AP NEWS

New Hampshire House passes paid family leave bill

March 20, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The House approved a paid family and medical leave bill on Wednesday, sending it to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who remains opposed to it and is championing a competing plan.

The House voted 219-142 to pass a bill that the Senate approved last month. The plan calls for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child, a serious illness not related to employment or the serious illness of a spouse or certain other relatives. It would require businesses to provide insurance or send 0.5 percent of employees’ weekly wages to the state.

Rep. Manny Espitia, D-Nashua, described how his father twice left work to take care of him — once when he was ill as a toddler and again 18 years later and tried to take his own life via a drug overdose.

“My father never envisioned he would have to drop everything he had to help his 20-year-old son get his life in order,” he said. “I’m incredibly thankful for the father I was given, because without hesitation, he left his job and was lucky enough to take time off from work to take care of his son. But we’re an exception to the rule.”

Too many others, he argued, must decide between keeping their job and being with a loved one in need.

“Paid family and medical leave is a moral issue,” he said. “We need to stand with the working people of New Hampshire and offer them protection when they need it most.”

Sununu and other opponents call the plan an income tax. He and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott propose a voluntary program in which both states would cover up to six week of leave.

Rep. Jonathan Mackie, R-Meredith, took issue with supporters who called the legislation passed Wednesday an insurance program. He contrasted it to auto insurance, saying the family leave bill would be like requiring people who don’t drive to purchase car insurance because some people who would be forced to pay into the new system wouldn’t be eligible to benefit from it.

“While family and medical leave is a good concept and we support it, this bill would be bad for New Hampshire. Its funding mechanism is questionable, and it’s unfair to many of our workers. Family medical leave should be a benefit that is negotiated between employer and employee, not a one-size-fits-all government program,” he said. “Lastly, and most importantly, the Legislature would be delegating its constitutional responsibilities to an appointed commissioner.”