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ABQ sick leave bill taken off table, for now

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee on Monday declined to recommended to the full council a proposed ordinance that would mandate employers provide paid sick leave to employees of businesses in the city, effectively killing the bill because of a one-year time limit on legislation.

Council President Ken Sanchez, co-sponsor of the bill, and Committee Chair Klarissa J. Peña voted to send the bill to the council with “no recommendation,” a procedural action that would have allowed councilors to extend the life of the bill and send it back to committee.

The bill was first introduced on Dec. 18, 2017.

Councilor Pat Davis, who attended the meeting for Don Harris, also a co-sponsor of the ordinance, Councilors Diane Gibson and Brad Winter voted against sending the bill to the full council.

While this proposal is off the table, that doesn’t mean, however, that the effort to bring a sick leave ordinance to the floor is dead. Representatives with Equality New Mexico, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and El Centro de Igualdad, who have been advocating for a sick leave ordinance, told committee members they were in favor of a deferral, opting for a clean bill that would contain items not included in the current legislation.

“We would much rather have a clean piece of legislation,” said Adrian Carver, executive director of Equality New Mexico. “We think we can have a better outcome for New Mexico and Albuquerque workers that is fair for everybody.”

Sanchez said action on the proposed ordinance was delayed while councilors awaited completion of a University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research report on the proposal.

“I have not seen the study, but I did make the recommendation toward staff to ask (UNM) that the document be comprehensive and that it was complete, and that both the business community, along with the advocates supporting sick leave, got a copy of the bill so we could look at this together,” Sanchez said.

The proposed ordinance would apply to businesses with 50 or more employees. It would not include temporary workers.

Under the proposed ordinance:

• One hour of paid sick leave would be provided for each 40 hours worked by an employee, up to a maximum of 40 sick leave hours per calendar year.

• Employees would be able to carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick leave they have earned to the next calendar year.

• Workers would be allowed to use their sick leave for medical care for themselves, their spouses or family, or if the employee is a victim of family violence.

• Employees would be able to begin using earned sick leave after working 720 hours.

• Employees who work an average of at least 20 hours a week would be covered.

• Employers that already have an existing sick leave/paid time off program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the ordinance would be exempt.

• Any collective bargaining agreement effective before Jan. 1 wouldn’t be affected.

If passed, the bill would have gone into effect Jan. 1.

The proposal would have also provided an avenue to file a complaint with the city’s Office of Diversity and Human Rights.

The proposal came after voters last year narrowly rejected a sick leave ballot initiative that many Albuquerque business owners and groups warned would impose onerous regulations and hurt the local economy. The so-called Healthy Workforce Ordinance was defeated by fewer than 800 votes in last year’s municipal election.

That ordinance would have covered all companies regardless of number of employees, and covered all part-time and temporary employees, as well.