Capitol Views: Paid leave on the move

    The Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee advanced legislation this morning that would create provisions in state law for paid family and medical leave. SB186 by Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Chairman J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, would establish a state fund to compensate employees for a leave of absence from work.

    While the measure would allow employees to seek paid leave for an illness, the bill would also extend coverage to instances such as providing care to a family member, attending to other duties during a family member’s military service and seeking recovery after incidents of domestic or sexual abuse.

    Morrell’s bill would require businesses with 20 or more employees to participate in the paid leave program, which would be administered through the Louisiana Workforce Commission. While they would not be obligated, businesses with less than 20 employees could optionally participate in the program as well. In addition, the ability to opt-in would be extended to independent contractors. “We’re not capturing every employee in the state,” Morrell said. According to the bill’s author, both employers and employees would contribute the paid leave fund in a manner similar to Workers Compensation. “The idea is that the overall contribution is 0.064 percent of the employees’ salary,” Morrell said. “55 percent of that 0.064 is borne by the employee, the remainder is borne by the employer.”

    The bill was opposed in committee by both the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the state chapter of National Federation of Independent Business. Senate Retirement Chairman Barrow Peacock, R-Shreveport, was the panel’s sole vote against the measure, arguing the state can’t afford the administrative expenses of the program. “It sounds great until you see the cost,” he said. “How are we going to pay for it?”

    While Morell countered that the fund could absorb the administrative costs, Labor Chairman Neil Riser, who noted that he provides paid leave in his funeral home business, had some additional concerns with the bill and the strains it could put on other businesses. “This is just one more thing we are putting on business,” he said. “You can’t be all things for all people.”

    While Morell’s bill was reported favorably by the Labor Committee, he believes that because it creates a new state program, it will have to pass through the Senate Finance Committee before it heads to the floor. “We have to go to Finance and make the case of how this benefits the state,” he said.

    Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon in Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session.    

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