Freshman Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties, planned to file a bill that would increase notification requirements before the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer can approve water rights leases.

Currently, Chandler said, when someone wants to lease their water rights, the process does not include notifying others who might be affected by the possible lease agreement.

“This bill would be important to people who are with acequias, for example, because sometimes, members wish to lease water rights, but other members are not notified in advance,” the freshman lawmaker said. “That creates problems, so we’re proposing there be a notice, an opportunity to be heard, a process that will require the State Engineer to notify those potentially-affected parties.”

Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe County, will carry the Senate version of the bill, Chandler said.

Along with Sen. Cisneros, Chandler plans to a sponsor a bill that would require Los Alamos National Laboratory to continue to pay Gross Receipts Taxes, regardless of its nonprofit status. A similar bill was passed by the Senate and House in 2018, but was vetoed by former gov. Susana Martinez.

Chandler is also sponsoring a bill that would give workers 12 weeks of paid family leave every year, to allow them to deal with illnesses, raise children or care for family members who fall ill.

“This is probably a long-overdue way to support working families,” Chandler said. “This is one mechanism to ensure that parents have an opportunity to bond with newly-born children, and also to support people who have family members they need to support who are battling illness, or their own illness as well.”

Another bill Chandler plans to file would require contractors who do business with state government to pay the prevailing wage, overtime and benefits in their respective industries.

If passed, workers for those contractors could file complaints and win damages following investigations by the state Department of Workforce Solution, Chandler said.

Chandler said in a Jan. 10 interview she had not looked into whether similar provisions have been implemented in New Mexico law to protect all workers in the state from wage theft, not just government contractors.

Then in a Jan. 30 press release, Chandler was quoted as saying that the bill will close loopholes in state law that have been exploited by "unscrupulous contractors."

"Wage theft is wrong for New Mexico," she said in the release. "This bill reaffirms our state's position that wage theft of any kind is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any form."

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