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Right-to-work bill clears House committee on 7-6 vote

A high-profile proposal to enact a New Mexico right-to-work law is headed to the House floor, after a multi-day debate in a House committee ended tonight in a party-line vote.

Much of the hearing in the House Judiciary Committee hinged on a plan, unveiled by House GOP floor leader Nate Gentry of Albuquerque, to tie a minimum wage increase β€” of 50 cents per hour β€” to the controversial proposed change in state labor law.

Democrats and dozens of labor union representatives blasted the plan, describing it as a politically-motivated stunt.

But Gentry insisted the changes were intended as a compromise, and committee members voted 7-6 to endorse the revised bill, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats opposed.

Right-to-work legislation has emerged as a hot-button issue in the 60-day session, prompted by Republicans’ taking control of the House for the first time in 60 years.

The proposed change in New Mexico’s labor laws would mean nonunion employees β€”in both the private and public sectors β€” would not have to pay union fees as a condition of employment.

Opponents claim the measure would stifle worker pay and benefit levels, while backers say it would boost the state’s sagging economy and give employees more freedom of choice.

In all, the House Judiciary Committee ended up spending nearly 11 hours debating and hearing testimony on the measure, House Bill 75. That included six hours today and five hours during a previous hearing earlier this week.