Breakthrough may be imminent on paid family leave

  • Sen. Karen Spilka, who expects to be elected Senate president next month, said one of her goals will be fostering a “safe, warm welcoming environment.” shns photo

State House News Service
Published: 6/19/2018 10:02:01 PM

A day after the Supreme Judicial Court knocked an income surtax off the ballot, Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka hinted movement could come soon another issue that’s set to come before voters in November.

Spilka is the sponsor of a bill to establish a paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts, and the Raise Up Massachusetts Coalition has proposed a ballot question to institute a similar program.

“We have pending, and we may find out today or tomorrow, whether or not the Legislature will pass my paid family and medical leave bill,” Spilka told attendees of a Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus event Tuesday.

She said, “There is a very good chance that Massachusetts will have paid family and medical leave within the next few years, and that is very exciting. That will help not only so many women but men and families and clearly kids from all backgrounds, and that would help every single resident of Massachusetts, so stay tuned and you may hear even more on the news today or tomorrow about this.”

Spilka’s bill is before the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, which faces a July 2 deadline to decide how to act on it. Ballot campaigns have a July 3 deadline to turn in their final round of signatures.

Asked after her speech about her paid leave comments, Spilka acknowledged the issue was part of so-called “grand bargain” negotiations to address ballot questions with in the Legislature, but did not provide details on what she expected might happen in the next few days.

“I know the parties are working on it, and there’s always the anticipation that hopefully things may break, but I don’t know anything specific other than I know we need to hopefully get something done soon,” she told the News Service.

The ballot question calls for up to 16 weeks of job-protected paid leave to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, to care for a new child, or to meet family needs arising from a family member’s active duty military service, according to Raise Up. It authorizes up to 26 weeks of job-protected paid leave to recover from a worker’s own serious illness or injury, or to care for a seriously ill or injured service member.

Leave benefits under the ballot question would be funded through employer contributions to a new trust, and employers could require employees to contribute up to 50 percent of the cost. Workers taking paid leave would receive 90 percent of their average weekly wages, up to a maximum benefit of $1,000 a week.

On Monday the Supreme Judicial Court ruled a proposed income surtax on incomes over $1 million was ineligible for the ballot because its components did not adhere to a “relatedness” requirement, a decision that may influence the behind-the-scenes ballot question talks.

Spilka said she respects the court’s ruling but was disappointed, calling income inequality and inequality of opportunities “still too prevalent in Massachusetts.”

“I do believe that the wealthiest among us, those earning over $1 million or more, have the capability to contribute a little more to even the playing field,” the Ashland Democrat said. “I don’t know what will happen to that. Certainly we’ll move on and we’ll continue to ensure that our economy, our state, continues to thrive in the best possible way, but we’ll need to regroup and take a look at that as well.”

A paid family and medical leave bill cleared the Senate on July 30, 2016, the day before formal legislative sessions ended for that year.


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