The House voted 41 to 26 to agree with Senate changes to the paid sick leave bill on the final morning of the Legislature on Saturday.
HB 20, whose lead sponsor was Rep. Christine Chandler, a Democrat from Los Alamos, would mandate that all private employers provide up to 64 hours of paid sick leave per year for employees. Private sector employees would accrue one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to sign the bill. Getting HB 20 to final passage was called “one of the most difficult lifts this session,” by Rep. Susan Herrara, D-Embudo. The debate around HB 20, mostly entailed concerns about the business community’s, particularly small businesses, ability to absorb the cost.
The state Senate passed the Healthy Workplaces bill 25 to 16 after a lengthy debate that stretched into the early hours of Friday during which Democrats sparred against each other on the chamber floor over the treatment of the bill’s sponsor, while Republicans railed against the bill and one even held a lengthy filibuster. HB 20 would mandate that all private sector employers provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Private sector employees could accrue up to 64 hours a year of paid sick leave. The bill would not go into effect until July 1, 2022. Advocates had pushed for mandated paid sick leave for years, including at the local level in Albuquerque.
The New Mexico Civil Rights bill passed the state Senate 26 to 15 but with only three-and-a-half days until the end of the legislative session, the bill must return to the House floor for concurrence because the Senate amended the bill. Update: On Wednesday afternoon, the House concurred with the Senate changes on a 41-26 vote and sent it to the governor’s desk. This story continues as originally written below. HB 4 would end qualified immunity as a defense in state civil courts and allows individuals whose civil rights have been violated to bring a case for remedy in state court. State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who is the lead sponsor for the bill in the Senate, amended the bill to make attorney’s fees subject to judicial review and added that a claimant suing law enforcement must notify the police of the lawsuit within one year after an alleged event occurs.
After a lengthy debate around some of the language and regulatory details of the Healthy Workplaces bill, the Senate Judiciary passed the paid sick leave proposal on a 5 to 4 vote. HB 20 would enable all private employees to accrue up to 64 hours of paid sick leave per year with an effective date of July 1, 2022. Earlier this week, the day before it was expected to be heard on the Senate floor, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, pulled the bill and asked that it be assigned to his Senate Judiciary Committee for an amendment. Cervantes said he wanted to strike a section of the bill that stated its purpose, which the committee did so through an amendment. Republicans also added an amendment.
Three bills passed the state Senate Sunday night that will, if they become law, advance equity for the LGBTQ community and people of color. SB 213, called the panic defense bill, passed by a vote of 41 to 0 with no debate. Sponsored by state Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, the bill would prevent someone who commits a violent crime from using the victim’s sexual orientation, gender expression or identity as a legal defense in court. State Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Los Cerrillos, who is a co-sponsor on the bill, said she knew a man in the 1980s who was violently murdered because of his sexual orientation. The man who perpetrated the crime used the panic defense, Stefanics said.
A bill to protect people in school or the workplace from discrimination based on their hair or hairstyles passed 37 to 0 in the Senate Thursday. SB 80 would amend the New Mexico Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination based on cultural or religious headdresses and protective hairstyles and would prevent school districts and charter schools from disciplining children based on their hair, hairstyle or cultural or religious headdresses. Sponsored by state Sen. Harold Pope Jr., D-Albuquerque, who talked about discrimination he faced as a child because of his hair, the bill received virtually no debate on the Senate floor. Pope is the first Black state Senator in New Mexico history. State Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said he supported the bill but asked if a school coach or referee would be able to address safety issues if the bill passed.
A bill that would end qualified immunity as a defense for claims under the state’s Civil Rights Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday night with a tie-breaking vote from the chairman of the committee. Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, broke the tie on HB 4, the New Mexico Civil Rights bill, when he voted in favor. All three Republicans on the committee voted against the bill, as did Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, who said after the vote that he supports the aims of the bill but has concerns with the fact that the bill nearly aligns with the federal civil rights law “and yet there are differences.”
“I think we need to listen to some of the concerns of people who’ve tried to offer constructive commentary about the bill,” Ivey-Soto said. Testimony from the opposition came largely from county officials who continued to argue that counties will not be able to qualify for liability insurance. The bill allows lawsuits to be brought against a governmental agency if a plaintiff’s constitutional rights, as defined by the New Mexico bill of rights, has been violated.
A bill that backers have said would lower insurance premiums and provide subsidies to help individuals and small businesses with health care cost passed the House 43 to 25 Monday. HB 122, sponsored by House Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, will place a surtax on insurance companies if it passes. The tax would begin in January 2022 but the benefit would begin in January 2023, Armstrong said. The tax would create a health care affordability fund to reduce health care premiums for New Mexico residents who receive insurance through the New Mexico Health Care Exchange.
Armstrong said it would also help small businesses that offer health insurance because an employee with a high-cost health problem, such as cancer, could raise the premiums for the rest of the employees. But the state would be able to offer a program to small businesses that would cover the high cost of that one employee.
A bill that would amend the New Mexico Human Rights Act to include public agencies passed the House 52 to 14. HB 192, sponsored by Rep. Brittany Barreras, D-Albuquerque, had a quick debate during the Saturday House floor session. The bill would amend the state’s Human Rights Act to clarify that public bodies and state agencies are subject to its provisions prohibiting discrimination because of race, age, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, childbirth, physical or mental disability, serious medical condition or spousal affiliation. The bill would also modernize the language for individuals with disabilities in the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, Barreras said. Rep. Randall Crowder, R-Clovis, asked about potential additional costs to the state if the bill passes.
During a press conference on Friday, two New Mexico doctors urged the state senate and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to support the Healthy Workplaces bill during a press conference on Friday. HB 20 passed the House 36 to 33 after a three-hour debate on Sunday. Republicans, all of whom voted against it, largely argued the bill would hurt small businesses in New Mexico. Eight Democrats also voted against the bill. Related: Bill to mandate paid sick leave passes House
If passed and signed into law, HB 20 would allow all private employees working in the state to earn up to eight days of paid sick leave per year.