Bill guaranteeing basic wage protections for home care and domestic workers awaits governor’s signature

SANTA FE— Today, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 85, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Rep. Christine Trujillo, which would ensure home care and domestic workers—the people who clean homes and deliver care for others—are protected by New Mexico’s minimum wage standards and other wage protections. The bill will now go to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for approval.

Domestic workers have been left out of many labor protections throughout history, and typically have very few options when they’re not paid. SB 85, Domestic Service in Minimum Wage Act, ends the exemptions for domestic workers from New Mexico’s wage laws—as has already been done at the federal level.

“Domestic workers and home care workers have difficult and important jobs that we depend on,” said Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “SB 85 eliminates outdated, discriminatory practices in New Mexico’s labor protections so people doing some of the toughest jobs like caring for our loved ones and cleaning our houses are treated fairly, and can seek recourse when they are not.”

New Mexico law generally requires employers to pay employees minimum wage and overtime, keep records, and pay employees in full and on time. However, like other wage laws enacted in the 1930s, it excluded large categories of work typically performed by women and people of color from the minimum wage and other protections. The New Mexico Legislature has recognized that it’s time to ensure all workers, including people who work hard in other people’s homes, are guaranteed fundamental labor protections just like everyone else.

“We are optimistic that Governor Lujan Grisham will sign SB 85 into law, guaranteeing domestic workers are no longer ignored in the eyes of the law,” said Adrienne R. Smith of New Mexico Caregivers Coalition. “Cleaning houses and taking care of elderly people or children demands dedication, time, and experience. The people who are in these life-saving roles deserve our respect and the same protections as all other workers.”

Federal law has since eliminated its exclusion of domestic workers, but without state protections, New Mexicans who work in people’s homes are not protected and may be subject to low or no pay and exploitative situations. If domestic workers were covered by New Mexico’s wage laws, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions would investigate their complaints, enforce their rights, and recover their wages and damages.

Memorial to expand home visiting services passed by Senate Public Affairs Committee

SANTA FE— A memorial establishing an advisory council to develop a plan for the statewide expansion of a Medicaid-financed home visiting system in New Mexico, will head to the Senate floor following a “do-pass” vote today in the Senate Public Affairs Committee. Home visiting programs provide support and critical assistance for families that range from health care to emotional and social supports at a crucial time in a child’s brain development. Senate Memorial 117, Medicaid Home Visiting Program Council, is sponsored by Senator Linda M. Lopez.

“Every child deserves the best start from birth. Nurturing our state’s youngest children is key to ensuring they grow up healthy and prepared to succeed in life,” said William Townley, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “We’re optimistic that the memorial will pass the Senate.”

If passed by the New Mexico Senate, SM 117 would convene a council of home visiting providers and heads of the Human Services Department, Children, Youth and Families Department, Department of Health, and the Children’s Cabinet to make recommendations for expanding home visiting across the state through Medicaid financing.

Research shows that home visiting helps establish a strong foundation for families so children can grow up healthier and parents can develop stronger parenting skills. Home visiting programs that currently exist in New Mexico provide a team of professionals to help families learn about healthcare, child development, and parenting skills. Other services can include screening mothers for postpartum depression, supporting breastfeeding, and connecting families to community activities.

Unfortunately, most New Mexican families do not have access to home visiting services. Most services are offered by private non-profits that cannot scale up to meet the large unmet need in the state.

“Offering education early in a child’s life is essential in helping families succeed,” said Townley. “It would be good for everyone in New Mexico if more families could access home visiting.”

House passes bill closing loopholes in small loans law

SANTA FE—The New Mexico House of Representatives passed a bill today cleaning up state law that regulates storefront lenders. HB 150 protects New Mexico borrowers and ensures accountability and transparency in the storefront lending industry.
 
“All New Mexicans deserve access to fair and transparent loans under reasonable terms, but unfortunately, the current law has loopholes that fail to carry out the legislature’s intent to protect borrowers,” said Lindsay Cutler, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “HB 150 proposes effective data reporting requirements and consistency in consumer protections for all borrowers, ensuring New Mexico families receive fairer loans and that the state can better monitor storefront lenders.”

