• Legislative Update Feb. 6, 2019

    February 07, 2019
    Roosevelt County Chamber's
    Legislative Report
    Feb. 6, 2019
    Minimum Wage Bills of Concern
    As we noted in previous weeks, one of the initiatives we're tracking most closely in Santa Fe are efforts to raise the minimum wage. We reported on HB 31 which has been the fastest moving bill and would raise the minimum wage to $10 this spring and then head to $12 an hour by 2021. This bill also removes the lower floor of $2.13 an hour for tipped employees and requires those employees be paid the full minimum. That bill moved out of committee and ready to be heard on the House floor.

    A much more palatable bill recently was introduced in the Senate. SB 437 proposes an increase to $9.25 an hour going into effect in October with an increase to $10 in April 2020. This bill leaves the lower tipped wage in place and also provides for an $8.50 an hour wage for students. It appears that the tipped wage idea cuts both ways with some restaurant employees testifying that they make more than minimum wage and they fear lower tips could actually cause them to lose earnings. The idea of a lower student rate could help keep students, who would likely be the first workers sacrificed, employed. An idea that is important in our college town.

    Expanded Family and Medical Leave
    Two bills that seek to provide New Mexico workers 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave are being debated in the House. The main bill HB 264 would create a payroll deduction to support a state-administered fund to pay workers. Opponents say it could place a burden on small businesses and non-profits with small staffs. Federal law already provides for 12 weeks leave but doesn't require businesses to pay workers during the leave.

    Increased Environmental Assessments Sought
    The Environmental Review Act, HB 206 is getting a warning alarm from businesses and economic developers in the state. They say the bill will require additional permits and studies paid for by the business applicant. This could increase the cost of a development and slow permiting and review by months and even a year or longer. 

    Early Childhood Department?
    SB 22 proposes creating a new Early Childhood Education and Care Department as a part of the Pre-K expansions that are needed to answer a court decision for New Mexico to better fund education. At first glance we don't like the idea of creating another cabinet but the more we read the better it looks. There are a lot of details still being hammered on including using the state equalization formula from the schools to distribute funding fairly. It's also a little distasteful in that it could put existing daycare facilities out of business if care is not taken.

    Long Session Moving Fast
    The Governor signed the so-called Rocket Docket package of bills. These were mostly measures with bi-partisan support from the last two years that former Gov. Susanna Martinez vetoed. There were something like 42 bills making this the fastest that much legislation has ever been signed in a 60-day session. Fortunately a bad business bill was also taken out just as quickly. HB 247 that would have raised the corporate tax 1.8 percent was kiilled in committee by an 8-1 vote. Lawmakers only have a little over a week left to introduce legislation. Thank goodness!

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