Sen. Daughtry, Rep. Cloutier introduce bipartisan Paid Family and Medical Leave proposal
AUGUSTA – On Thursday, Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, and Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston, introduced a bipartisan bill that would create a statewide paid family and medical leave program for Maine. LD 1964, “An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program,” which has over 100 cosponsors, was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee.
“I started working on paid family and medical leave during my first session in the Legislature, more than 10 years ago, after caring for a beloved family member at the end of their battle with a terminal illness. After years of working on this, talking about this, and fighting for this, I can tell you: We know Maine needs paid family and medical leave. A program of this importance requires time and teamwork. That’s just what we’ve put into this proposal,” said Sen. Daughtry. “I’m proud of the conversations, considerations and collaboration that went into this bill. I’m eager to continue this good work with the committee and my fellow legislators. I’m excited to see Maine finally have a statewide paid family and medical leave program.”
“Today’s public hearing is the culmination of a collaborative and comprehensive process that has been years in the making,” said Rep. Cloutier. “Sen. Daughtry and I have always shared one goal: To create a paid family and medical leave program that works for Maine. We know now is the time to get this done, and to do it right. We still remain open to new ideas and to compromise, so that we can ensure that the final product is the right piece of legislation for our state and carefully balances the needs of our businesses, workers and families.”
Only 15 percent of American workers have access to any sort of paid leave, and fewer than 60 percent of the workforce has access to unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. Nationally, one in four women takes fewer than 11 days of parental leave after giving birth despite a recommended six- to eight-week recovery period. Eleven other states and the District of Columbia have instituted a statewide paid family and medical leave program, including every other state in New England.
Sen. Daughtry and Rep. Cloutier served as co-chairs of the bipartisan Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program. The commission was formed in the 130th Legislature by LD 1559, “Resolve, To Create the Commission To Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program,” which was sponsored by Sen. Daughtry and co-sponsored by Rep. Cloutier. After two years of work, the commission issued its final report earlier this year.
Since presenting the commission’s report to the committee in March, Sen. Daughtry and Rep. Cloutier have been meeting in-person and via Zoom with more than 300 businesses from all over the state, including members of the State Chamber and regional Chambers of Commerce, to receive further input and share information. They’ve also met with over 200 stakeholders, from AARP members to family caregivers, HR representatives and more.
Based on these meetings, a sponsors’ amendment has been drafted and made public and was presented on Thursday. A copy of the updated sponsors’ amendment can be found here.
Under the current proposal, employees and employers would split a wage contribution, equal to 1% or less of the employee’s wage. Employers with 15 or fewer workers would not have to pay the contribution, but their employees would still be eligible. Employers who offer comparable or more comprehensive paid leave plans would also be opted out.
Once an employee hits a certain contribution benchmark, they would be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year for qualifying life events.
Employees would be able to take time off for:
- The birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.
- Supporting a sick or dying loved one.
- Caring for an older family member.
- Recovery from surgery, an accident, substance use disorder, or other health challenges.
- Prepping for/transitioning back from a family member’s military deployment.
- Managing immediate safety needs if you or a family member are a victim of domestic or sexual violence.
The exact contribution rate, including the split between employee and employer, and the wage replacement rate, will be negotiated by the committee.
The bill and sponsors’ amendment now face further consideration and work in the committee.