Smells like student advocacy? Schoolkids bolster bill to create official state aroma - Albuquerque Journal

Smells like student advocacy? Schoolkids bolster bill to create official state aroma

Israel Morante roasts hot green chile outside El Paisano grocery store in Santa Fe in August. A bill that would make the smell of roasting green chile New Mexico’s official state aroma was approved Tuesday in its first assigned Senate committee. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — New Mexico already has a state song, a state cookie, a state bird, a state flower and even a state question.

What the state does not have, however, is an official state smell, though that would change under legislation advancing at the Roundhouse enshrining the scent of green chile roasting in the fall as the state’s official aroma.

The mouth-watering proposal, Senate Bill 188, cleared its first Senate committee via a 5-0 vote on Tuesday, after fifth-grade students at Monte Vista Elementary School in Las Cruces served as expert witnesses for the bill — participating in the hearing via an online platform from their classroom.

“Is there anyone in the room who does not know what chile roasting smells like?” one of the students while introducing the bill at the request of Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, a retired teacher who’s sponsoring the legislation.

Soules said the classroom’s involvement came about after he and another state senator visited the school last fall. He said the students’ involvement has included writing letters to legislators, researching and practicing public speaking.

“They’re going to be telling their grandkids about how they were part of making this happen,” Soules told the Journal.

During Tuesday’s committee hearing, the students faced questions from members of the Senate Indian, Rural and Cultural Affairs Committee.

Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, asked them whether any other states have an official aroma, while Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, questioned whether the smell of dairies or oil drilling operations should also be included in New Mexico’s state aroma.

But one of the students pointed out in response the smell of roasting chile can be found around New Mexico, while the other smells are more regional aromas.

In addition, while some might question the practical importance of the legislation, Soules said he’s been in contact with state Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte about the bill and said it could be used to bolster New Mexico’s green chile marketing efforts.

Meanwhile, a legislative analysis of the bill pointed out the proposal could give New Mexico a leg up in its running chile superiority battle with neighboring Colorado.

“The new state aroma could help draw visitors away from Colorado, which, for some reason, thinks it has green chile comparable to that of New Mexico,” the analysis cheekily claimed.

Sen. Joshua Sanchez, R-Bosque, a small business owner who grew up in a farming family, suggested the smell of freshly-cut alfalfa should be added to the bill, but stopped short of trying to amend the bill.

“Fresh-cut alfalfa and green chile — you can’t get them anywhere else in the world,” he said. “You know you’re in New Mexico.”

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