SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Thursday, February 23, among the many bills circulating in the Roundhouse are two that could have big impacts for New Mexicans across a range of ages. One is a bill to offer paid leave for workers across the state. The other is a bill to try to protect children from privacy and content issues online.
Paid family & medical leave
Legislators are set to consider Senate Bill 11. Sponsored by a handful of Democratic legislators, the bill seeks to provide a 12-week paid leave benefit for workers around the state.
The idea is to let workers take time off in order to bond with their children, provide care for family members, or take time to protect themselves from domestic violence or similar issues, according to an analysis of the bill. It would apply to all public and private employees who pay into the associated fund for at least six months.
A Paid Family and Medical Leave Taskforce estimated that there would be more than 870,000 workers who would be eligible for leave by the year 2025. And they estimate that about 10% of those workers would get involved with the program, but the actual numbers could depend on how the bill is modified as it makes its way though the Roundhouse.
Legislators are also set to discuss Senate Bill 319. The bill, sponsored by Sen. George K. Muñoz (D-Cibola, McKinley & San Juan), Sen. Mark Moores (R-Abq.), and Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill (D-Catron, Grant & Socorro), would require businesses that offer services accessible to minors to meet certain standards.
For example, businesses (such as online tech companies) would be required to have terms of service that are written in language suitable for children. And the bill would require companies to default to maintaining the highest level of privacy for children by default.
The bill centers around a push to better protect young technology users. The Surgeon General’s Youth Mental Health Advisory noted that in the U.S., 81% of 14-year-olds to 22-year-olds said they used social media either “daily” or “almost constantly” as of 2020. At the same time, digital businesses are “often built around maximizing user engagement as opposed to safeguarding users’ health,” the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory. This bill seeks to address the health of young users.
In case you missed it: Abortion and reproductive health
Recently, the debate over reproductive health ramped up in the Roundhouse. On Tuesday, February 21, legislators debated House Bill 7. Supporters say it would provide life-saving protections, but some opponents say the bill goes against the morals of New Mexico.
The bill prohibits public entities, and those acting on behalf of public entities, from interfering (even indirectly) with a persons access to reproductive healthcare. The bill also affords similar protections to those seeking gender-affirming care, such as “psychological, behavioral, surgical, pharmaceutical and medical care, services and supplies provided to support a person’s gender identity.”
Debate over the bill lasted hours. Eventually the bill made it through the House. Next, it will face scrutiny by senators. For more on the topic, check out this KRQE News 13 story.
Legislators also considered a bill to ban certain abortions. Wednesday, February 22, the House Health and Human Services Committee debated House Bill 258, which would make it a third-degree felony to perform an abortion on a fetus with a heartbeat.
Public comment on the bill was intense, with both support for and condemnation of the bill. Ultimately, the committee voted to table the bill. For more info, check out this KRQE News 13 story.