February 9, 2021

Paid Family and Medical Leave Act passes House committee

Laura Paskus

A bill that would create a state-administered fund to begin providing up to 12 weeks of paid family medical leave starting in 2024 passed the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee Monday.

HB 38, the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, received bipartisan support and passed with an amendment. State Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, cast a yes vote, along with all six of the Democrats in the committee.

Republican committee members expressed concern about the bill’s potential effects on the state’s small business owners.

State Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, R-Corrales, said she was concerned about the timing of the bill.

“We’re passing this along and it puts (small business owners) in a precarious position. We have legislation to give small businesses more money to get back in business but take it out on the other end. I have real issues with the way this is crafted and the timing,” Powdrell-Culbert said.

Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, who is the lead sponsor on the bill, said there is discussion about businesses of a certain size not having to contribute to the fund.

“That impacts how much money the fund accumulates over time. We’re trying to get to a magical number so some small businesses would not have to contribute to the fund but have enough so the fund is sustainable,” Chandler said.

Bill cosponsor Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, said “striking that balance is absolutely important for this bill.”

The bill would, if passed, establish a fund that employees and employers would contribute to beginning July 1, 2023. The employee contribution is five tenths of one percent per paycheck. The employer would contribute four tenths of one percent. For the self employed, they would pay both the employee and employer contribution, which would amount to nine tenths of one percent.

Related: A bill to establish paid family and medical leave will be filed in January

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions would oversee the state fund. That fund would enable employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for major medical issues, care for a family member with a significant medical issue or to welcome a new child.

The amendment cleaned up some technical language in the bill. The bill heads to the House Judiciary Committee next.