New Mexico’s first across-the-board interest rate cap went into effect in January 2018, capping interest rates on storefront loans at 175 percent APR. Yet high fees and loan rollovers continue to drain income from New Mexico borrowers. The two laws that regulate storefront lenders, the Small Loan and Bank Installment Loan Acts, still contain inconsistent fee and language provisions, do not require sufficient reporting to the Financial Institutions Division to enforce consumer protections, and do not make clear borrowers’ rights on loan renewals.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, HB 150 would:

  • Require lenders to provide effective data on small loans, enabling the FID to verify storefront lenders are adhering to small loans law and evaluate how the law is impacting New Mexicans;
  • Allow borrowers 24 hours to rescind a high-interest loan;
  • Align fee provisions, disclosure requirements, and penalty provisions so consumer protections are consistent for all borrowers; and
  • Define what it means to make a new loan to protect New Mexican borrowers from potential loopholes in loan rollovers and renewals.

“The small loan industry makes hundreds of millions of dollars from hardworking New Mexico families,” said Cutler. “The House has taken an important step in passing HB 150 and we are optimistic that the Senate will follow suit. We cannot allow lenders to continue to circumvent protections put in place two legislative sessions ago. Small loan reforms are absolutely necessary if we hope to meaningfully stop predatory lending practices.”

Senate passes bill guaranteeing basic wage protections for domestic workers

SANTA FE— Today, the New Mexico Senate passed SB 85, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Rep. Christine Trujillo, which would ensure home care and domestic workers—the people who clean homes and deliver care for others—are protected by New Mexico’s minimum wage standards and other wage protections.

Historically, domestic workers have been left out of many labor protections and have little recourse when not paid. SB 85, Domestic Service in Minimum Wage Act, removes exemptions for domestic workers from New Mexico’s wage laws—as has already been done at the federal level.

“Everyone deserves to be paid a fair wage for their work,” said Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “SB 85 would eliminate archaic and discriminatory treatment in New Mexico’s labor protections so people who work hard in other people’s homes and as caregivers are treated fairly and can seek recourse when they are not.”

New Mexico law generally requires employers to pay employees minimum wage and overtime, keep records, and pay employees in full and on time. However, like other wage laws enacted in the 1930s, it excluded large categories of work typically performed by women and people of color from the minimum wage and other protections.

“Domestic workers deserve the same protections as other workers” said Adrienne R. Smith of New Mexico Caregivers Coalition. “Cleaning houses and taking care of people demands dedication, time, and experience. It’s time we changed how we value this work and the people who perform it.”

Federal law has since eliminated its exclusion of domestic workers, but without state protections, New Mexicans who work in people’s homes are not protected and may be subject to low or no pay and exploitative situations. If domestic workers were covered by New Mexico’s wage laws, the N.M. Department of Workforce Solutions would investigate their complaints, enforce their rights, and recover their wages and damages.

The bill will now be assigned to a committee in the House of Representatives for consideration.

Court issues final ruling in landmark education lawsuit

Legislature’s proposed funding will not meet court’s mandate for transformation of education system

ALBUQUERQUE—Late Thursday, First Judicial District Court Judge Sarah Singleton issued a final ruling in Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico. The court found that the state has violated students’ constitutional rights to a sufficient education and ordered the state to provide educational programs, services, and funding to schools to prepare students so they are college and career ready.

The current proposed funding for education under discussion in the New Mexico Legislature will not suffice to meet the court’s mandate.

Current New Mexico Legislature education funding proposals are asking for an increase of $400 to $500 million—which amounts to a 15-18 percent increase in public school funding. Evidence at trial showed that public schools are receiving less funding now than in 2008, when adjusting for inflation. That data has since been updated to show that an increase of $409 million would only return New Mexico to 2008 education funding levels. In 2008, New Mexico was ranked at the bottom in the country in reading and math proficiency and was clearly not in compliance with New Mexico’s constitutional requirement. Reverting funding back to 2008 resources levels does not meet the court’s mandates to sufficiently fund programs and services for our children

“New Mexico’s students are legally entitled to the educational opportunities they need to succeed. This final judgement is yet another clear statement from the court that the state has a legal mandate to take immediate action to ensure that our students are getting the quality of education that they are constitutionally entitled to,” said Gail Evans, lead attorney for Yazzie plaintiffs in the Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico lawsuit. “To comply with the constitution, we must have a transformation of our educational system—nothing less is going to cut it. The system has failed our students for decades and that must stop now.”

The court made clear that students’ constitutional rights to a sufficient education cannot be violated so that the state can save funds. The court’s final judgement states, “The defendants must comply with their duty to provide an adequate education and may not conserve financial resources at the expense of our constitutional resources.”

The legislature’s current budget under consideration does not fully implement a multicultural and bilingual curriculum, does not adequately increase teacher pay and professional development to recruit and retain teachers, and does not ensure children have access to instructional materials, technology and transportation, and other basic services that are critical for educational success.

