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New Mexico’s Democrat-led House rejects proposal for paid family and medical leave

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February 15, 2024
By The Associated Press

From left, Rep. Jenifer Jones, R-Deming, Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, and Rep. Harlan Vincent, R-Glencoe, question sponsors during debate of Paid Medical Family Leave Act in the House Health and Human Services Committee, Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. The bill passed the committee and now goes to the House Floor. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s Democrat-led House of Representatives narrowly rejected a bill Wednesday that would have guaranteed paid time off for workers to cope with serious illnesses or care for newborns and loved ones, amid concern about companies’ opposition in an election year.

The proposal failed 34-36 on a final vote that would have sent the bill to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, whose 2019 executive order established paid family leave of up to 12 weeks for state employees. Thirteen states and Washington, D.C. currently guarantee paid leave.

New Mexico already requires employers to provide paid sick leave to workers under a 2021 law. Employees accrue an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, ensuring up to about 8 days of leave annually.

The failed proposal for paid leave would have eventually provided workers with up to 12 weeks of medical and family leave — which would be extended to parents of adopted, foster and stepchildren. The bill also included paid leave guarantees for workers who are victims of stalking, domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse as they pursue a protection order, counseling or flee their home.


“My chamber is against it, the Albuquerque chamber is against it,” said Republican state Rep. Alan Martinez of Bernalillo, who voted no. “How do I go back to my district and tell people, ‘I know better?’ … Let businesses do what businesses do best.”

On the House floor, bill sponsor and Democratic state Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos pitched the initiative as a net-benefit to businesses who hope to retain loyal employees and cultivate a stable workforce. She highlighted an exemption on contributions to the program for organizations with fewer than five employees, and touted the intangible benefits of family leave.

“I think we all know the societal costs that we have to pay one way or another if we do not have those strong bonds,” she said.

Republicans voted in unison against the bill, along with 11 Democrats.

Separately on Wednesday, legislators sent a bill to the governor to dissuade voter intimidation. The proposal would prohibit the open carry of firearms at voting locations and near ballot drop boxes, with exceptions for people who are licensed to carry a concealed handgun.

The restrictions would take effect ahead of New Mexico’s June 4 primary election, banning guns within 100 feet (30 meters) of the entrance to a voting location. Guns already are prohibited at public schools that serve as voting locations.

A dozen states including Florida, Georgia, Arizona and Georgia prohibit guns at voting locations, as legislators in several other states grapple with concerns about voting access, gun violence and public safety in a polarized political climate.

New Mexico could also wade into whether to regulate artificial intelligence in the creation of political ads, under a bill passed by the Legislature on Wednesday with a 25-14 vote of the state Senate.

Campaign advertisement would have to disclose any deceptive “deepfake” synthetic images, audio or video created by artificial intelligence that depict someone doing or saying something that they didn’t do or say, under the bill from Democrats including state Sen. Katy Duhigg of Albuquerque. The bill doesn’t prohibit those ads as long as a disclosure is attached.

Willful violations would be punishable as a misdemeanor on first offense and felony on second conviction for people who create, produce or purchase a deceptive, deepfake campaign ad.

“In addition to making people believe they did or said something they did not, deepfakes also give people who really have said or done something deniability — they can claim that reality was a deepfake,” Duhigg told Senate colleagues. “Deepfakes are insidious because they make the public question reality.”

Lujan Grisham on Wednesday applauded passage of a $125 million appropriation to a revolving loan fund to spur housing construction and a companion bill that expands the mission of the New Mexico Finance Authority to support housing infrastructure and residential construction.

On Wednesday evening, legislators raced against the clock to complete their work before the end of a 30-day legislative session at noon on Thursday.

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