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.
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.
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.
With the coronavirus continuing to spread, some say the crisis emphasizes the need for paid time off for health emergencies in New Mexico. So far, there are no known positive cases of the coronavirus, also called COVID-19, in New Mexico, according to state Department of Health spokesman David Morgan. Jodi McGinnis Porter, director of communications for the New Mexico Human Services Department, said that as of the end of Sunday, 57 people in New Mexico tested for the virus and all tests were negative. But the state health department said last week that the agency anticipates positive tests at some point. Every state surrounding New Mexico has had at least one test positive case and there are hundreds of confirmed cases nationwide.
The financial toll of the growing spread of the coronavirus is still not clear, but the Dow Jones dropped 2,000 points Monday and the price of oil dropped to $30.24 a barrel according to MarketWatch.com.