Six New Economic Base Jobs Created in Cibola County by Soloworks

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SoloWorks is a new economic development program being rolled out by Cibola Communities Economic Development Foundation

GRANTS, NEW MEXICO February 21, 2017 – Cibola Communities Economic Development Foundation (CCEDF) and the SoloWorks Consortium announce the creation of six new economic base jobs with more to come. This is the equivalent of 140 new economic base jobs in Bernalillo County.

“After running this program for 3 months, I believe it is the fastest, most economical and sustainable way of creating economic base jobs which is why five of my colleagues are lining up to put the program in their communities,” says Eileen Yarborough, President of CCEDF.

The first six placements are employed with three separate companies and are drawing paychecks. Five more are in the process of being placed and four are finishing training and will begin the placement process this coming week.

Shawna Austin, among the first to be placed, says “Soloworks is a life-saver. Outside of this program, there was virtually no chance of being able to find employment in Grants. I can provide for my family and contribute to the state economic base to boot.”

Applications are being accepted for the next round of classes starting in March and April. The SoloWorks Center is in the Joseph Fidel Center of NMSU Grants Branch Campus. Space is limited to ten candidates per class and are on a first come first serve basis.

This is the first program of its kind and demonstrates how a small community can create new economic base jobs by recruiting, training, placing and advancing local residents for quality jobs that can be performed remotely – from a home or the SoloWorks Center.

The program has three moving pieces: DigitalWorks training and placement program, FatPipe ABQ’s solopreneurship program, and Circles USA’s program for moving poor and hard to employ residents into the mainstream workforce. The program admits 5-10 candidates per month, puts them through rigorous screening, testing, and basic training process which takes 30 days to complete. They are then placed in employment with one of the 65+ employers who have current demand for remote workers in a full spectrum of W2 and 1099 jobs.

The SoloWorks program is the brainchild of a consortium of service providers based in New Mexico and Ohio. It has been championed by the NM Legislative Jobs Council and the select group of economic development professionals.

Senate President Pro Tem and Jobs Council Co-Chair, Mary Kay Papen says, “It’s gratifying to see some actual jobs get created. Solowork has been a Jobs Council priority for 4 years. We think this is a terrific program and Eileen Yarborough and her community should be congratulated for pioneering it. This is exactly what New Mexico needs to be doing!”

The program received rollout funding from Cibola Communities EDF, USDA, NM Finance Authority, NMEDD’s LEADS program and the NW New Mexico Council of Governments. With current funding, the program is scaled to create 10-20 new economic base jobs in the next few months. A permanent funding source is being sought for continued program operation and to establish programs in other communities across the state.

Harry Garcia, House Representative for Cibola County voiced the need for continuation, saying “I’d like to thank the Jobs Council and the state Economic Development Department for helping to launch this program.  It is vital to the economic survival of many of our rural communities and we now need to find a permanent funding source to keep it going.”

Five more New Mexico communities are engaged in various stages of planning for their own SoloWorks Centers. The SoloWorks Consortium is comprised of four independent organizations:

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If you are interested in details about bringing SoloWorks to your community, please contact Paul Hamrick at or 505-340-9861

If you are interested in applying to the program to become employed, please contact Bernadette Marquez at or 505-287-6670.

If you are a member of the press looking for more details on the program, please contact Mark Lautman at or 505-818-8218.

On Presidents Day, Senate Passes Legislation to Bring More Fairness to Way President Is Elected & Recognize National Popular Vote

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On Presidents Day, Senate Passes Legislation to Bring More Fairness to Way President Is Elected & Recognize National Popular Vote

Santa Fe, NM — Senator Mimi Stewart passed Senate Bill 42 which would allocate New Mexico’s Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Under the current system, New Mexico is overlooked by presidential candidates because it is not seen to be a “battleground” or “swing state.”

Enacting the legislation would join New Mexico in an agreement with the group of states that make up The National Popular Vote Compact and who would allocate their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. The compact will go into effect when the states who have signed on to reach 270 electoral votes – the amount of electoral votes needed to elect the president. To date, 10 states and DC have passed legislation needed to enter the compact for a combined total of 165 electoral votes.

