Los Angeles Times Examines Debate Over Paid Family Leave Legislation
The Los Angeles Times today examines the "simmering fight in the state capital" between business groups and organized labor over legislation (S 1661) sponsored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) that could make California the first state in the country to mandate paid family leave for employees who take time off to care for a family member with an illness or to spend time with a newborn (Bustillo, Los Angeles Times, 7/29). The bill would require the state disability insurance program to pay "partial replacement compensation" for up to 12 weeks when an employee leaves work as a result of a "temporary family disability." Employees who qualify would receive benefits to care for a "seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner or to bond with a newborn infant." The bill would require a doctor to "verify that there was a serious illness or a new child" before an employee could take a leave. The legislation would provide employees with payments that range from $50 to $490 per week, capping payments at 55% of earnings for the period of leave. According to the state Employment Development Department, the bill would cost $217 million in the first two years (California Healthline, 6/11).
With the Assembly set to address the measure, which the Senate approved earlier this month, business groups are raising concerns that the costs of the measure would be too high and could lead to layoffs, while supporters say the legislation could actually save money "by helping businesses retain good workers." According to a state Employment Development Department estimate, the average cost of the measure would be about $34 per worker per year, or about $17 split evenly between workers and employers. The California Chamber of Commerce, a leading opponent of the bill, estimated that the cost could reach $100 for each share. Julianne Broyles of the California chamber said, "Certainly, it would be great if everyone could also provide day care, but they can't," adding, "The feel-good crowd pushing the bill is unfortunately trying to mandate a fringe benefit." Art Pulaski, treasurer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, said, "This is the most important piece of pro-family legislation this year. It's a very important bill to working people." Kuehl said, "Nobody wants to bleed the business community to death in California. ... It seems to me that the main sticking point, and the one that may allow them to go neutral (if it is addressed) is the employer contribution" (Los Angeles Times, 7/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.