DATE: Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Contact: Shaya Torres
Santa Fe – Today, a bill to expand internet access in schools and libraries across the state unanimously passed the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. HB 207, introduced by Candie G. Sweetser (D-Deming), would appropriate money from the general fund for broadband infrastructure in public school, tribal, and community libraries.
“From applying for jobs to researching school projects, internet access opens up opportunities for New Mexicans,” said Rep. Candie Sweetser. “I’m pleased this bill has bipartisan support and look forward to ensuring our kids and communities have the internet infrastructure to be successful.”
In New Mexico, the digital divide has a negative impact on economic development. HB 207 is a bipartisan effort sponsored by Reps. Candie Sweetser (D-Deming), Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos), and James E. Smith (R-Sandia Park) that will help close that gap. The bill now heads to the House Floor for consideration.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 25, 2018
Contact: Shaya Torres
Santa Fe, N.M. – Today, Rep. Candie Sweetser (D-Deming) honored Deming educator Melanie Maynes-Alfaro for receiving the Milken Educator Award.
“Today, I’m honored to congratulate a teacher from my district on receiving the Milken Educator Award. Melanie Maynes-Alfaro is a hometown hero and one of the state’s best teachers,” said Rep. Candie Sweetser (D-Deming).
The Milken Educator Award was created by the Milken Family Foundation, and is in its 30th year. The awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. The Milken award is hailed by Teachermagazine as the “Oscars of Teaching.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Monday, January 22, 2018
Contact: Shaya Torres
House Speaker Invites Students to get hands-on experience at the New Mexico Legislature at Inaugural Speaker’s Table
Santa Fe, N.M. - Today, the Speaker of the House Brian Egolf hosted the inaugural Speaker’s Table, a program for students from across the state to visit the Roundhouse and learn about the legislative process through hands-on participation. Rep. Candie Sweetser (D-Deming) mentored the students, guiding them through committee preparation.
“It is always inspiring to work with young people who are engaged in their communities, but today’s Speaker’s Table showed that these young people are also involved and concerned about the future of our state and the many issues affecting it. They get it: the decisions we make now will impact them for years to come. I appreciate the perspective and fresh ideas brought forward by these students from across the state – and especially from Animas in my district – and look forward to working with these young people for years to come,” said Rep. Candie G. Sweetser (D-Deming).
Students participated in mock committee hearings, floor proceedings, and worked with their mentor Representatives to present testimony in front of an actual legislative committee.
Loren R. Cushman, Superintendent of Animas Public Schools, was glad students from Animas Public Schools could participate and stated, “Seeing the legislative process at work and having the opportunity to present at committee was a great experience! The students are already asking when they can come back.”
Deming officials respond to recommendations
Algernon D'Ammassa, The Deming Headlight
Published 3:55 p.m. MT Nov. 9, 2017 | Updated 4:24 p.m. MT Nov. 9, 2017
DEMING – Should school districts spend more budget dollars in the classroom instead of administration? Would spending more on instruction and less on administrative costs improve student success?
An independent think tank based in Santa Fe says the answer is yes, as presented in a report issued last month along with a recommendation that the legislature step in.
Think New Mexico, which has advocated for full-day Kindergarten and legislative reforms in other areas of state government issued its report, “Improving Our Schools by Reallocating Dollars from Administration to the Classroom,” in October.
It argues that while the correlation between total spending per pupil and student outcomes is weak, the percentage of spending dedicated to classroom instruction makes a distinct difference. “Increasing the dollars available for education can improve student outcomes if they are targeted to the classroom,” the report finds.
TNM is calling for the state, which provides 90 percent of public school funding in New Mexico, to “set enforceable minimum percentages for classroom spending” as a condition for district budget approval by the Public Education Department.
Rep. Candie Sweetser (D-Deming) said she supports the goals of the proposed reforms but wondered about the means. "Do we really want Santa Fe dictating to that level what every school district has to do?”
Local response to the report from administration, educators, and one legislator indicate support for the report’s goals but questions about implementation. As Rep. Candie Sweetser (D-Deming) put it, “Do we really want Santa Fe dictating to that level what every school district has to do?”
A top-down solution?
“There are many aspects of the report that I very much support,” said Deming Public Schools Superintendent Arsenio Romero, who added that the district “is currently completing audits now on how, where, and why we spend monies. We are continually evolving our internal controls so that we can better support students in the classroom.”