“The current system of electing the President of the United States leads to the voices of New Mexico voters being overlooked and ignored,” said Senator Mimi Stewart. “Too many New Mexicans feel like they have been left out of the process in deciding who will serve as our nation’s leader. By doing our part to move towards a national popular vote we can begin the process of regaining the voters’ trust in our elections and ensure their voices are equal to every voter across the country.”

The legislation now continues to the House of Representatives where it will be heard in committee before it is considered by the entire chamber. During her tenure in the House of Representatives, Senator Stewart previously passed legislation to enter New Mexico into the National Popular Vote Compact through the House of Representatives.

Senate Passes Bills to Create Jobs Through Expanded Broadband Access

Broadband State

Senate Passes Bills to Create Jobs Through Expanded Broadband Access

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Senate overwhelmingly approved two measures aimed at creating jobs and opportunities through increased broadband access and increased internet speed across the state.

Currently, New Mexico internet connection speed ranks 48th in the nation and is similar to the average connection speed of Iraq and Molodova. According to  Federal Communication Commission study, even a 7% increase in broadband adoption could create an estimated 15,000 jobs to New Mexico.

Senate Bill 24 sponsored by Senator Michael Padilla, which passed the Senate by a vote of 37-2, would streamline current statute to facilitate local government investment in broadband infrastructure.

“As long as internet speed across New Mexico trail the rest of the nation, we will continue to miss out on high-paying jobs for our state,” said Senator Michael Padilla.  “Helping local governments provide their communities with the connectivity needed to compete must continue to be a priority.”

Senate Bill 338 sponsored by Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto and Representative Jim Smith, which passed the Senate by a vote of 32-1, would create a statewide broadband network and make it more attractive for providers to invest in broadband infrastructure by combining demand for internet access among public and educational institutions. Lack of demand is the biggest inhibitor to broadband investment in underserved and rural communities across New Mexico.

“Today’s bipartisan passage signals an understanding that broadband access is a critical component to New Mexico’s economic success,” said Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto. “By creating a blueprint for how we can connect every New Mexican to high-speed internet we will be making a huge investment in our future.”

“Investing in our state’s broadband infrastructure is an important step toward ensuring our state’s economic recovery,” said Representative Jim Smith. “Taking these simple steps will help attract investment to underserved communities.”

Both Senate Bill 24 and Senate Bill 338 will now be considered by the House of Representatives.

On Senate Floor, Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith Lays out Fiscal Challenges Facing Legislature

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On Senate Floor, Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith Lays out Fiscal Challenges Facing Legislature

Santa Fe, NM – Today, Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith spoke on the Senate floor about the serious fiscal challenges facing the Legislature as it begins to tackle the FY18 Budget. Budget forecasts estimate that nearly 300 million new dollars will be needed in order to address the next fiscal year’s shortfall and establish a responsible level of reserves.

Senator Smith’s remarks, as transcribed, are below:  

We believe that there will be a new revenue forecast on Wednesday, and hopefully, we will receive House Bill 2 (Budget) by the middle of next week.

I want to remind people that under the present revenues that we have, and if they do not change, we will need somewhere around 200-250 million new dollars to build reserves and plug some holes in the budget. We have a vacancy rate with corrections officers in the 32-35% range; we have a court system that we wrestled with for solvency in ’17, and which will face the same problem in ’18, and we have a Cultural Affairs division that is limping along and wondering if they are going to be able to complete the year in the present situation without a supplemental infusion.

You need to wrap your heads around it. We need $200-$250 million just to build any reserves. The ’18 budget is virtually flat from ’17. We still have a huge, serious problem. And we have not addressed the Medicaid issue.

We really don’t know the extent of the downturn of with our revenues. We are hoping the new forecast numbers will reflect a leveling out. But it probably will not reflect an increase.

We have serious issues that need to be taken care of in next 32 days.

We still have to address the universities; we still have to deal with public education that’s already reflecting the pain. As a result, hopefully, we can pull together and find some solutions working with the executive branch to do what is responsible, and still preserve our bond rating which is in deep trouble right now.

