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.
If Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti wins election, he can still impact reproductive rights policy, even without being able to pass his priorities through the Legislature with Democratic majorities. Ronchetti has campaigned on an anti-abortion policy. During the Republican primary, his campaign website said he believed “life should be protected – at all stages.” In a commercial in September he said, that if elected, he would support a voter referendum on banning abortion after 15 weeks. But in July, Albuquerque megachurch pastor Steve Smothermon said Ronchetti told him privately that, if elected, Ronchetti still intended to ban abortion. Ronchetti’s campaign denied it.
Related: Pastor says Ronchetti would seek to ban abortion
Smothermon reiterated the claim to his congregation in October, saying that “he told me exactly what I said.”
Ronchetti’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
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.
Crisis pregnancy centers, which have proliferated in recent years, could be a public health danger to pregnant individuals, according to a recent report. A national coalition of reproductive health experts called The Alliance: State Advocates for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, produced a report in the fall of 2021 detailing crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which reproductive health experts often refer to as “fake clinics.”
More than 90 percent of CPCs located in New Mexico are operated by one of three Christian-affiliated organizations: Heartbeat International, Care Net, and Birthright International. CPCs offer some basic, nonmedical services for pregnant people but are intentionally designed to lure unsuspecting pregnant individuals into their offices to prevent abortions, reproductive health experts have said.
According to the report, CPCs use “deceptive, coercive tactics and medical disinformation and misleadingly present themselves as medical facilities.”
Birthright International and Care Net did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but Andrea Trudden, vice president of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International said through an email that “many of the claims made within this report are the exact same talking points that abortion activists have put out there for decades.” She added that Heartbeat International maintains a website designed to specifically “respond to many of the claims” the authors of the report make.
Trudden disagreed with the report’s claims and said through email that pregnancy centers adhere to a national code of ethics called, “Our Commitment of Care and Competence” (CCC), which addresses the vital importance of truthfulness in communications.”
CPCs are located in buildings or mobile units, usually near an abortion clinic in urban areas although they proliferate most often in rural counties where there is a lack of care, health experts have said. They go by a variety of different names that often appear to mimic or resemble the names of abortion care providers, according to the report. But they are not actual health clinics and most lack professional medical providers on their staff.
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.
New Mexico voters embraced candidates in the 2020 elections that have historically been underrepresented, including women, in elected office. The state saw a slew of “firsts” this year.
For the first time in the state’s history, New Mexico’s three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be held by women of color. And both Yvette Herrell, who will represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District, and Deb Haaland, who won reelection to the state’s 1st Congressional District, are enrolled members of Indigenous nations. Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo, and Herrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation, making New Mexico the first state in the U.S. to have two Indigenous Representatives.
Teresa Leger Fernandez, who won New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, is Latina.
Terrelene Massey, Diné (Navajo) and the executive director of Southwest Women’s Law Center, said she’s really excited to see more representation from women, especially women of color and Native American women. “I think they’ll provide different perspectives on the different issues they’ll be working on,” Massey said.
A poll taken earlier this year showed that 81 percent of Native Americans around the state believe that women deserve to make their own decisions about reproductive health care without government interference. Two nonprofit organizations, Southwest Women’s Law Center and Forward Together, commissioned the poll last spring and the poll results will be released later this fall. Latino Decisions conducted the poll. New Mexico Political Report obtained an unreleased poll summary. Both Forward Together and Southwest Women’s Law Center said giving Native Americans the opportunity to voice their opinions on reproductive health care is important because some state legislators say that Indigenous people are against abortion.
The Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act, signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in March, went into effect Wednesday. Terrelene Massey, executive director of Southwest Women’s Law Center, said the new law could affect anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 workers in New Mexico each year. The law amends the state’s Human Rights Act to make pregnancy, childbirth and conditions related to either a protected class from employment discrimination. Sponsored by two Democrats, Rep. Gail Chasey, of Albuquerque, and Sen. Liz Stefanics, of Cerrillos, the new law allows pregnant people to ask their employer for “reasonable accommodations,” to enable the pregnant worker to keep working. The “reasonable accommodations” could be things like asking for more bathroom breaks, a stool to sit on, the ability to get time off for prenatal care or having water at a workstation, according to the law’s advocates.
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.