By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – While it is likely to be vetoed by the governor, the House of Representatives voted to support the Senate’s Family Medical Leave insurance bill on Wednesday on a vote of 219-142.
The Senate bill was supported by Rep. Manny Espitia, D-Nashua, who recalled his father coming to his bedside after he attempted suicide at age 20.
“He was the exception to the rule,” Espitia said, adding that families need to be together in their times of need and the state needs to offer this insurance.
But Rep. Jonathan Mackie, R-Meredith, asked how it was going to be funded.
“This bill is unfair to workers of our state, it is financially unrealistic,” he said.
Rep. Brian Sullivan, D-Grafton, said several other states have similar plans that are sustainable.
Senate Bill 1-FN goes now to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu who in January, with Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, announced a bi-state, voluntary leave plan that is not currently offered in either state.
That plan would be available to all businesses, as well as individuals, and would be anchored by the state employee workforce of both states – a combined 18,500 employees, the joint statement by the two governors said.
Under the governors’ proposal, the new insurance coverage would provide enrolled public and private sector employees 60 percent wage replacement for six weeks at competitive rates for qualifying events, including the birth of a child, caring for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition.
House Republican Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, issued a statement following the vote to pass SB1-FN.
“Groups representing New Hampshire’s business community spoke up loud and clear in their opposition to this program. Despite this testimony, House Democrats decided to pass their fatally flawed paid family leave program,” said Hinch.
“House Democrats can try to disguise it, but a 0.5% tax on wages is an income tax,” Hinch said. “Even with this questionable funding mechanism, House Democrats still couldn’t guarantee that the program will be solvent. I can’t think of any other reason they’d give an unelected bureaucrat the ability to raise their ‘tax on wages’.”
Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, prime sponsor of SB 1, said, “At this point there is only one roadblock to paid family and medical leave becoming a reality in New Hampshire—Governor Chris Sununu.
“The governor shouldn’t stand in the way of bipartisan legislation that’s been worked on for several years that creates a public-private partnership for paid leave. It’s time to pick a side. My hope is Governor Sununu sides with the working families and small businesses of New Hampshire, not big corporations and the entitled elite,” Feltes said.