A renewed effort to provide state employees with 12-week paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child was passed in the House on Wednesday after a 104-4 vote.
And if the Senate follows suit, the governor said on Wednesday he would support the measure – support that could help the bill become law.
The benefit offered is intended to help retain employees as the state competes with the private sector for workers.
“Paid family leave is essential to supporting the economic security of our working families,” said State Representative Beth Bernstein, D-Richland. “This paid leave will provide mothers and fathers the opportunity to bond with their newborn during this critical time and promote healthier outcomes, in addition to improving retention of our government employees.”
In 2020, 720 officials took leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
Lawmakers made efforts last year to provide benefits to state employees, but the legislation came to a standstill as legislative work halted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawmakers returned the bills for this year’s legislative session.
The House bill this year had 29 co-sponsors in the House, including Bernstein, and State Representative Kirkman Finlay, R-Richland. A similar bill in the Senate has three co-sponsors, including State Senator Darrell Jackson, D-Richland and Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington.
“I’m really happy the House passed this,” Jackson said. “I was hoping the Senate would have (done) it by now, but we have work to do and hopefully by the end of the year we will get the bill into law.” “
Jackson added that making sure the state has the advantage sends a message to the private sector to look at the policy.
“Some private companies need to do even more,” Jackson said. “There are some who do a lot less. I think this is a great signal for private companies, but I think it starts with government employees.
The House measure is now before the Senate for consideration.
“It will have to go through the committee process, (and) be fully vetted, but I think there are people here who are interested in the concept,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R -Edgefield.
In March of last year, McMaster voiced support for the proposed policy saying that’s the key to keeping families strong. He added that paid family leave would help fill labor shortages in state agencies.
“I wish we could pay state employees more,” McMaster told reporters Wednesday. “I wish we could pay law enforcement more, a lot of people. We have to help them as much as we can and (paid family leave is) one way to do it. “