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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, June 30th, 2017

Washington State Senate passes landmark paid family and medical leave bill

By a vote of thirty-seven to twelve (a three-to-one margin), the Washington State Senate has passed a landmark paid family and medical leave bill that will strengthen the economic security and well-being of families across the Evergreen State.

Substitute Senate Bill 5975 is the product of prolonged negotiations between the four statehouse caucuses, business groups, labor unions, and other stakeholders. Legislative staff have summarized it as follows:

Brief Summary of First Substitute Bill

  • Provides paid family leave of up to 12 weeks to bond after the birth or placement of a child or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Provides paid medical leave of up to 12 weeks fo r an employee’s serious health condition.
  • Limits combined leave to 16 weeks in a year, plus an additional two weeks if there are pregnancy complications, for a possible total of 18 weeks. Requires a seven-day waiting period for leave, except for the birth or placement of a child.
  • Provides leave for a military exigency.
  • Requires an employee to work 820 hours in the qualifying period to be eligible.
  • Specifies a premium of 0.4 percent of wages beginning on January 1, 2019. Premiums assessed to employers and employees vary. An employer may pay the employee’s share.
  • Bases benefits on an employee’s wages and may be paid beginning January 1, 2020.
  • Authorizes employers to operate their own equivalent voluntary plans.
  • Includes special provisions for small businesses.
  • Allows tribes and self-employed individuals to opt- in.

The bill text is available here.

The roll call vote on SSB 5975 was as follows:

Roll Call
SSB 5975
Paid family & medical leave
3rd Reading & Final Passage

Yeas: 37; Nays: 12

Voting Yea: Senators Becker, Billig, Braun, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Fain, Fortunato, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Hunt, Keiser, King, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Miloscia, Mullet, Nelson, O’Ban, Palumbo, Pedersen, Ranker, Rivers, Rolfes, Saldaña, Schoesler, Takko, Van De Wege, Walsh, Warnick, Wellman, Wilson, Zeiger

Voting Nay: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Brown, Ericksen, Hawkins, Honeyford, Padden, Pearson, Rossi, Sheldon, Short

Democrats were united in their support of the legislation, while Republicans were divided, with their caucus splitting right down the middle.

The Republicans who voted for the bill were:

  1. Randi Becker
  2. John Braun
  3. Joe Fain
  4. Phil Fortunato
  5. Curtis King
  6. Mark Miloscia
  7. Steve O’Ban
  8. Ann Rivers
  9. Mark Schoesler
  10. Maureen Walsh
  11. Judy Warnick
  12. Lynda Wilson
  13. Hans Zeiger

The other Republicans are listed above in the “nay” category. (We consider Tim Sheldon of Potlatch a Republican because he caucuses with the Republicans, talks and behaves like a Republican, and votes for other Republicans.)

Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and it’s nice to see a good bill pass out of the Senate for a change, instead of simply dying there.

SSB 5975 now heads to the state House of Representatives, where it is expected to be easily approved. It will then go to Governor Jay Inslee to be signed into law. Senate passage was the bill’s highest hurdle.

NPI thanks the thirty-seven members of the Senate who voted to pass this legislation. Washington is a better state thanks to their action today.

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