Washington State’s House of Representatives has enthusiastically given its backing to a landmark paid family and medical leave bill that will bolster the economic security and well-being of Washington families. The House took action within an hour of having received the bill from the state Senate, which is extremely fast.
The legislation, Substitute Senate Bill 5975, passed the House by a vote of sixty-five to twenty-nine. Four members were excused and did not take part in the vote.
Paid family & medical leave
Yeas: 65; Nays: 29; Excused: 4
Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Bergquist, Blake, Chapman, Clibborn, Cody, Dent, Doglio, Dolan, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Goodman, Graves, Gregerson, Haler, Hansen, Harmsworth, Harris, Hudgins, Irwin, Jinkins, Kagi, Kilduff, Kirby, Kloba, Lovick, Lytton, MacEwen, Macri, Manweller, McBride, McCabe, McDonald, Muri, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pellicciotti, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Reeves, Riccelli, Robinson, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Sells, Senn, Slatter, Smith, Springer, Stambaugh, Stanford, Stokesbary, Stonier, Sullivan, Tarleton, Tharinger, Valdez, Van Werven, Wilcox, Wylie, Chopp
Voting Nay: Representatives Barkis, Buys, Caldier, Chandler, Condotta, DeBolt, Dye, Griffey, Hargrove, Jenkin, Johnson, Klippert, Koster, Kraft, Kretz, Kristiansen, Maycumber, McCaslin, Nealey, Orcutt, Pike, Rodne, Schmick, Steele, Taylor, Vick, Volz, Walsh, J., Young
Excused: Representatives Hayes, Holy, Morris, Shea
As in the Senate, the Democrats were united in their support of the bill while the Republicans were divided, providing all of the nay votes and some aye votes.
Here’s some background from legislative staff on how it will work:
Average premiums will cost about $4 a week per employee (shared between the employer and employee) with a maximum benefit of $1,000 a week. The cost of the leave program will be shared with employee premiums accounting for about 63 percent and employers contributing 37 percent. Considerations have been made for small businesses, including opt-in only premium contributions for employers with 50 or fewer employees. Employees of businesses with fewer than 50 workers are still covered by the benefit.
Businesses with 150 or fewer employees would also be eligible for a grant for the cost to cover the duties of employees taking leave.
Legislators celebrated the passage of SSB 5975 with a news release.
“To care for a baby or an aging parent, paid family leave is the gift of time and peace of mind that we can be there for our families, put food on the table and go back to a job that is secure,” said State Representative June Robinson, D‑38th District (Everett), who authored the original House bill.
“This legislation, which is both worker-friendly and fiscally responsible, is good for families, smart for business, and keeps our state moving forward.”
“Washington State has proved once again that we are leaders for the cause of working families and shown that even on issues with a vast range of perspectives, bipartisan compromise is possible when the focus stays on the common good,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D‑33rd District (Kent), the lead Senate Democratic negotiator.
“I was devastated when my first paid family leave law that was adopted in 2007 was ultimately defunded in the wake of the Great Recession. But through tough-minded bipartisan negotiations, we have developed a program that will become a cornerstone for thriving families and successful businesses.”
Senate Republican Floor Leader Joe Fain served as the original sponsor in the state Senate and helped negotiate the deal with Keiser, Robinson, and other legislators.
“Too often moms and dads are not able to take time to bond with and care for their newborn, or recover from a serious injury,” said Fain (R‑47th District), the measure’s prime sponsor. “Our paid family and medical leave plan provides economic stability for working families, while respecting the needs of employers.”
“This plan represents what is possible when Republicans and Democrats work together in the best interest of our state.”
Only four other states currently offer or are set to offer a comprehensive paid family and medical leave insurance program. All are blue states: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York. The District of Columbia also offers paid leave.
This is a truly significant accomplishment and we congratulate the Legislature on this strong bipartisan vote for a worthy, needed progressive idea.
The bill now awaits signing by Governor Jay Inslee.