The New Mexico Legislature has once again taken a stand in support of drunken workers throughout the state.
On a 4-3 party-line vote, Democrats in the House Labor and Human Resources Committee, led by Speaker of the House Ken Martinez, D-Grants, have blocked a bill by Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, that would have reduced workers compensation payments for employees who are injured on the job while intoxicated.
This was Roch's third attempt to change state law following a 2010 Court of Appeals verdict in favor of Edward Villa, a Las Cruces city worker who showed up for work drunk and later injured himself by falling off a garbage truck. That drunken fall has led to a windfall of more that $100,000 in workers compensation payments.
Roch and the business groups supporting his bill point out that employees who show up to work drunk or high endanger not only themselves, but everybody else on the job site.
It is probably not surprising that trade unions opposed the bill, but it is shortsighted. By protecting drunken workers, they have put all of those workers fellow employees in danger.
Martinez, who shares a law practice in Grants and Albuquerque when not heading the House of Representatives, argued that cracking down on those who come to work drunk and then get injured or killed on the job would punish the children and widows for the irresponsible actions of the breadwinner, according to a story by Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Milan Simonich.
If that sounds familiar, it's because it is the exact same argument that was used more than a decade ago when New Mexico had among the weakest drunken-driving laws in the country and one of the highest levels of drunken-driving accidents.
It took a Democratic governor, Bill Richardson, working with a Republican senator, Kent Cravens, to finally end that culture of excuses and coddling and reduce the number of people killed or injured on New Mexico's roadways.
It's time for the same kind of awakening on workers compensation claims.
Current law allows workers such as Villa, who had a 0.12 blood alcohol level three hours after his accident, to collect up to 90 percent of their workers comp benefits.
Workers compensation provides a critical safety net, especially for those who work in hazardous occupations such as logging and construction. It should not be depleted to benefit those who make the intentional decision to drink on the job or before work.