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CYFD: Repeat maltreatment in decline, but higher than average

New Mexico has 360 more repeat child maltreatment cases annually than the national average. The interim Legislative Finance Committee heard a presentation by New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department Acting Secretary Teresa Casados on the child protective services division within CYFD on Tuesday. The LFC and CYFD provided a report on repeat child maltreatment. New Mexico is higher than the national average. Casados said one goal of the department is to change that.

Legislative report: Homelessness on the rise in New Mexico

Preliminary estimates for 2023 show a “significant uptick” of about 48 percent in homelessness in New Mexico, suggesting an increased need for affordable housing around the state, according to a report. The interim Legislative Finance Committee met on Tuesday and heard housing experts Kathleen Gygi, program evaluator for the Legislative Finance Committee, Amy Whitfield, housing and homeless advisor for the Office of the Governor and Isidoro “Izzy” Hernandez, executive director and chief executive officer of New Mexico Mortgage Finance Committee, on a presentation about homelessness and affordable housing issues. The presenters provided a report for the committee that showed an overview of affordable housing and homelessness in the state. One problem Gygi highlighted is that incomes have not kept up with the cost of rent. Since 2017, rents and home values have grown by 70 percent while income in the state has grown by just 15 percent, Gygi said. Another problem is a lack of bed space for homeless individuals.

Senate passes $9.57 billion budget amid accusations of backroom shenanigans

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New

The state Senate passed a nearly $9.6 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year Sunday amid accusations the proposed budget was hijacked at the eleventh hour. 

Discussion on the proposed budget, which would increase spending by almost 14%, or more than $1 billion, also came with a warning from the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee: The level of spending is unsustainable. “New Mexico had better be prepared in our future for the plateauing of oil and gas, and that’s not too many years away,” said Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup. “We’ve increased our recurring expenses to the tune of about 30% over the last three years, and that’s pretty much an unsustainable number,” he said. The Senate voted 25-16 to approve House Bill 2, which heads back to the House for a concurrence vote. Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, joined all 15 Republican senators in voting against the proposed budget.

Senate passes Paid Family and Medical Leave bill

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.

Grant funding for rural healthcare facilities to expand or create new services passes Senate

The state Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would, if enacted, make grants available to rural healthcare facilities to expand or create new services by a vote of 28-to-8. SB 7, Rural Healthcare Delivery Fund, sponsored by state Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Los Cerrillos, aims to establish a grant program for rural healthcare services, operated by the New Mexico Department of Human Services. Healthcare facilities in 28 of the state’s 33 counties would be eligible. The grants would be for one and no more than five years of operation. The grant money would cover operating losses and the grantee would be required to provide verifiable claims and cost data, Stefanics said.

A bill to help expand rural healthcare services heads to Senate floor

A bill that provides grant funding to expand healthcare services in rural communities passed the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday on an 8-to-1 vote. SB 7, Rural Healthcare Delivery Fund, is sponsored by state Sen. Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics, D-Los Cerrillos. Stefanics said bill is to enable rural healthcare providers the ability to expand new services as a way to try to improve health care deserts in rural communities. The New Mexico Department of Human Services would administer the program and provide grants to healthcare facilities that want to expand care but cannot due to the costs associated with doing so. HSD Acting Secretary Kari Armijo said that while HSD would provide grants based on anticipated projected losses, the department would do a “back end reconciliation” to ensure that the department did not provide too large a grant.

Bill to protect children’s online privacy passes first committee

The Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee unanimously passed a bill that seeks to protect children’s privacy online. SB 319 endeavors to place safeguards into the online world that children venture through everyday. “The New Mexico Age Appropriate Design Code is a critical step in safeguarding our children’s online privacy that ensures they can navigate the digital world safely and appropriately,” bill sponsor Sen. George Muñoz said. “As a parent and a father I know firsthand knowledge of countless hours spent online by children whether school or entertainment. It’s a scary reality that our children are particularly vulnerable to privately see violations and other dangers when using online services. 

“That’s why the age appropriate design code is vital.

Paid Family and Medical Leave bill heads to Senate floor

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.

Legislature expected to consider Paid Family & Medical Leave bill in 2023

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.

New Mexico’s oil and gas revenues are breaking records and complicating budgets

Oil and gas revenues added more than $1.7 billion to New Mexico coffers in the first four months of the year — more than in any other four-month period in state history. A lot more. Records compiled by the New Mexico Tax and Revenue Department show that year-on-year, revenues from January through April more than doubled from $782 million in 2021 — itself a record year. (Records lag by two months to allow producers time to report their production numbers.) This money gusher comes from increasing production in New Mexico’s portion of the Permian Basin — currently the most productive oilfield on the planet — and skyrocketing oil and gas prices brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This story is by Capital & Main and is republished with permission.