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Albuquerque paid leave proposal may be moot

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One of Albuquerque’s long-running debates may finally have come to an end … in Santa Fe.

State lawmakers this month passed legislation guaranteeing all private-sector workers paid sick leave by 2022, potentially capping a yearslong battle in New Mexico’s largest city.

Advocates have repeatedly tried to get a paid leave ordinance on the city of Albuquerque’s books. A ballot initiative narrowly failed in 2017, and a few attempts to legislatively implement a mandate died without getting to a full City Council vote.

The push never ended, however.

Albuquerque City Councilors Lan Sena and Pat Davis were in the midst of another attempt to pass a paid leave ordinance late last year, with their proposal reviving arguments both for and against such a measure. Supporters deemed it essential so that workers, particularly the lowest earners, could afford to take off when they are ill – and possibly contagious – while opponents said it represented a new cost some businesses might not be able to afford.

But with an impending state legislative session, the City Council in December decided to postpone any action on the Sena/Davis bill until seeing what happened when state lawmakers convened.

New Mexico legislators ultimately advanced an even more generous bill – the Healthy Workplaces Act – than what Sena and Davis had proposed. It passed the House of Representatives and the Senate and is now on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk.

A vocal supporter of paid leave, Sena said she watched the Healthy Workplaces Act make its way through the Legislature and even gave testimony as a cancer patient during committee meetings in the hopes it would pass.

“It’s a lot different (from the city’s proposal), but really, for me, just the concept of sick leave itself is really important,” Sena said.

If Lujan Grisham signs the act into law, Sena said, she will withdraw the city-level bill and turn her attention to helping Albuquerque employers implement it, perhaps through workshops and other training opportunities.

The state legislation would allow workers to take up to 64 hours of accrued paid sick leave each year and would apply to private businesses of any size starting July 1, 2022.

The bill Sena and Davis had introduced in Albuquerque last fall would have entitled workers to earn and use up to 56 hours of paid leave per year, and was designed so that smaller businesses had a year longer than their bigger counterparts to comply.

ENERGY EXPLORATION: Albuquerque has contracted with Yearout Energy to audit 50 of its facilities in search of potential updates that could result in energy or water savings.

The audit will cover buildings with a combined 2 million square feet of space and assess components such as lighting, HVAC, electrical and irrigation systems.

The audit itself will cost $300,000, Mayor Tim Keller told the City Council in a recent memo. It will run through 2021, according to a city news release.

Yearout Energy and city staff will work together during the audit to determine which upgrades should be made, and the city intends to use Yearout to complete them.

The city would have to pay to make the improvements, but would eventually recoup the costs through guaranteed future energy savings, a spokeswoman said.

Jessica Dyer: jdyer@abqjournal.com

 

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