Paid Family Medical Leave Bill Passes Senate Despite Governor Lamont Veto Threat

May 30, 2019

The Connecticut General Assembly Senate recently passed Senate Bill 1, a Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) bill along Democratic party lines despite a threatened veto by Governor Ned Lamont.

As the House Ranking Member of the Labor Committee, Hwang voted to support of the Family & Medical Leave Act proposal in 2016. He supports the values and philosophy of Paid Family Medical Leave of providing wage protection for workers caring for loved ones. Senator Hwang heard compelling testimony from dozens of Connecticut workers who struggle with serious medical issues in their family, and agrees that they should have the option to take paid leave so they can take care of their family without forfeiting their wages or loss of their job.

Connecticut Senate and House Republicans agree that allowing for a paid leave program is critical to the quality of life we want to offer in Connecticut. The Republicans released an alternative proposal (LCO 9371) to give Connecticut employees the option to choose a plan they can afford, and allows employers to offer PFML coverage to thousands of workers in Connecticut.

The Republican amendment that was voted on but rejected on party lines by the Democrat majority in the Senate would have the Insurance Commissioner develop multiple PFML options in concert with private sector insurers to provide a choice, rather than a mandate, of paid leave products. In addition, by proposing to break down barriers between Connecticut and other states with similar plans, the Republican plan seeks to create a larger pool from which Connecticut employers and employees in order to reduce costs.

SB 1, the Democrats’ plan, is financed by a mandatory 0.5% payroll tax on Connecticut workers to provide wage replacement benefits. It provides workers with up to 12 weeks of benefits over each 12-month period in an amount equal to 95% of an employee’s weekly earnings, up to 40x the minimum wage and 60% of an employee’s earnings above 40x the minimum wage — much higher than programs in other states. So, if you make more than 40x the minimum wage, you would be required to pay the same percentage as everyone else, while being eligible for a smaller percentage of your weekly pay than anyone else.

The amended version of the bill requires the program be administered by a quasi-public agency staffed with at least 135 new state employees. It would cost well in excess of $20 million to start-up the program, with annual costs being entirely funded by employees’ payroll contributions, removing millions from the coverage pool.

Governor Ned Lamont is also supportive of the PFML idea but also made clear that he would veto the bill in its current amended form that includes a state government management structure, rather than one run by demonstrated professionals who already manage similar disability insurance programs.

Republicans learned from our neighboring states that have enacted PFML programs using private market insurers, and realize that a government-insured system is impractical and unsustainable like the state of Washington. The program should be optional, affordable, and sustainable. We need to utilize the expertise we have in the private sector to administer and manage this idea. This is, essentially, an insurance policy. Insurance is one of the things Connecticut does best! Let’s allow them to develop policies for workers to choose from — let’s give our people a choice to decide what benefits they need and how much they can afford to contribute. Let’s allow for paid family leave, but let’s do it in a way that is affordable, sustainable, and well-managed.

  1. Senate Bill 1: http://cgalites/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&which_year=2019&bill_num=1
  2. Current CT FMLA law:
  3. LCO  9371: http://cgalites/2019/lcoamd/pdf/2019LCO09371-R00-AMD.pdf