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Two New Mexican chambers of commerce voice frustrations with proposed bills

Small businesses will not be exempt from new laws
Democratic Rep. Daymon Ely argues against a proposal during the annual legislative session Jan. 25 in Santa Fe. Ely was one of the sponsors of HB 20 to enforce paid sick leave.

FARMINGTON – The Farmington Chamber of Commerce has united with the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce to voice concern about the harm proposed legislation might have on small businesses.

Farmington Chamber of Commerce’s President and CEO Jamie Church and Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce’s President and CEO Terri Cole are concerned several bills in this year’s state legislative session could hurt small businesses financially if passed.

“What we are asking for are amendments to the bills that make them more reasonable and fair in the small business community in the state of New Mexico,” Cole said during a Zoom meeting Monday morning.

Cole said the organizations want a delay and staggered implementation. She cited COVID-19 as an extra stress on small businesses.

“It feels like, with all these really important bills to have long-term effect on small business, I feel like this is an odd year to be putting these bills through,” Church said.

They are not wanting to kill the bills, but rather lay out ideas and work with legislators to find common ground.

“What we’re asking for is balance and compromise,” Cole said.

The first and main bill the two addressed Monday was House Bill 20, which would require business owners to provide sick leave to all employees including part-time and seasonal. A business with fewer than 10 employees would provide a minimum of one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours of sick leave in a single year. For a business with 10 or more employees, employees “shall not be entitled to use more than 64 hours of earned sick leave” in a year.

Cole said they support sick and family medical leave, but not the path the legislators have taken to get there.

“We have said that we would stand up and support the bill if we could get some items in there that would support our small business community,” Cole said.

The other bills the pair are worried about include HB 38, which would result in small businesses incurring a new mandatory family medical leave cost; HB 110, in which they would incur a higher minimum wage cost; HB 122 raising employer health care costs; HB 248 raising insurance premiums; HB 148, which would raise unemployment insurance rates for small businesses; Senate Bill 56, SB 89, HB 91 and SB 211, which would raise personal or corporate income taxes; and HB 268, which would raise workers compensation payments.

In general, most small businesses with 50 or fewer employees have been exempt from many labor laws in the country, Cole said. In New Mexico, Cole said 54% of employment is with small businesses and the state is the ninth most dependent on small businesses for employment in the country.

“We’re asking just for a reasonable bill that would help our workers and also our small business community,” Cole said.

mmitchell@durangoherald.com

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