Governor signs changed wage law

The Associated Press

SANTA FE —A new law is taking effect to resolve an overtime pay problem for state and local governments.

Gov. Bill Richardson signed the overtime measure into law Friday. It took effect immediately.

Police, firemen and corrections officers will be able to work flexible shifts without incurring overtime. Local and state governments also can offer compensatory time rather than cash to employees for working overtime.

The overtime exceptions for governments were inadvertently dropped last year when lawmakers approved an increase in the state’s minimum wage.

This week, the Legislature approved a bill to restore the exceptions but still require governments to comply with the state’s higher minimum wage. At the start of the year, the minimum wage increased to $6.50 an hour from $5.15 an hour.

“This change to our minimum wage law will allow local, county and state government to still provide a better wage, offer comp time for extra hours, and balance their books,” Richardson said.

Without the legislation, about $2 million would have been needed for overtime for state police officers and $2 million for state prison correctional officers, who work 12-hour shifts. Cities estimated they would spend $25 million a year for overtime pay unless the legislation was enacted.

Also Friday, the governor signed into law a measure known as the “feed bill” to pay for the 30-day legislative session and year-round operations of the Legislature.