Bill to preempt local government on labor decisions advances

A House panel wants the state government to be in charge of most labor decisions. The House Business and Employment Committee advanced a controversial bill that would take power away from local governments when it comes to scheduling employees and on requiring certain levels of benefits. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, advanced on an 11-2 vote, with only two Democrats voting against the legislation. Harper introduced a relatively major change since the last committee hearing; the new version of the legislation no longer included the portion of the bill that would have barred counties and municipalities from raising the minimum wage. Instead, the bill focused on other employment issues, including not allowing local governments to require private employers to provide paid sick leave or a minimum notice for setting employees’ schedules.

Background checks for medical marijuana workers heads to House floor.

A bill that would change background checks for medical cannabis providers and caretakers was approved by a House committee and will now head to the House floor. The House Business and Employment Committee voted in favor of HB 527, sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque by a 9 to 4 vote. Pacheco’s bill would allow the Department of Health to use a federal database to perform background checks on those who provide or deliver medical cannabis. The background checks would also apply to caretakers of medical cannabis patients. Pacheco said his intention is to protect the medical cannabis program from further scrutiny.

Bill to allow some employers to not hire tobacco users passes committee

A bill that would allow healthcare providers to decide whether or to not hire tobacco users passed a House committee without a recommendation on Thursday. The House Business and Employment Committee voted to pass the bill on a bipartisan 9 to 4 vote. HB 416, sponsored by House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R- Albuquerque, would exempt health care providers from an act that prohibits employers from hiring tobacco users. According to the Employee Privacy Act:

It is unlawful for an employer to:

(1)     refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise disadvantage any individual, with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because the individual is a smoker or nonsmoker, provided that the individual complies with applicable laws or policies regulating smoking on the premises of the employer during working hours; or

(2)     require as a condition of employment that any employee or applicant for employment abstain from smoking or using tobacco products during nonworking hours, provided the individual complies with applicable laws or policies regulating smoking on the premises of the employer during working hours.The bill, which has support from the business and medical industries, would allow some employers to not hire those who use tobacco products. Gentry said his concern is health care workers who deal with patients who may be suffering from conditions that would otherwise be exacerbated by the smell of smoke.