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.
A bill to eliminate co-pays and cost sharing for sexually transmitted infection testing, treatment and prevention cleared the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee by a 5-2 vote on Friday. SB 132, STI Prevention and Treatment, will, if enacted, help to stem the increased rates of sexually transmitted disease, Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart said. Stewart, a Democrat from Albuquerque, sponsored the bill and said the rates of STI have increased both in New Mexico and nationally since 2020. Kayla Herring, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Rocky Mountains, said “treatment is prevention because it is passed through sexual contact.”
“It increases the likelihood a patient will seek STI testing so they won’t have the fear that if they are positive, they will then have to make a large payment for medication. We need to reduce the rates of STI’s in New Mexico and we believe this will do it,” Herring, who acted as an expert witness, 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 group of legislators, advocates and individuals celebrated the start of New Mexico’s Paid Sick Leave law, which officially starts Friday. The Paid Sick Leave bill passed after a bitter fight between Democrats in the state Senate in the final hours before the legislature ended. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill. State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said the sponsors of the bill agreed to let the bill go into effect on July 1, 2022 instead of July 1, 2021 as a compromise with New Mexico businesses who said they could not afford to provide paid sick leave, particularly after being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stewart said there was an attempt to weaken the law before the start of the 2022 legislature but no bill was ever introduced.
The Voting Rights Provisions bill, which would expand voting rights and access in New Mexico, passed the Senate Rules Committee hearing by party line vote of 7-4 Monday morning after a contentious, nearly nine hour hearing on Friday. SB 8, sponsored by Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, would expand voting rights in a number of ways, including improving voting access for Native Americans and allowing formerly incarcerated individuals to vote upon release from prison. Currently, formerly incarcerated individuals can register to vote after they complete parole or probation but many face hurdles even after eligibility. Related: Advocates hopeful voting rights legislation will help break down barriers for the formerly incarcerated
The bill would also make voter registration automatic when an individual registers for a license with the New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles. Anyone who would not wish to be registered could opt out, election officials have said.
A memorial that is part of a longer strategy to introduce a bill in next year’s legislature for paid family and medical leave passed 7-2 largely along party lines in the House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. House Memorial 3, sponsored by state House Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, asks for a $160,000 appropriation to establish a task force comprised of 16 stakeholders to study the effects of paid family and medical leave in the state. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions would oversee the task force. If a paid family medical leave bill is introduced and passed and signed in 2023, the implementation of the law would fall under the Department of Workforce Solutions, Tracy McDaniel, policy advocate for Southwest Women’s Law Center, told NM Political Report. Creating paid family medical leave in the state is an equity issue because women of color often live in multi-generational households, she said.
Incarcerating more people won’t cut down on the state’s rising rate of violent crime, a longtime New Mexico trial lawyer told legislators looking for a solution.
Randi McGinn of Albuquerque, who has worked as both a prosecuting attorney and public defender for over 40 years, spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday about proposed changes to the state’s pretrial detention system for defendants accused of violent crimes and other measures touted by the governor and Democratic lawmakers who have taken a tough-on-crime stance to tackle what many see as an out-of-control problem. McGinn instead urged the committee to invest money in New Mexico’s judicial system, which she said is underfunded and understaffed. As a result, she said, police in the state arrest about 10,000 people a year, but prosecutors charge only 3,000 of them and judges hear only 1,000 cases.
She pointed to the fiscal impact report for a bill that would alter New Mexico’s pretrial detention system — putting the burden on a defendant to prove they aren’t likely to commit further violence if they are released from jail while awaiting trial, rather than requiring prosecutors to prove the defendant poses too high a risk to be released. The report estimates it would cost $13.8 million annually to detain up to 1,262 more defendants until their trials. McGinn said lawmakers should instead invest that money “in the courts, in the district attorneys and public defenders and the Albuquerque Police Department.”
Budget? What budget? Though 30-day sessions are specifically designed for lawmakers to create and approve a financial blueprint for the next fiscal year, the state’s growing crime problem, public education woes and continuing efforts to battle the pandemic likely will take center stage when the New Mexico Legislature goes into action Tuesday afternoon. With more than $1 billion in new revenue, plus additional federal pandemic relief funds to distribute, the 2022 session won’t be a battle over crumbs, but more likely a tug-of-war of ideas and ideals as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and many members of the Legislature prepare to run for re-election in November. In all, New Mexico’s budget will approach $8.4 billion to $8.5 billion in fiscal year 2023.
Idalia Lechuga-Tena announced on Friday she is seeking appointment to House District 28 amidst a growing list of women interested in the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury. Bernalillo County Commissioners meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday in a special meeting to decide who will replace Stansbury. Bernalillo County Commissioners appointed Lechuga-Tena in 2015 to represent House District 21. At that time, she replaced state Sen. Mimi Stewart. But Lechuga-Tena moved into HD 21 just days before her appointment in 2015, though she owned another home in another district.