ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Fair Workweek Act proposed by a pair of Albuquerque city councilors died last year, and now a statewide business advocacy group is working on legislation meant to prevent similar local proposals from cropping up again.
The New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry is drafting a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would establish a state preemption of local employment law, effectively prohibiting municipal or county governments from instituting their own standards with regard to minimum wage, paid time off, scheduling and related matters that exceed those already required at the state or federal level.
ACI President Jason Espinoza said Thursday the bill is still being drafted but that its intention is to avoid
a “regulatory patchwork” across the state. Espinoza said 17 other states have already passed similar legislation. ACI’s bill would not lay out specific statewide guidelines to govern the employer-employee relationship, he said, but it will make it so the state — not local government — has jurisdiction in those matters.
Bill Fulginiti, executive director of the New Mexico Municipal League, said the organization would oppose such a measure.
“Those kinds of decisions should be subject to those local governments because the economics are different in each part of the state,” he said. “One size does not fit at all in New Mexico.”
But Espinoza called it an issue of fairness and said that it would alleviate an administrative burden for employers who operate in multiple locations.
“When we look at all the current regulations across the state, there are over 100 municipalities, 33 counties — you can end up in a situation where two businesses across the street work under different regulations or work under different ordinances,” Espinoza said in an interview Thursday. “What the business community really needs is consistency.”
He said the bill, which does not yet have a sponsor, is a response to the Fair Workweek Act and similar initiatives.
Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton and Klarissa Peña proposed the Fair Workweek Act last
summer. Their bill would have required employers to set schedules three weeks in advance, pay employees for unexpected changes, offer paid sick leave and provide $150 in retention pay every two weeks when there wasn’t work (with certain exceptions).
Benton said Thursday that ACI’s plan would quash any attempt by supporters to get the issue on a future city ballot.
“It’s strategic … to try to head off something like that,” Benton said. “And it’s always very conveniently cited that we shouldn’t have local laws when people are against something or another.”