Bill to Create State Broadband Network Makes its Way to Senate Floor

Broadband 338

Bill to Create State Broadband Network Makes its Way to Senate Floor

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Senate Corporations Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 338 by Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Bernalillo) and Representative Jim Smith (R-Bernalillo, Sandoval and Santa Fe) which would increase access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet throughout New Mexico. The legislation, which will now be considered by the entire Senate, would create a statewide broadband network and make it more attractive for providers to invest in broadband infrastructure by combining demand for internet access among public and education institutions.

During the hearing, members of the committee recognized the necessary role that broadband infrastructure plays in attracting new businesses to New Mexico and the necessity of connecting small businesses to online marketplaces. A Legislative Interim Jobs Council survey found broadband access to be the second biggest concern for New Mexico businesses.

“Bringing necessary broadband to every community and increasing internet speeds is a necessary component of ensuring a successful economic future for our state,” said Senator Ivey-Soto. “We must break down barriers and connect every family and business in New Mexico.”

“Access to high-speed broadband is a necessary tool to prepare young New Mexicans for the high-paying jobs of the 21st century,” said Representative Smith. “This is a practical approach to addressing the connectivity needs of communities and businesses across the state.”

Lack of demand is currently the biggest inhibitor to broadband investment in underserved and rural communities across New Mexico.  There is extensive evidence among states that have consolidated demand among public institutions that the approach taken by Sente Bill 338 would lower costs, increase access, and accelerate speeds to underserved regions across the state.

Bill to Create Jobs By Expanding Broadband Access Passes First Committee Unanimously

Bill to Create Jobs By Expanding Broadband Access Passes First Committee Unanimously

Today, Senator Michael Padilla’s Senate Bill 143, the New Mexico Infrastructure Act, passed unanimously out of the Senate Corporations Committee. The legislation will help connect New Mexicans to fast, reliable and affordable broadband access by allowing state and local governments to join in partnerships with private companies to deliver broadband connectivity. The bill also includes authority for public-private partnerships to accomplish energy efficiency retrofitting of public buildings.

By expanding broadband access this legislation will help attract new businesses, investment, and high-wage employers to New Mexico and connect small business to online marketplaces. Additionally, the projects stimulated by new public-private partnerships will lead to jobs related to the installation and maintenance of necessary infrastructure.

“Access to high-speed broadband is a necessary tool for our community’s economic growth,” said Senator Padilla. “New Mexico suffers from the worst unemployment in the nation, so it is more critical than ever that we find creative ways to expand jobs.  Broadband access will allow rural and urban communities across the state to grow small, local businesses, while also being a viable option for businesses who want to come to New Mexico but are worried about sufficient internet connection.”

During the interim, Senator Padilla chaired a meeting of the Science, Technology, and Telecommunications Committee focused on expanding broadband in New Mexico. At the hearing, Senator Padilla heard from stakeholders about the need to find innovative ways to deliver connectivity to all New Mexicans including the 68% of New Mexicans living in rural and tribal communities that currently lack access to broadband. Senate Bill 143 will now go to Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Padilla continued, “There isn’t a moment to lose on something as critical as ensuring every New Mexican has access to a job. This bill will continue to quickly make its way through the Senate and then I hope my colleagues in the House and the Governor do the right thing by passing and then signing this legislation.”

Last week, increasing access to broadband was outlined by Senate and House Democrats as a priority job creation and economic development effort for this legislative session. Senate Bill 143 would be the first time New Mexico would invest in these types of projects to create jobs.

Car Theft Bill Should Help Police by Sen. Howie Morales

Car Theft Bill Should Help Police

By Senator Howie Morales, Democrat – Silver City

January 29th, 2017 Albuquerque Journal

More New Mexicans are becoming victims of auto theft every day, especially in Albuquerque, and it is a deeply unsettling and disruptive experience. But, now, it is even taking lives.

