Governor-backed bill to ease NM's return-to-work ban for public employees headed to full Senate - Albuquerque Journal

Governor-backed bill to ease NM’s return-to-work ban for public employees headed to full Senate

Española Police Sgt. Cody Martinez stands during a September 2022 public ceremony to announce a new police headquarters, while Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham stands in the background. A governor-backed bill that would allow retired public employees to go back to work while still collecting retirement benefits is advancing in the state Senate. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — A plan backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration to ease New Mexico’s back-to-work law by allowing retired public sector workers to be rehired while still collecting pension benefits — but only for a maximum of three years — is headed to the Senate floor.

Despite opposition from labor unions, the Senate Finance Committee voted 9-2 on Monday to approve the measure, which is aimed at bolstering depleted staffing levels for many New Mexico state agencies, cities and counties.

Backers said the bill, Senate Bill 124, would impose strict guardrails on individuals who go back to work, including a requirement they retire for at least 12 months, work for no more than three years and do not accrue additional pension benefits after being rehired.

The program would also expire in July 2029, giving it a six-year lifespan if not extended.

John Ramon Vigil, the mayor of Española, said his northern New Mexico community has struggled to find enough employees to fully staff city departments.

“I could possibly have a fully-staffed police department to secure my community” if the bill is approved, Vigil told senators during Monday’s hearing.

But critics argued there are better and more creative ways to bolster depleted staffing levels.

Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Shaun Willoughby said issues like low law enforcement officer morale would not be improved by allowing retired police chiefs to come back on board while still collecting retirement benefits.

“This is failed public policy,” Willoughby said. “The public does not like double-dipping.”

This year’s proposal marks the latest chapter in a longstanding Roundhouse debate over “return to work” laws.

In 2010, lawmakers banned return-to-work for state employees, law enforcement officers and local government workers after the practice — which is also known as “double dipping” — came under fire from labor unions and other critics for straining a state retirement fund and stifling internal promotions.

Previously, such employees had been allowed to retire and then return-to-work while still collecting both a pension and a salary.

While attempts in recent years to ease the ban on double dipping have been rebuffed at the Roundhouse, this year’s bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, and drew support Monday from several Lujan Grisham administration officials — including Public Safety Secretary Jason Bowie.

But two Democratic senators cast the lone dissenting votes against the measure — committee chairman George Muñoz of Gallup and Siah Correa Hemphill of Silver City.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Governor-backed bill to ease NM’s return-to-work ban for public employees headed to full Senate

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
David Batista named branch manager with Yellowstone Landscape
ABQnews Seeker
BRIEFCASE: NMSU grad has been with ... BRIEFCASE: NMSU grad has been with the landscape company for 17 years.
Mexico: Migrants lit mattresses in protest; fire killed 39
ABQnews Seeker
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migrants fearing ... MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migrants fearing deportation set mattresses ablaze at an immigration detention center in northern Mexico, starting a fire that left 39 ...
New Mexico abortion care: What's happening now and what ...
ABQnews Seeker
When Roe v. Wade was overturned ... When Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer, New Mexico seemed poised to become a destination for those seeking abortion. Here's what's happened since ...
WaFd's Lonnie Corral promoted to senior VP
ABQnews Seeker
BRIEFCASE: Corral will continue to lead ... BRIEFCASE: Corral will continue to lead the nine branches he oversees in southern New Mexico.
La Luz Elementary School students were originally expected to ...
ABQnews Seeker
Originally, the district's plans were to ... Originally, the district's plans were to move students out in 2025. Now, APS wants to do it this fall.
Authorities say a man brought a gun into Flix ...
ABQnews Seeker
If not for the theater's beer ... If not for the theater's beer taps or the man's suspected use of cocaine, the gun-wielding patron who sent Flix Brewhouse employees into a ...
Lobo hoops notebook: Seck to transfer, House returns, Udeze ...
ABQnews Seeker
News and notes around Lobo basketball, ... News and notes around Lobo basketball, including another transferring scholarship player and updates on Morris Udeze and Jaelen House.
Judge: District attorney can't be co-counsel in Baldwin case
ABQnews Seeker
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A ... SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A New Mexico judge said Santa Fe's district attorney shouldn't serve as co-counsel in the manslaughter case against actor ...
What do PNM-Avangrid merger opponents really want?
ABQnews Seeker
Here's what merger supporters and opponents ... Here's what merger supporters and opponents have to say about the public-power movement’s influence on the Avangrid-PNM deal.