1.

As traditional research funding is being reduced, Dougher said UNM is responding on several fronts: the relationship between New Mexico research universities features partnerships rather than competition, work with the national labs is ramping up and now UNM is actively seeking industry partnerships. The biggest area of need is in research infrastructure – buildings, labs and equipment. This is where the state can help.  Legislators had a number of questions but made no commitments.

Public Television
New Mexico Public Television, housed at UNM, NMSU and ENMU, provides 98 percent of the state’s population with free off-air programming, including vital educational, public affairs and cultural offerings. However, the master control facilities at all three stations are aging and need to be replaced, preferably at, the same time to ensure uninterrupted service and unmarred qualification for federal funding. The total ask is $2.25 million, which the universities will seek with legislative blessing from severance tax bonds and/or the general fund.

Utton Center
Last week, the Water and Natural Resources Committee heard from Adrian Oglesby, director of the Utton Transboundary Resources Center that’s housed in the UNM School of Law. This is the only law and policy center in New Mexico dedicated to water issues and has been in service since 2001. Oglesby said the center focuses on “preventive diplomacy” that tries to get ahead of problems in a neutral, non-partisan manner. That’s a particular challenge when dealing with issues like Native American water rights, energy and water, and those pesky interstate water compacts, which “were written in wet times quite a while ago.”

UNM-Gallup hosts the Indian Affairs Committee next week, and UNM-Los Alamos will host the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee the following week. The Tobacco Settlement Oversight Committee will meet at the UNM Cancer Center at the end of the month.