A wonderful 14-year-old, Shaylee Boling, was tragically killed in Albuquerque earlier this month when police say ruthless car thieves crashed their stolen auto into the vehicle in which Shaylee was riding with her mother and 3-year-old brother, who were severely injured.

It is an intolerable trend that shows no signs of slowing. Elected officials and law enforcement must not wait to take strong action to combat car theft.

Albuquerque now has the highest rate of auto theft in the entire United States, according to the most recent report by U.S. New & World Report. No. 1 for car theft in the country.

Over 8,500 vehicles were reported stolen across our state in 2015 and 6,000 occurred in Albuquerque alone.

How much havoc does having your car stolen cause? Families depend on their cars to get to school and work, to travel to medical care and treatment, and to go about their normal daily lives.

People are faced with enormous burdens when they suddenly lose their vehicles to theft. The time lost, and the financial and psychological burdens of this rampant crime on the people of our state is inestimable.

A bipartisan group of legislators, including Rep. Monica Youngblood, Rep. Patrico Ruilobo and Rep. Bill Rehm, all of Bernalillo County, have joined together to push for a law to create important new tools that will help law enforcement to substantially reduce auto theft in New Mexico.

We recently introduced the legislation at the State Capitol alongside State Police Chief Pete Kassetas, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales and detective Ken Miller of the Albuquerque Police Department.

Many car thieves try to sell their stolen cars to auto recyclers to get cash. Senate Bill 139 and its companion, House Bill 177, will help stem the tide of auto theft across the state by partnering with automotive recyclers to help catch the criminals engaging in it.

It creates a system for auto recyclers to verify with the state Motor Vehicle Department, at the time of transaction, that the vehicle being considered for purchase is not, in fact, stolen.

The bills will strengthen law enforcement’s ability to gather and share information about potentially stolen vehicles.

Our legislation also will aid investigations into and recovery of stolen vehicles.

Preventing and reducing auto theft by exposing criminals and strengthening penalties is critical. The high risk of being identified at the point of sale, in addition to the profits vs. penalty ratio, will swiftly deter many of these criminals.

We know that it will work. Similar recent programs in other states have provided swift and significant results.

In North Carolina, the Division of Motor Vehicles’ License and Theft Bureau received 41 reports of stolen vehicles in the system’s first month of implementation. As a result, 22 of those stolen vehicles were stopped from being sold to salvage yards and 19 were confiscated following sales. The Bureau also recovered 33 vehicles.

Enacting car theft legislation will be a victory for New Mexico, and especially the residents of Bernalillo County who have been hard hit by vehicle theft.

When we consider the scope of the problem in New Mexico and the terrible consequences car theft carries, we cannot afford to wait.

New Mexico ranks poorly out of 50 states in so many important categories, such as unemployment, job growth, student achievement, child poverty and child well-being. Rolling back our current status as worst for car theft is one area we can, and must, begin to improve substantially, even in this year’s meeting of the Legislature.

Car theft bill should help police

New Mexico’s Behavioral Health Crisis Demands Solutions

New Mexico’s Behavioral Health Crisis Demands Solutions

By Senator Mary Kay Papen

Jan. 28, 2017  The Las Cruces Sun News

A terrible tragedy that affects thousands of vulnerable children and adults in need of often life-saving mental health and substance abuse treatment continues to play out in slow motion in New Mexico. Crucial health services for residents now are withering away as the fourth of only five behavioral providers in our state, Valle del Sol of Arizona, announced last month that it will leave New Mexico. For those who are on the receiving end, it is intolerable.

This dire situation for people began, it may be recalled, three and a half years ago when Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration leveled charges of overbilling and fraud against the state’s then-15 long-standing treatment providers. Even though the Attorney General’s Office subsequently cleared all of them of the allegations, the state has never returned more than $11 million in payments owed to the providers from that time. As a result, most of the providers went out of business and treatment access across the state was disrupted or taken away altogether.

The provision of behavioral health services in New Mexico has never recovered. The companies from Arizona brought in to replace pre-2013 providers now all have left, except for one.

