Paid Family Medical Leave bill dies in the final days of the session for a second year in a row

A bill that would have provided paid leave for several weeks died on the House floor when 11 Democrats sided with Republicans to vote against it on Wednesday.  SB 3, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, would have provided up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and, for a few years, up […]

Paid Family Medical Leave bill dies in the final days of the session for a second year in a row

A bill that would have provided paid leave for several weeks died on the House floor when 11 Democrats sided with Republicans to vote against it on Wednesday. 

SB 3, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, would have provided up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and, for a few years, up to nine weeks of paid medical and safe leave.

This is the second time the bill died during its path through the House. Last year, another version of the bill died in the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee when a few Democrats sided with Republicans to vote against it.

In the run up to the legislature, supporters of the bill held listening sessions around the state. The bill sponsors said they listened to some of the opposition to the bill and amended the bill during the committee process to address some of those concerns. 

The three-hour debate in the House mostly turned around an effort to amend the bill to alleviate continued concern that organizations that provide personal care services and which receive fixed Medicaid reimbursement rates should be exempted from the bill, as well as early childcare providers who contract with the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department. State Rep. Meredith Dixon, D-Albuquerque, brought that amendment. 

Chandler said it was a friendly amendment, but the debate lasted for more than two hours, mostly from Democrats. Some expressed concern that the exemption was limited to just those industries. State Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, asked what would be the dollar amount missing from the fund until 2029 when those exempted would begin to participate in the fund financially.

Dixon said that for the early childcare providers contracting with ECECD, it would be about $2.4 million but she hadn’t had time to run other numbers. 

Questions around the fund’s solvency have plagued the bill. The state budget contains an appropriation for $36 million to start the program. The fund would have paid back the state in $6 million increments yearly until 2032, according to the bill sponsors.

Recategorizing the paid leave into two sections so that employees requiring paid leave for significant medical conditions or safe leave for domestic or sexual violence would be able to take up to nine weeks until 2029 was one of the earlier amendments the bill sponsors made as a concession to some in the business community that have opposed the bill and questioned the fund’s ability to remain solvent.

Many of the 11 Democrats who sided with Republicans to vote against the proposed amendment did so a second time to vote against the bill.

Besides Lundstrom and Matthews, the other nine Democrats who voted against the amendment were Anthony Allison of Fruitland, Ambrose Castellano of Las Vegas, Art De La Cruz of Albuquerque, Harry Garcia of Grants, Tara Jaramillo of Socorro, Wonda Johnson of Rehoboth, Raymundo Lara of Chamberino, Willie Madrid of Chaparral and Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde.

One of those 11 Democrats who voted against the amendment, only one, De La Cruz, voted for the bill. But state Rep. Cynthia Borrego, a Democrat from Albuquerque, who voted for the amendment, voted against the bill.

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