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August 29, 2002
CA Assembly Approves Paid Family Leave
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A bill to give workers paid family and medical leave is on the verge of reaching California Gov. Gray Davis' desk, the Associated Press reports.

The bill, authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, has cleared the Assembly after getting Senate approval. But it must now return to the Senate for a vote on some Assembly amendments.

Still, it appears likely that the legislation will end up before Davis soon, putting California in a position to become the first state to establish paid leave.

Twenty-seven other states have similar legislation in the works, with Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Washington state leading the way, according to the AP. Labor unions, women's groups, religious organizations, and the medical community have helped propel those bills.

"If this was a horse race, California would only be ahead by nose," said Lissa Bell, a senior policy associate at the National Partnership for Women and Families.

The California bill would establish a family temporary disability insurance program to grant workers up to six weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or ill family member. An employee-funded program, it would pay qualified workers 55 percent of their wages during the leave period and cost workers up to $46 per year to support.

Since its introduction last year, the bill has seen several changes. Originally, it called for up to 12 weeks of paid leave with funding for the program split equally between workers and employers. But thanks to modifications made in the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week, the leave time has been cut in half, while the full financial burden has been placed on workers.

Even with the amendments, the bill still faces heavy opposition, especially by small businesses, who say they can't afford to lose workers for that amount of time.

Davis, a Democrat in the midst of a re-election campaign, is already grappling with another major labor bill: a proposal to force binding arbitration when contract negotiations fail between union farmworkers and growers.

The AP reports that both issues have tested the governor's commitment to labor interests, which traditionally make up the Democratic constituency and have been the single largest contributors to Davis' campaign. The governor has not taken a position on either issue, according to the AP.


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