In the current legislative session, I will try at least to ensure that this situation, created by groundless allegations, never occurs again. My due process legislation will guarantee that providers who stand accused of fraud by the state receive the opportunity to review the allegations made against them, and the chance to respond to those allegations in a hearing, and in district court. That opportunity did not exist by law in 2013.

That is fine for the future. But what about today? Many questions linger.

At a hearing of the Legislative Finance Committee recently, state Human Services Department Secretary Brent Earnest stated that the $11 million owed to providers for services rendered had been kept in a non-interest bearing account by OptumHealth, the state’s contractor overseeing payments to providers from 2009 to 2013. Despite a lawsuit to have those funds paid out to the providers, the state has now placed them in a court registry, where they sit idle.

Ten of New Mexico’s former providers are accusing OptumHealth in a lawsuit that it fabricated the fraud allegations in order to keep the $11 million. A federal court will decide if that is true. But it is worth noting that OptumHealth on another occasion was fined by the state $1 million for failing to pay providers for their services. It is all very concerning.

How many people with mental health disorders are going without treatment for their conditions today because of the disruption of services caused by the 2013 takeover? We don’t know, but you can bet it’s a lot.

We are going into the fifth year of this mental health and substance abuse services crisis, and still there is no interest from the governor’s office to solve it. New Mexico needs direct answers to get to the bottom of this mess. Most importantly, we need to get the state’s behavioral health system back on its feet, delivering treatment to vulnerable children and adults. Much more leadership from the executive would help make it so.

Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, represents District 38 in the New Mexico Senate, where she is president pro tem.


Legislation Aimed At Creating Jobs Through Industrial Hemp Research Passes Second Committee

Legislation Aimed At Creating Jobs Through Industrial Hemp Research Passes Second Committee

Priority Jobs Creation & Economic Development Proposal Passes Senate Judiciary

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 6, the Industrial Hemp Research Act, sponsored by Senator Cisco McSorley. The legislation lays the foundation for the production of industrial hemp which would stimulate both the agricultural and manufacturing industries.

“Opening up our markets to industrial hemp production is a no-brainer,” said Senator McSorley. “Few places have the competitive advantage that New Mexico does when it comes to producing this low water cash crop that has the potential to create jobs while opening our doors to the manufacturing and agricultural renaissance our state has long been waiting for.”

The legislation, which passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support during the 2015 legislative session but was vetoed by Governor Martinez, would authorize the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to adopt rules for research on industrial hemp. To date, at least 30 other states who have begun operating under provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill which allows universities and state departments of agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp. 

Senate Bill 6 previously passed unanimously through the Senate Conservation Committee. Last week, industrial hemp production was outlined by Senate and House Democrats as a priority job creation and economic development effort for this legislative session. 

Senate Votes to Appropriate Funds to Ensure Courts Can Meet Constitutional Obligations

Senate Votes to Appropriate Funds to Ensure Courts Can Meet Constitutional Obligations

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Senate voted to appropriate funding needed to prevent judicial court closures and to ensure that New Mexico court system can meet its constitutional obligations.

The appropriation helps alleviate the financial strains felt by the state’s judicial system by appropriating money essential for the operation of the New Mexico Supreme Court, Second Judicial District Court, and the Twelfth Judicial District Court. Already the Second Judicial District Court, the state’s largest district, has implemented abbreviated services because of the financial crisis.

“The justice system that New Mexico families rely on to keep them safe and ensure their rights are respected is failing because of inadequate funding,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard Martinez. “Today’s bipartisan passage makes important strides towards ensuring that the wheels of justice can continue to turn in a way that guarantees every New Mexican is afforded the rights they are entitled to.”

The vote follows State Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels’ call to the legislature to answer the “constitutional crisis” facing the state court system. Chief Justice Daniels applauded the Senate passage.

“The Judiciary greatly appreciates the Senate’s bipartisan support in moving quickly to address the critical needs of the state courts, provide funding necessary for jury trials, and keep the doors of the Supreme Court open,” said Chief Justice Daniels. “This is a good first step. We look forward to continuing to work with the House and Senate to ensure there are adequate resources for a functioning justice system in New Mexico.”