Mar 8, 2023 - Politics

Texas House bill would provide paid parental leave

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Some state lawmakers are pushing for Texas to make parental leave benefits available to workers in both the public and private sectors.

The big picture: A bipartisan coalition of legislators say Texas should be doing more to support parents' most basic needs — and that this legislative session is a good time to do it.

Why it matters: Texas has some of the country's highest maternal mortality rates, which disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic families.

  • Paid parental leave is linked to improvements in maternal and infant health and reductions in infant deaths.

State of play: House Bill 2604, referred to as the Texas Family Act, would give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for their newborn or adopted child. Parents would receive up to $1,000 a week from a fund established by the Texas Workforce Commission.

  • Employers that don’t have a self-funded paid leave policy would contribute 0.15% of their employees’ annual wages toward the state-operated fund.
  • At a news conference last week, six Texas lawmakers — all women — said the bill has bipartisan support and is vital for "a well-balanced and healthy community."
  • "For the pro-family stance that we're taking across our state, we need our laws to align with those values. We don't need lip service," said Houston Democratic Rep. Penny Morales Shaw, who filed the bill based on her experiences raising four children and talking to other parents.

By the numbers: 75% of Texas workers don't have access to any form of paid leave; 61% have access to unpaid leave, per the nonprofit Every Texan.

  • The organization, which focuses on social justice, estimates that 144,000 households would benefit from the paid leave benefits in the first year if the Texas Family Act becomes law.

The bottom line: "This is monumental … Lord knows how much we cherish our families in Texas, and how much we cherish our freedom to care for our families. But too many Texans don't have the freedom and choice to bond and care for those newborns," Amanda Posson, a senior policy analyst for Every Texan, said at the news conference.

Meanwhile: State employees have to use paid vacation time — or take unpaid time off — to be with their newborns.

  • Senate Bill 222 would give qualifying state employees 20 days of paid leave after giving birth to a child and 10 days if their spouse has a baby or if they have a baby through adoption or a surrogate.

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