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BernCo’s murky time-off bill would doom small business

The Bernalillo County Commission is scheduled to vote on a paid-time-off ordinance that is substantially the same as the one Albuquerque voters rejected in a recent election, but it appears that certain county commissioners think they know better than the voters.

Even supporters of a sick leave proposal should be suspect of the county’s methods of writing and proposing the paid-time-off ordinance they plan to vote on Tuesday night.

The ordinance was introduced at the May meeting to be voted on the following month. There were no public hearings, no committee meetings and no opportunities for voters or businesses to have input prior to the introduction. During the month between bill introduction and the scheduled vote, the county commissioners who sponsored this ordinance have refused to meet with numerous business groups representing many constituents in their districts.

Now, there’s evidence the county is hiding information about the sick leave ordinance from the public. Public records requested from the county regarding the sick leave issue and debate have not been received. Under New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act, we have a right to receive copies of relevant communications involving county commissioners and other county officials on this issue, yet the county has not responded to a request for public records made over six weeks ago.

This ordinance is part of a national political agenda and was written by the same out-of-state lawyers and special interest groups trying to trick voters into passing an extreme law with the ballot initiative Albuquerque voters rejected in 2017.

Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, the main sponsor of the bill, doesn’t have a single constituent in her district that will be affected by this ordinance. All of the businesses in her district are in the city, so she has no “dog in this fight” except to score a big win for her next political office with national and out-of-state supporters.

This law is bad public policy and is poorly written. When it was changed from sick leave to paid time off – also known as paid vacation – the writers kept both terms in the substitute bill but failed to define either term. Such a poorly written law only benefits attorneys and creates needless confusion and uncertainty for employers. A coalition of local business organizations has posted a complete list of concerns with the proposed law at trickleave.org.

The proposed law requires mountains of red tape for small businesses to maintain. It will be costly for small businesses to pay this benefit that they are not already paying. The increased cost will have to be passed on to customers. It will negatively affect more Hispanic-owned small businesses than any other. Current PTO policies will change, and not for the better. It will chase jobs and businesses out of the city and county. The only good that will come out of this is that lawyers will get rich at the expense of our small businesses. That is not what we need for our businesses and for our workforce.

Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are increasingly advocating complicated and confusing laws that treat employers like criminals. Keep in mind that these onerous laws incentivize the corporatization of America’s small businesses. As more burdensome laws are passed that require teams of lawyers to decipher, more small businesses will have to sell to corporate America because they don’t have the ability to keep up with all of the red tape. New businesses, both small and large, will stop considering Bernalillo County as a viable place for economic development due to their hands being tied by restrictive, poorly written, ill-considered mandates. Politicians claim they support small businesses, yet their votes and actions support corporate structures. Bernalillo County deserves better.

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