According to district data provided by Think New Mexico, Deming Public Schools devotes 72 percent of its budget to instruction and 28 percent to administration. This puts it just short of a goal of 75 percent set by the Public Education Department, which would increase to 76 percent by 2020 according to its strategic plan.
The district employs over 800 people in Luna County to serve approximately 5,200 students.
One local educator pointed to some wooden blocks in her classroom as an example: 50 of them, sanded to a smooth surface. She does not know what they are for.
DPS Superintendent Arsenio Romero, pictured at a school board meeting in July, said the district voluntarily audits its internal protocols "so that we can better support students in the classroom.”
“I was told that the past principal had bought them for the Special Education classroom,” said Charity Cheung, a math special education teacher at Deming Intermediate School, and also Co-President of the Deming chapter of the National Education Association. “No one had a clue why, and they'd never been used.”
For Cheung, the blocks represent “something admin thought was great, but the people in the classroom didn't.” She added, “Districts need to gain the input of their staff in directing how the funding will be utilized. If districts utilize the typical top down approach for deciding what to spend the funds on, it will not have as big an impact as TNM is hoping for.”
Charles Goodmacher, a spokesman for NEA-New Mexico who contributed to Think New Mexico’s report (and disclosed himself as a donor to the organization), indicated concern that the recommended approach “would lead to educators having a smaller voice within the school communities. The proposal shifts too much power away from local school boards, placing it in a state-imposed formula.”
“Think New Mexico is correct that more money needs to flow into New Mexico classrooms,” said Goodmacher, who additionally welcomed “any effort that results in a reduction of paperwork districts are required to spend time and money on.”
Deming School Board President Matt Robinson said, "I think any board member in any district would like more dollars going into the classroom," but is still studying the report's findings and recommendations.
While reducing reporting burdens for districts is part of PED’s plan for implementing the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, Sweetser, reached by phone in Santa Fe, said, “Federal and state requirements are not going away.”
While there is no proposal on the table yet, she was wary of unintended consequences from a legislative approach.
“Across our entire state the districts are very wide ranging,” she said. “Are the issues that Lordsburg faces the same that Deming faces?” Sweetser worried that if districts must seek creative ways to meet requirements with reduced administration, some of that work could be transferred to teachers.
“All I want to do is help our teachers teach,” said Sweetser. “Maybe we are helping them teach by taking some of that administrative paperwork off of them.”
Two budgets for school districts
“The issue of local control is very much something that we are considering as we develop our legislation,” said Fred Nathan, TNM’s Executive Director and co-author of the report.
Think New Mexico Executive Director Fred Nathan, who co-authored the report with Kristina Fisher, hopes to have draft legislation ready for the 2018 regular session.
Noting that teachers currently have “zero control” over central administrative spending, he said, “Our reform proposal would divide each school district’s operating budget into two: a budget for classroom expenses and a budget for administrative expenses. Within each of those categories, districts would maintain complete local control over their spending.”
It would be up to communities and their representatives, however, to watchdog districts. “There will definitely need to be close monitoring of the implementation to make sure that the resources are actually being shifted to areas that impact students,” said Nathan.
He said Think New Mexico plans to have draft legislation completed in time for the 2018 session.
Algernon D'Ammassa can be reached at 575-546-2611 (ext. 2608) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Mexico Department of Agriculture Facebook page 07/20/2017
Tonight the New Mexico Department of Agriculture honored Candie Sweetser, Representative for NM House Dist 32, for passing her first piece of legislation which allows NMDA to conduct inspections required by the Food Safety Modernization Act. We're fortunate to have someone who is passionate about agriculture representing us in the Roundhouse! Congratulations Candie!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 14, 2017
Contact: Daniel Marzec
Committee to Oversee Legislation Involving Science, Technology and Telecommunications
Santa Fe, NM – As the ink dries on interim committee assignments, Representative Candie Sweetser (D-Deming) has been tapped to Chair the Science, Technology, and Telecommunications Committee during the legislative interim. This marks the first time in New Mexico state history that a woman will serve as Chair of this Interim Committee, and the first interim Chair position for the freshman Representative.
“I am representing the people of Luna, Hidalgo and Grant counties on my committee assignments, and to the best of my ability, embracing the distinctiveness and remarkable character of my home district,” stated Rep. Sweetser. “As the Chair of Science, Technology and Telecommunications, I look forward to bringing my district’s needs forward and looking at the state as a whole.”
