A memorial that is part of a longer strategy to introduce a bill in next year’s legislature for paid family and medical leave passed 7-2 largely along party lines in the House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
House Memorial 3, sponsored by state House Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, asks for a $160,000 appropriation to establish a task force comprised of 16 stakeholders to study the effects of paid family and medical leave in the state. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions would oversee the task force.
If a paid family medical leave bill is introduced and passed and signed in 2023, the implementation of the law would fall under the Department of Workforce Solutions, Tracy McDaniel, policy advocate for Southwest Women’s Law Center, told NM Political Report.
Creating paid family medical leave in the state is an equity issue because women of color often live in multi-generational households, she said.
“They’re caregiving for elders and children. What we see in COVID-19, it’s been called a ‘shecession’ because they’re not able to return to the workforce because of the responsibilities of caregiving. This creates an opportunity to engage staffing,” McDaniel said.
As of October 2021, there were 2.4 million fewer women in the workforce than at the pandemic began and 1.3 million of them are mothers, McDaniel said.
“Parents are struggling and the pandemic has shown they need better support,” she said.
Nine other states, plus the District of Columbia have enacted a paid family medical leave, McDaniel said.
If it is implemented, both employees and employers would pay a small state tax that would provide for a time when, if an employee needed time off for a singular event, such as a new child or a major medical event or surgery for the employee or a family member, then the employee would be eligible to take up 12 weeks off. The Department of Workforce Solutions would then provide the employee with their salary. The employer could use the employee’s salary to hire a temporary worker, pay overtime for other employees who have to carry a larger workload or reinvest in their business, McDaniel said.
Rep. Kay Bounkeua, D-Albuquerque, said the bill is important because so many women have to care for family members.
But the memorial garnered some opposition from representatives of a few chambers of commerce who spoke during the public comment session. Republicans on the committee expressed concern about small businesses and a “one size fits all” governmental approach to the issue.
But, state House Rep. Brian Baca, a Republican who represents Los Lunas, voted in favor of the bill. He said he did so because the memorial aims to study the impact of a paid family medical leave but will not implement it.
If the memorial passes and is signed by the governor, the task force will produce a report by October 1, 2022 for the governor’s office. State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring an identical bill in the state Senate. The House version of the memorial will go to the full House next.