“Families and school districts have been struggling to work with the resources that they have,” said Tom Sullivan, former superintendent of Moriarty-Edgewood School District, which is a plaintiff in the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit. “Most states’ education budgets have recovered from and surpassed pre-recession amounts, but in New Mexico, the current budget proposal is barely returning to 2008 levels when education was already underfunded.”

“We have an incredible opportunity to do the right thing for our students, our future,” said Mike Grossman, superintendent of Lake Arthur Municipal Schools, one of the smallest districts in New Mexico and a Yazzie plaintiff. “Governor Lujan-Grisham and new Public Education Department have expressed a strong commitment to our students and to public education. It is critical that they now step in and drive the major educational reforms and the big investments it will take to fix our schools.”

The court’s final judgement and order can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/D-101-CV-2014-00793-Final-Judgment-and-Order-NCJ-1.pdf

Governor reverses Medicaid cuts in Centennial Care 2.0 waiver

Advocacy efforts conclude in a victory for families


SANTA FE—Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham reversed serious cuts to New Mexico’s Medicaid program yesterday following two years of advocacy efforts by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, community organizations, and healthcare providers. Under the Susana Martinez administration, New Mexico’s Human Services Department had proposed major cuts to healthcare services as part of the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver, many of which were approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in December 2018.  

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty led the efforts to fight the cuts that would have implemented premiums for some Medicaid patients, cut retroactive coverage, and instituted mandatory co-pays.

“We owe a huge thanks to Governor Lujan Grisham for reversing these harmful measures and to the advocates and families who fought tirelessly over the last two years for the health and wellbeing of all New Mexicans,” said Abuko D. Estrada, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Piece by piece, we’ve successfully fought the cuts in the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver that would have led to thousands of families losing healthcare coverage and shifted an unfair burden of costs to healthcare providers and the healthcare system.”  

The governor’s rejection of the waiver is the latest in a series of positive actions the new administration has taken to improve the health and wellbeing of New Mexicans. Since taking office, Lujan-Grisham has set forth plans to reach uninsured New Mexicans who are eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled and help them apply. The governor has also been publicly supportive of bills, currently working their way through the legislature, that would open up a Medicaid Buy-in option for New Mexicans who do not otherwise have access to affordable healthcare coverage.

Key legislation on multicultural education framework in New Mexico discussed by sponsors, education experts

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO—Among the many education bills that are working their way through legislative committee, those sponsored by Representative Tomás E. Salazar are designed to ensure a multicultural, bilingual framework is at the core of the New Mexico education system. The bills must be passed in the House Appropriations Committee and receive funding to move forward in the legislature. The committee is currently considering the public school budgets and intends to finalize its budget bill by next week.

“More than 75 percent of New Mexico public school students are culturally and linguistically diverse. This diversity should be celebrated and must also be reflected in curriculum and teacher development,” said Representative Salazar. “Judge Singleton’s order is clear—we can no longer violate the constitutional rights of a majority of our students.”

HB 111, HB 120, and HB 159 were developed out of the Transform Education NM Platform, a comprehensive blueprint to fix New Mexico’s schools. Based on the input of 300+ diverse community stakeholders and two million pages of documentation and expert testimony of educators, economists, and academic researchers as part of the Yazzie/Martinez trial, the platform is the roadmap to successfully transforming the state’s education system.

“We know that a multicultural education is essential for our students to learn and succeed,” said Preston Sanchez, plaintiff attorney on the Yazzie lawsuit. “We urge our legislators and our governor to support these bills and to include them in HB 2. The success of New Mexico’s schools depends on making sure these bills are passed and fully funded.”

Research shows a multicultural and multilingual education approach allows students to maintain their language and identity, resulting in a marked improvement in learning achievement. The court found that the state is not meeting its own duties and responsibilities for a multicultural education established in the New Mexico Indian Education Act, Hispanic Education Act, and Bilingual Multicultural Education Act, which Representative Salazar’s pieces of legislation aim to fix.

“English language learners (ELLs) are the lowest performing group across all sub-groups when they don’t have the support they need. Also, indigenous languages are in peril. This is due in great part to current public school policies that must be addressed,” said UNM professor and bilingual learning expert Rebecca Blum Martinez. “We have an obligation to assist Indigenous and Hispanic students as much as possible while honoring the diverse cultural identity that is the hallmark of our state. These bills provide our teachers with the pedagogical tools they need to be successful.”

