Paid leave program fails on House floor

Feb. 14—The House of Representatives, in a narrow vote Wednesday, put an end to another effort by advocates to create a statewide paid family and medical leave program.

The 36-34 vote against Senate Bill 3 came less than 24 hours before the session's end.

SB 3 would have set up a program for workers in the Department of Workforce Solutions, with an estimated startup cost of $36 million and revenue generated by contributions from employers and employees.

Advocates have said the program is a needed benefit for workers so they don't have to lose earnings while they take time off due to medical issues, the birth of a child or to care for an ill loved one.

"This bill creates a program that will support moms and dads, working families, those who need to support parents and loved ones when they are ill," said Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, one of SB 3's sponsors, during the hours-long House floor debate.

Opponents argue the program will place an extra financial burden on both businesses and employees.

Though the bill would have initially allowed for up to 12 weeks of leave, an amendment introduced on the Senate floor reduced the paid time for medical leave from 12 to nine weeks for the first two years.

The Senate cleared the bill by a 25-15 vote less than a week ago, with one Democrat joining the Republicans in that chamber to oppose it.

In the House, 11 Democrats joined with 25 Republicans to defeat the bill.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.