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September 03, 2002
CA Paid Leave Bill Now Before Governor
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ifornia lawmakers gave their approval Friday to a paid family-leave bill, meaning it's up to Gov. Gray Davis to decide whether his state will be the first in the nation to provide such time off.

Davis, a Democrat seeking re-election, had taken no position on the legislation as of Friday, according to the Sacramento Bee.

If it becomes law, SB 1661 would - starting in 2004 - give millions of workers up to six weeks of annual family leave, during which they would earn partial pay from the state's disability insurance program, the Bee reports.

Employees could use their leave to care for:

- newborns or recently adopted children.

- any relative or domestic partner suffering from an illness so severe as to require hospitalization.

The bill originally called employers and workers to share the cost of paid time off, but stiff opposition from business groups resulted a version that puts all of the cost on workers.

Those who take paid leave would receive income from a disability insurance fund to which they already devote a portion of their paychecks. Workers would pay an additional $25 to $45 per year to fund the new program.

Despite the change, the Bee reports that businesses remain opposed to paid leave because they believe the loss of employees for weeks at a time would reduce productivity, particularly for smaller companies.

Federal law currently gives workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but paid-leave proponents note that many poor workers can't afford to take advantage of that provision. A U.S. Department of Labor survey shows 78 percent of those eligible decline because they need the income.

"This makes family leave real," said Tom Rankin, president of the California Labor Federation, the bill's sponsor. "For higher-income people, it has been an option, but for lower-income people, it hasn't been because they just can't take that kind of time off work."

The bill first cleared the California Senate, then the Assembly. But because of changes made by the Assembly, the bill had to return to the Senate for a reconciliation vote, which occurred Friday.

To view the Sacramento Bee article, click here.

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