Lawmakers discuss competing paid family and medical leave bills at Roundhouse
SANTA FE, N.M. — There are two competing proposals at the Roundhouse this year to establish a paid family and medical leave program in New Mexico – both from Democrats.
House Bill 6 and House Bill 11 would both guarantee all New Mexico workers paid time off when they need it most. They would both establish a state fund to pay those workers on leave, which would rely on small contributions from employees. However, there are several key differences.
HB 6 – which is an updated version of last year’s proposal – allows for up to 12 weeks of paid time off. It’s only six weeks for HB 11, which is sponsored by Albuquerque state Rep. Marian Matthews. HB 11 also has a much smaller list of qualifying situations.
Both bills require employees to pay into the state fund, but only HB 6 would require some employers to pay – which many business leaders criticized as an extra tax.
In both bills, the Department of Workforce Solutions would oversee the program, but HB 11 calls for the creation of a new state board to manage it, reducing the administrative overhead.
There are more differences, but the bottom line is business leaders backed HB 11 because it’s narrower and requires less from them. Medical groups and workers advocates backed HB 6 because it provides more benefits for New Mexicans.
The House Health & Human Services Committee tackled both proposals this week. Lawmakers had questions about the finances, the state’s role in running the program, and the impact on businesses.
The committee approved HB 6 – the one with 12 weeks of paid time off – along party lines Wednesday.
On Friday, all but one lawmaker voted to table HB 11, meaning they will set it aside for later, if they get to it.
“I just don’t think it reflects the values of what I would like to see set up for employers and employees,” said state Rep. Reena Szczepanski of Santa Fe.
“This still gives an opportunity for these two groups, House Bill 6 and House Bill 11, to continue to work together, and hopefully we’ll come to some resolution where we will have a viable bill that will work for every single New Mexican,” said state Rep. Pamelya Herndon of Albuquerque.
Rep. Matthews said Friday that her bill was supposed to be that middle ground.
Many business leaders spoke out against HB 6 Wednesday, arguing it’s just too much of a burden on them. National experts disagreed, saying it is the better bill.
“The great thing about HB 6 is that it builds off of knowledge from other states and it allows, it would allow New Mexico to take what we’ve learned elsewhere and put it in this program,” said Cassandra Gomez, senior staff attorney with A Better Balance, a national nonprofit legal advocacy organization. “I think that they went with the right bill that clearly will serve New Mexicans best.”
It’s worth noting the Senate version of HB 6, which is coming from Sen. Mimi Stewart who has been working on this initiative for years, is also in a sort of limbo.
A Senate committee was forced to delay their vote Thursday after no Republicans showed up to the hearing – a sign that the initiative could face an uphill battle.
It’s likely there will be even more pushback from business leaders as HB 6 moves to its next committee.