During the legislative interim, Representative Sweetser also will serve on the Legislative Ethics Committee, the Economic and Rural Development Committee, and the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee. Representatives are assigned committees based on their level of knowledge and experience in various areas to hear from community members and review legislation. As a small business owner, reporter and former member of the Foundation for Open Government, together with her ties to farming and ranching in southwestern New Mexico, Rep. Sweetser brings one of the most diverse and experienced skillsets to the legislature.
(Deming Headlight - Online April 19, 2017)
Algernon D'Ammassa, For the Headlight 3:27 p.m. MT April 19, 2017
First time in Legislative Session in the books for local state representative
DEMING – As the freshman legislator for New Mexico’s 32nd district and a first-time office holder, Candie Sweetser (D-Deming) wrote down her core values on a piece of paper and brought it with her to Santa Fe. Back home after an historic and contentious session, Sweetser said that leaf of paper was more important than she realized.
Some of those reminders included:
• “Dignity for all people.”
• “Rights and responsibilities of individuals.”
• “An education system that fosters individuality and creative thinking.”
• “Government transparency.”
•“Service above self.”
In particular, one that Sweetser used to keep her district in mind while in Santa Fe was: “Stewardship — responsible management and use of resources.”
Last year, Sweetser, a managing partner of radio stations KDEM-FM and KOTS-AM, won the seat in the New Mexico house that had been held by Rep. Dona Irwin since 1999. Incoming legislators needed to learn the ropes amid a budget crisis.
“It was a baptism by fire,” Sweetser told the Headlight. “We were meeting well into the evening every single day from the beginning, to get a solvency bill by the end of the first week.”
A Democrat, Sweetser entered the House as part of the majority, but the work was not easy. The 2017 legislative session was marked by clashes with Governor Susana Martinez on taxation, budget cuts, and spending. The Governor’s line-item vetoes and rejection of the entire higher education budget led the Legislative Council to sue the Governor. Meanwhile, Governor Martinez has promised to call a special session to resume work on a budget for the next fiscal year.
Sweetser was the sole sponsor for two bills that made it to the Governor’s desk. One, HB 305, allows FDA inspections of New Mexico farms pertaining to food safety to be carried out by the state Department of Agriculture rather than federal inspectors. This bill was signed into law while the other was not. HB 512, which came to be known as the “Tiny House bill,” would have defined standards for the increasingly popular small dwellings, seen as an affordable and more sustainable housing option, and authorized assessors to review those properties.
This bill succumbed to the “pocket veto,” by which a bill expires without being signed into law or being expressly vetoed by the Governor. “This is a bill I worked hard on,” Sweetser recalls, “And it was pocket-vetoed with no message or complaint about it.”
Asked what lessons came as a surprise to her, Sweetser named three.
First, “the divide between rural and urban representatives is as great as the divide between parties. People want to blame partisan politics for everything that happens, but I found that everybody I worked with genuinely asks, ‘What is the best way to propel New Mexico forward?’ and everybody has a good, solid argument; but not everybody has the whole story. That’s my journalism background – I want to know the whole story.” The constant activity of lobbyists added to the challenge. “They are all salesmen, and they are really good.”
The politics of the veto provided another rough lesson. “[Governor Martinez’s] people were with us at every step of the process telling us things like, ‘She will veto that but go ahead and put it in to ease the package along.’ It was used as a negotiating tool.” Sweetser learned the hard way, however, that individual lawmakers bear political costs for going along to get along: “I went forward saying ‘this is how the process is done,’ but some of that is hard to justify when you go home.” She described driving back from Santa Fe after the session closed in March, “listening to the radio and hearing her belittling us, vetoing bills that had bipartisan support, sometimes with no explanation.”
Sweetser was also caught off-guard by the swift reaction when HB 45, known as the “Baby Brianna bill,” was tabled in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee in February. Sweetser was reported as having left the room before the vote and reaction on social media was immediate and unforgiving. “I was prepared to defend votes I took,” she said, “but I wasn’t expecting to defend my reasons for being out of the room. This was the harshest criticism I have received.” On a single evening, Sweetser said she spent three hours logged into Facebook responding to angry messages, explaining that she had been called away to present at another committee and arguing that her ‘yes’ vote would not have altered the outcome. “There was a kind of mob mentality. No matter what I wrote, it didn’t help.”
