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Business groups launch ‘Virtual Roundhouse’

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A group of New Mexico business-related organizations has decided to create a free online experience for the public that is intended to recreate the meetings and interactions that take place in the State Capitol during legislative sessions, given that COVID-19 concerns have closed the Roundhouse to the public for the upcoming session for the most part.

“This is really a way to have transparent government,” said Ashley Wagner, director of public policy and communications with the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce.

The Virtual Roundhouse of New Mexico launched Monday with a day of presentations by legislators, state department heads, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales and business representatives. Two conferences also were held on the platform.

The initiative is spearheaded by the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, the New Mexico Hospitality Association, the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce and the New Mexico Chamber, with financial support from other chambers and business organizations.

Monday’s presentations had 700 people signed up, Wagner said, with as many as 200 people participating at any given time. All conferences and presentations for the day have been posted on YouTube, although she said it has still not been decided whether future presentations will be.

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Starting Jan. 19, the first day of the 60-day legislative session, the site will host various events every Tuesday starting at 7:30 a.m. Those include “social calendar” events by community organizations, networking events and “office hours” by participating state senators and representatives.

Wagner said that all legislators have been invited to join the site and that she anticipates more will sign up to hold office hours on the platform as the session progresses.

“It is going to offer legislators a great way to talk with their constituents and vice versa,” she said.

Wagner added that the intent is to adapt and be flexible with content and scheduling as needed in the weeks ahead.

The public can register for the Virtual Roundhouse and log in to the site at www.virtualroundhousenm.com.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.