New Mexico bill would remove minimum wage exemption for high schoolers

Jan 30, 2021


Credit Sen. Jeff Steinborn

  LAS CRUCES - Workers who also attend high school would have to be paid the same minimum wage as everybody else under a bill sponsored by State Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces. 


Senate Bill 35 would remove an exemption in the state minimum wage laws that allows high school students to be paid a lower wage than their co-workers. The high school wage is capped at $8.50 an hour, while the wage for other workers will increase to $12 an hour in 2023.


“I feel like this is a matter of simple fairness,” Steinborn said. “High school workers work incredibly hard. They contribute right along with everyone else, and they deserve the same wage.”


State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, noted that under current law, only students are capped, meaning young workers can earn more money if they drop out of school. Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, voted for the bill, but warned the state should all expect to pay a little more to cover the increase. The bill passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee on a party-line vote, and now goes to the Tax Business and Transportation Committee.


Fast track


While most bills introduced this session are still in line awaiting their first committee hearing, legislation to remove an invalid abortion law from the books has already cleared two committees, and has made it to the House floor for a vote.


House Bill 7, sponsored by Reps. Micaela Lara Cadena and Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces and others, passed the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, after having previously passed the Health and Human Services Committee. A companion bill, Senate Bill 10, is also advancing through the process on the Senate side.


Both bills would strike a 1969 law still on the books that outlaws abortion in New Mexico. That law was made invalid by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.


Much of the Republican opposition has centered around the fact that one of the provisions in the old law provides a conscious clause protecting health care workers who refuse to perform abortions. Supporters of the bill say that protection exists in other legislation.


The bill was passed by the House, 40-29, in 2019, but was defeated in the Senate. Seven of the eight Democrats who voted against the bill then are no longer in the Senate. George Munoz, D-Gallup, is the lone survivor.


Will we be last again?


The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book ranking every state for childhood wellbeing will be released Wednesday, Feb. 3, with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on hand to speak about her initiatives pending in the Legislature to increase funding and services for children.


New Mexico finished 50th in the nation last year for the fourth time since 2013. The survey evaluates childhood wellbeing in four categories, economic security; education; health; and family and community. This year, for the first time, there will be data from the U.S. Census Bureau specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The report will be available after its release on the New Mexico Voices for Children website at