May 9, 2023 - Politics

Minnesota Senate passes paid family and medical leave bill

Illustration of the Minnesota State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Working Minnesotans would be guaranteed up to 20 weeks of paid time off to care for a baby, loved one, or their own medical issues under legislation that narrowly passed the state Senate Monday.

Why it matters: Democratic leaders have pledged to use their full control at the State Capitol to make Minnesota the 12th state in the nation to enact a paid family and medical leave program.

Catch up fast: The legislation creates a new state-run insurance program to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial wage replacement while they care for a new baby or sick family member. The plan also covers 12 weeks of leave for an employee to tend to their own serious medical conditions, including pregnancy.

  • A .7% payroll tax, split between employers and employees, would fund the program.
  • Employers that offer private benefits that meet or exceed the state's requirements could pay a fee and opt out of both the state program and the tax.

Of note: Under the Senate's version of the bill, workers could take a maximum of 20 weeks a year by combining the two benefits.

What they're saying: "This program is going to even the playing field, it will keep people out of poverty and most importantly this program is built on a foundation that we are all worthy, that all of our experiences and life trajectories are equally important," DFL Sen. Alice Mann, who sponsored the Senate bill, said ahead of the vote.

The other side: Republicans and some leading business groups have criticized the proposal as a one-size-fits-all mandate. They raised concerns about both the tax hike and the cost of hiring temporary workers to backfill employees on leave.

  • A GOP-backed alternative to give businesses tax incentives to help cover the cost of private paid leave insurance was rejected.

The intrigue: Like many of the DFL majority's priority bills this session, the paid family leave proposal cleared the Senate with the minimum 34 votes. Democrats voted yes, while all 33 Republicans voted no.

What's next: Lawmakers in the House and Senate have until the Legislature's May 22 adjournment deadline to reconcile differences between the two versions.

  • If signed into law, the benefits would begin in 2025, the same year the tax increase takes effect.
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