Although not every moment was enjoyable, Sweetser frequently came back to saying she felt excited and honored by the opportunity to serve. “It’s never as easy inside as it is when you’re outside looking in. You have to maintain the clarity of the campaign in the muck of the process, and not get distracted by the politics. That’s why I actually wrote down my core values before I went up there.”
(Deming) - Representative Candie Sweetser of Deming, recognized the emergence of the tiny house industry, with her bill to define and allow assessors to review tiny homes. HB 512 passed unanimously by a vote of 66-0. Tiny homes arrived on the scene in recent years as a creative way for people to live sustainably and own a home without the burden of unmanageable mortgage payments.
Sweetser said, “I think this is the beginning of giving tiny homes an avenue to move forward in New Mexico, This bill facilitates options for New Mexicans who are looking to live in tiny homes. ”
Tiny homes have expanded housing opportunities for young people and low income individuals, and have also been proposed to help address homelessness across the country. This bill will begin to address concerns of tiny house contractors and New Mexicans seeking to create a market for alternative housing options.
This bill has the potential to support a new industry in the state, creating new jobs in the process.
Sweeter represents Luna County and parts of Hidalgo and Grant Counties in the NM House of Representative.
Bill to Increase Funding Opportunities for New Mexico Agriculture Moves Forward
HB 289 Supports Entrepreneurial Endeavors that Add Value to Agricultural Products
Santa Fe, N.M. – House Bill 289 the Agriculture in Economic Development Finance Act passed unanimously through the House Business and Industry Committee by a unanimous vote. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces), Candie Sweetser (D-Deming), Debbie Rodella (D-Española) and Bill Gomez (D-Las Cruces) opens the statewide Economic Development Department funding to value-added agriculture. The bill originated from numerous meetings with constituents during the House Democrats’ Jobs Listening Tour before the legislative session.
“Value-added agriculture means more revenue for farmers and ranchers and new horizons for research and development. I’m proud to help lead this effort to increase economic opportunity,” said Rep. Small.
Rep. Sweetser said, “Agriculture plays a major role in my district’s economy, and this bill will allow our farmers and ranchers to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit and create new jobs in their industry.”
Value-added agricultural products are agricultural commodities transformed into products ready for sale, like salsas, jams, milled flour, cheese, etc. Value-added agriculture builds on New Mexico’s existing agricultural sector and seeks to expand the industry to create jobs and spur economic development.
“My district’s agricultural community already creates new products that highlight our unique culture,” said Rep. Rodella.“This bill will give our communities the resources to build on their industrious spirit and promote our heritage through business expansion.”
“The unanimous support for HB 289, shows that we have a bill that everyone can get behind,” said Rep. Gomez.“Making funds available for value-added agriculture will expand economic opportunity in rural areas, and support new businesses. I’m pleased that the agriculture industry will get credit for the $12 million it adds to our state’s economy and the ability to build on their success.”
The Agriculture in Economic Development Finance Act explicitly includes language that permits value-added agricultural businesses to access federal monies and loans administered by NMEDD. The bill now moves to the House Floor.
Bill Supporting Rural Entrepreneurs Passes House Committee
Santa Fe, N.M. – Today, House Bill 289 the Agriculture in Economic Development Finance Act passed the House Labor and Economic Development Committee in a 9-0 unanimous vote. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Candie Sweetser (D-Deming), Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces) and Bill Gomez (D-Las Cruces) amends the New Mexico Statewide Economic Development Department (NMEDD) to include value-added agricultural enterprises, providing small agricultural businesses in rural New Mexico with access to funding administered by NMEDD. The bill’s passage signals the prioritization of New Mexico’s agribusinesses as essential players in the state’s economic vitality.
“I am so pleased by the unanimous, bipartisan support that this bill received today in committee,” Representative Sweetser said. “Our state’s agricultural enterprises are a significant economic engine. It is vital that they receive the same economic opportunities for success as any other business in our state and we should facilitate rather than neglect that success.”
“Value-added agriculture creates jobs and expands opportunity for our communities,” stated Representative Small. “I am excited our legislation unanimously passed its first committee today. Our farmers, students and workers will benefit from this extra tool.”
The Agriculture in Economic Development Finance Act explicitly includes language that permits value added agricultural businesses to access federal monies and loans administered by NMEDD. The bill will be heard next in the House Business and Industry committee.