The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its federal monthly jobs report Friday. The report showed that the unemployment rate, the percentage of eligible workers filing for unemployment insurance, has remained steady since March 2022. The current federal unemployment rate is 3.4 percent compared to March 2022 when it was 3.7 percent. The report states that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 253,000 jobs in April. Employment trended upward in the professional and business services, health care, leisure and hospitality, and social assistance, the report states.
A House committee tabled a bill that would provide paid family and medical leave to workers statewide by a vote of 6-4 in the final week of the session, likely ending its ability to pass this Legislative session
The vote to table the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act was bipartisan, with some Democrats voting alongside Republicans to table the bill. SB 11, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, would have appropriated $36.5 million from the general fund to establish a program which would have allowed workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave from work for a new child or a serious medical condition. The opposition’s primary concern was that it would be too much of a burden on small business owners. There were also questions about the program’s ability to remain solvent. The bill’s Fiscal Impact Report states that the fund administered by the state would become insolvent by 2028.
The state Senate passed the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill that would enable employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off for health emergencies and certain other claims.
SB 11, sponsored primarily by Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, seeks to allow an employee to take paid time off for a major health issue, to care for a family member with a major health issue, to care for a new child and in the event of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault.
The bill passed the Senate on a 23 to 15 vote. The state Department of Workforce Solutions would administer the program. Employees would pay $5 for every $1,000 of income and employers with five or more employees would pay $4 for every $1,000 of income. When taking the paid leave, the employee who makes more than minimum wage would not receive their entire salary but a percentage of it. Stewart said this creates an incentive for the employee to get healthy and get back to work as quickly as possible.
A bill to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave passed the Senate Finance Committee by a 6 to 5 vote on Thursday. The committee held a larger hearing on Thursday to hear from members of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Task Force, which worked out the bill over the last year, before the committee heard the bill. SB 11, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, requests $36.5 million in nonrecurring funds from the general fund over the next two years. Stewart said that the program, once it is up and running by January 1, 2026, would begin paying back the state the money and it is expected to take six years. The program would, if enacted, provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off for an employee who has a new child, is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking or has a serious medical illness or to care for a family member with a serious medical illness.
The Paid Family and Medical Leave bill cleared its first committee hearing by a 6-2 party line vote. The bill, SB 11, would allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a serious medical condition, to care for a family member with a serious medical condition or to welcome a new child. The bill passed with several amendments that bill sponsor, state Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart. D-Albuquerque, brought to the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee at the start of the hearing. One amendment clarifies that an employer can’t pass a portion of their premium onto their employees, another makes sure an employee’s medical privacy is protected while providing the employer with necessary information about their leave and another amendment adds two representatives from labor organizations to a Department of Workforce Solutions’ advisory board during rulemaking and implementation of the act, Stewart said.
The Paid Family and Medical Leave bill seeks to provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off for employees who request it for a serious medical condition, caring for a family member with a serious medical condition or welcoming a new child. If the bill is enacted, it will be a state-run program and will be managed by the Department of Workforce Solutions. Both employees and some employers will contribute to a state-managed fund that will, in time, pay for itself and provide the funds necessary to pay workers a portion of their wages if they require paid time off for family or medical leave. The cost to employers would be about $4 for every $1,000 of wages while the cost for employees would be $5 for every $1,000 of wages. The formula for benefits is 100 percent of minimum wage plus 67 percent of wages above minimum wage, Tracy McDaniel, policy advocate for Southwest Women’s Law Center, said.
A bill likely to come before the New Mexico Legislature next session will be another run at passing a state-run Paid Family and Medical Leave program into law but in 2023, the program will have some concessions to businesses as well as new expansions. Tracy McDaniel, policy advocate for Southwest Women’s Law Center, said a bill is expected to be introduced in the 2023 legislative session. A Paid Family and Medical Leave bill failed in the 2020 and 2021 Legislatures. The 2022 Legislature passed a Senate Memorial to create a task force that would deliver a report on the issue and arrive at some compromises with the business community. A Paid Family and Medical Leave bill would provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off for employees who request it for a serious medical condition, caring for a family member with a serious medical condition or welcoming a new child.
A poll taken this fall shows that New Mexican voters are in favor of a state-supported paid family and medical leave program. A group of Democratic representatives, led by state Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos, have sponsored a bill to establish such a program in the last few legislative sessions but the bills failed to make it through. The bill would have established a fund that both employers and employees pay into that could then be tapped for up to 12 weeks in the event of certain exigencies, such as a new child’s arrival. Related: Paid Family and Medical Leave bill clears House Judiciary Committee
The poll found that 77 percent of New Mexico voters support a state-supported paid family and medical leave insurance program. The number of supporters increased to 81 percent when the voters were told that such a plan would cost workers $2 to $6 per week, according to the poll results.
A bill to create paid family and medical leave for all employees in the state is slated to be filed in January. The bill would allow employees to take up to 12 weeks per year of paid leave for a serious medical issue, bringing home a new child or to care for a family member with a serious medical issue. The effort is not new. State Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Las Alamos, sponsored similar bills in 2019 and 2020 and will be the lead sponsor on the upcoming 2021 bill. HB 16 never went to committee in 2020.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during an online press conference on Thursday that the state is in “an extreme crisis” for the respiratory illness that has claimed the lives of over 235,000 nationwide and 1,082 in the state. And she said it is already too late to “prevent the pain that is coming to our first responders and our health care workers,” later this month. During Lujan Grisham’s press conference, state Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase likened the situation to what happened in Italy in March, when the hospital system in that country was so overwhelmed, hospital workers had to limit care. “We’re preparing institutions for an Italy-like situation over the next couple of weeks,” Scrase said. Lujan Grisham did not declare any new public health orders limiting travel or businesses, saying she wanted more time to look at the data.