“These pieces of legislation, and everything else in the Transform Education platform, is what our students, and future generations of students deserve,” said Edward Tabet-Cubero, member of the Transform Education NM Coalition. “Thanks to all the information and guidance that came out of the Yazzie/Martinez trial, the court has given a clear direction for our state’s education system, and the multicultural platform is a critical component to fixing that system and doing right by our students. The time to fix our education system is now.”

Information on other legislation that is part of the Transform Education NM platform can be found here: https://transformeducationnm.org/resources/. These changes will realize New Mexico’s constitutional mandate for a sufficient public education system.

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Transform Education NM is a coalition of educational leaders, families, tribal leaders, and the lawsuit plaintiffs working to transform the state’s education system for our students. To learn more, visit www.transformeducationnm.org.

Legislation related to multicultural and multilingual education framework to be discussed TOMORROW at press event

SANTA FE—Transform Education NM, a broad coalition of teachers, parents, students, district superintendents, bilingual experts, and non-profit organizations, will hold a press event on Wednesday, February 13, at 11 a.m. in room 318 at the New Mexico State Capitol. Speakers, including Representative Tomás E. Salazar, will share details about pieces of legislation that would create a multicultural and multilingual education framework and include significant changes to ensure more bilingual teachers and professional development.

The bills must still be passed in the House Appropriations Committee and receive funding to move forward in the legislature. The committee is currently considering the public school budgets and intends to finalize its budget bill by next week.

The legislation aligns with the Transform Education NM Platform for Action, which was informed directly by the court’s landmark decision in Yazzie/Martinez.

WHAT:
Transform Education NM press event in the Roundhouse on multicultural education framework

WHO:
Representative Tomás E. Salazar
Preston Sanchez, attorney, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty
Edward Tabet-Cubero, Learning Alliance New Mexico
Rebecca Blum Martinez, UNM professor, bilingual education expert

WHEN:
Wednesday, February 13, 11:00 a.m.

WHERE:
New Mexico State Capitol, Room 318
Santa Fe, NM 87501

And available via Facebook live here: https://www.facebook.com/TransformEdNM/

*Speakers and other coalition members will be available immediately after the press for one-on-one interviews.

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Transform Education NM is a coalition of educational leaders, families, tribal leaders, and the lawsuit plaintiffs working to transform the state’s educationsystem for our students. To learn more, visit www.transformeducationnm.org

New analysis reveals New Mexicans suffer disproportionately under weight of student debt

Legislature considers key student loan bill as more than one in five New Mexicans are severely delinquent on their student loans 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new analysis of government data demonstrates the gravity of the student debt crisis in New Mexico. The analyzed data, released by the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC), American Federation of Teachers New Mexico (AFT-NM), and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, show that more than one in five New Mexico consumers are now delinquent on their student loan debt.

New Mexico’s House is currently considering HB 172 which sets out to oversee and crack down on illegal practices by student loan companies.

“Debt stretching for decades after the completion of study is a real crisis impacting New Mexico students and is reason we need legislation like HB 172,” said Stephanie Ly, President of AFT New Mexico. “AFT New Mexico’s goal is to promote increased transparency within the student loan industry and provide mechanisms for relief should borrowers have concerns about their loans. We’ve been fortunate to have champions like Rep. Roybal Caballero carry this bill for several years now, and appreciate Rep. Hochman-Vigil’s joining this fight during her first legislative session.” 

“College should lead to opportunity, not financial ruin,” said Lindsay Cutler, attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “The analysis makes a clear and compelling case that New Mexico lawmakers need to protect student loan borrowers from illegal industry practices.”

Student loan debt in New Mexico has skyrocketed over 129 percent in the last decade.

The close look at data made available by federal sources shows the student debt crisis growing for borrowers across the state, including:

  • New Mexico has the second highest student loan default rate in the country;
  • New Mexicans now owe more than $6.8 billion in student debt;
  • More than 1 out of every 5 student loan borrowers in New Mexico are severely delinquent on their debt;
  • New Mexico ranks eighth in the country of states with the highest percentage of delinquent debt, and eleventh in percent of borrowers with delinquent debt; and
  • Nearly a quarter of all borrowers living in rural New Mexico are severely delinquent.

“As student loan borrowers in New Mexico suffer each day from the burden of their debt, state leaders must take action,” said Seth Frotman, Executive Director for the Student Borrower Protection Center. “The federal government has walked away from this crisis, casting millions of New Mexicans aside in the process. The borrowers across New Mexico cannot wait any longer for predatory student loan companies to be held accountable.”

