With support from its Democratic majority, the Connecticut Senate has voted 21-15 in favor of a state-mandated paid family and medical leave bill – which, depending on how matters develop, could be vetoed by fellow Democrat Gov. Ned Lamont.
SB 1, which now goes to the House, would fund family and medical leave benefits through a 0.5% payroll tax on every Connecticut employee. Individuals could use the money to take up to 12 weeks off from work to care for a loved one or newborn.
It would establish a quasi-public agency, the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Authority, to oversee the family-leave program. While the governor supports that measure, he said the agency’s complicated structure as delineated in the legislation would turn off private insurers, with the result that the state would end up running it.
“My commitment to enacting paid family and medical leave has never wavered,” Lamont said. “I know how important it is to hold onto your best employees while they care for their family or themselves. This program will make Connecticut more attractive to young workers and those with families, and it’s the right thing to do.
“However,” he continued, “at the same time that we are trying to streamline state government to make it more efficient for our residents and businesses, we should not tie the hands of the quasi-public agency that will have to oversee and implement what is essentially a $400 million startup company.”
The governor expressed skepticism over whether SB 1 would result in a program that “is solvent, efficiently administered and nimble enough to adapt and adjust as needed, particularly in its first few, crucial years.”
Lamont indicated that, if passed by the House, he would veto the bill as written. He also said that further negotiations in a special session after the General Assembly’s scheduled June 5 adjournment could result in a more acceptable version of the bill. The Assembly is already girding for a special session vote on electronic highway tolls.
Meanwhile, state Republicans are pushing their own family leave bill, which would not be government mandated. It would create private-market options to give employers the tools to compensate employees for time away from work for sick leave or to care for extended family members at no cost to the state. In addition, the Republican plan seeks to create the ability for Connecticut employers and employees to buy other state plans should those states allow.
Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano said Senate Republicans would uphold Lamont’s veto of the Democrat-sponsored bill, should that occur. The legislature can only override a veto if two-thirds of members in each chamber vote to do so – meaning that Republican votes would be required to override any veto in the Senate.
“If Governor Lamont vetoes the Democrat paid family medical leave bill, Senate Republicans stand ready to uphold the governor’s veto,” Fasano said. “Paid family medical leave is not a partisan issue. But Republicans, and now Governor Lamont in his comments today, have made it clear that we need to create a program that is truly sustainable and that is able to deliver on the benefits it promises.”