Maryland lawmakers passed a measure on Thursday to create a paid family leave program, sending the legislation to Gov. Larry Hogan.
The bill, approved by supermajority votes by Democrats who control the legislature, would enable workers to take up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave for specified personal family circumstances such as caring for a sick relative or having a baby. It would provide up to 24 weeks for a parent, if he or she has a serious health issue in the year of a child's birth.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Sen. Antonio Hayes, a Baltimore Democrat. He thanked supporters who have “come together and really advocated on behalf of Maryland families."
Republicans criticized the measure for failing to spell out how much employees and employers would have to contribute, leaving that for the state's labor department to define later. They said Democrats were rushing to get the bill to the Republican governor just to meet a deadline so lawmakers will still be in session if the bill is vetoed.
“We're pushing this bill as quick as we can to get it upstairs,” said Sen. J.B. Jennings, a Republican, who added: “We don't know the numbers ... this bill is a hot mess.”
Because lawmakers are in the last session of the four-year term, they would not have a chance to override the veto next year if they adjourn before the governor acts on legislation.
The measure would create an insurance pool. Employees and employers would contribute to fund the program. Under the bill, the state’s labor department would set contribution rates to pay for the program. Employers with fewer than 15 employees would not be required to contribute.
The measure also includes job protections to protect employees from retaliation or termination for using the leave.
Seven states and the District of Columbia have paid family and medical leave insurance programs, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington. Colorado and Oregon have approved programs that have not started yet.