As part of HB 172, sponsored by Rep. Roybal Caballero and Rep. Hochman-Vigil, student loan servicers would be required to be licensed and subject to oversight by the New Mexico Financial Institutions Division. These proposals would help ensure that student loan servicers do not mislead borrowers, misapply payments, or provide credit reporting agencies with inaccurate information.

HB 172 is particularly important because the federal government continues to ignore mounting evidence of the nation’s growing student debt crisis. Not only has the federal government halted efforts to protect student loan borrowers, it is turning a blind eye to predatory practices and enabling bad actors to harm borrowers.

SBPC HELPING STATES FIGHT FOR 44 MILLION AMERICANS WITH STUDENT DEBT

In the face of continuing systemic abuses across the student loan industry, state governments are taking action to expand protections for student loan borrowers and halt illegal practices by predatory companies. Last year, the Student Borrower Protection Center launched States for Student Borrower Protection, an initiative that highlights the student debt crisis in states across the country, and is designed to support the leaders in and out of government working to end this crisis through state level actions. Today’s release offers further evidence that state action is urgently needed.

The analysis is part of an ongoing series of original research, projects, and campaigns by SBPC designed to help student loan borrowers by shedding light on the crisis and empower advocates.

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About the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC): The Student Borrower Protection Center (www.protectborrowers.org) is a nonprofit organization solely focused on alleviating the burden of student debt for millions of Americans. SBPC engages in advocacy, policymaking, and litigation strategy to rein in industry abuses, protect borrowers’ rights, and advance economic opportunity for the next generation of students. Led by the team of former federal regulators that directed oversight of the student loan market at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, SBPC exposes harmful and illegal practices in the student loan industry, drives impact litigation, advocates on behalf of student loan borrowers in Washington and in state capitals, and promotes progressive policy change. SBPC accomplishes these goals by partnering with leaders at all levels of government and throughout the nonprofit sector.

About the American Federation of Teachers – New Mexico (AFT-NM): The American Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.

About New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (NMCLP): The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities, and protect the rights of people living in poverty.

New Mexico families testify in support of Medicaid Buy-in

Mothers, Elders Tell of Being Unable to Afford Care for Themselves, Their Families

SANTA FE–Dozens of New Mexico families, as part of the New Mexico Together for Healthcare campaign, testified before the House Health and Human Services Committee on Friday morning in support of HB 416, The Medicaid Buy-in Act, because the legislation would create greater access to quality, affordable healthcare.

Those speaking include Alanna Ranger, a young mother from Gallup, who made too much to qualify for Medicaid and did not make enough to be able to afford private health coverage.

“When my husband and I decided to start a family, we didn’t have insurance,” Ranger said. “We were both working two jobs, but we didn’t have coverage. We had to make very difficult decisions to figure out how to get the care my baby and I needed. That’s no way to start a family. Medicaid Buy-in would make insurance affordable for families like mine.”

The Medicaid Buy-in Act calls on the Health and Human Services Department to create and implement by 2021 a program to allow New Mexicans not currently eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or Affordable Care Act subsidies to pay monthly premiums to “buy-in” to Medicaid.

Maria Burciaga, a promotora from Sunland Park, told the committee that the Buy-in would help her and people in her community.

“In 2014, I got sick,” Burciaga told the committee. “The hospital said I needed to pay $4,000 upfront. I did what I could and I managed to get $1,500, but the hospital still wouldn’t care for me because I didn’t have insurance. The hospitals won’t take care of us because we cannot afford it. Medicaid Buy-in is a good alternative for us.”

New Mexico Together for Healthcare members Colin Baillio, Director of Policy and Communication with Health Action New Mexico, and Abuko Estrada, Supervising Attorney for Healthcare with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, served as expert witnesses on the bill.

“New Mexico families deserve access to the affordable, quality healthcare they need to thrive,” Estrada said. “Medicaid Buy-in creates an unprecedented opportunity to increase access to healthcare.”

Baillio cited recent polling data that show that 74 percent of New Mexicans—regardless of political party—support Medicaid Buy-in.

“For too long too many New Mexicans have had to choose between paying their bills or getting the healthcare they need,” Baillio said. “New Mexicans know that it’s time for a change. Medicaid Buy-in will create the change they need—and deserve.”

Due to a request for technical amendments to HB 416 made by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Debbie Armstrong, the committee did not vote on the bill on Friday. Instead, the bill will be amended and voted on at Monday’s Health and Human Services Committee meeting.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial coalition of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New MexicoNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Health Action New Mexico and United States of Care. The campaign’s website is http://nmtogether4health.org/ Follow the campaign on Facebook @NMTogether4Healthcare and Twitter @NMT4HC.