Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Another good bill dies: Maternity leave for state workers blocked by Senate committee

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 6:22 AM

click to enlarge TIME WITH MOM: Not in America, buddy. - MORGUEFILE
  • MORGUEFILE
  • TIME WITH MOM: Not in America, buddy.

A bill by Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) to provide six weeks of paid maternity leave to state employees has foundered in the Senate Public Health committee, Tucker said yesterday, despite attracting bipartisan support. Here's more information about the bill itself, which passed the House last week.

The Senate committee failed the bill last week, 4-4, with Republican Senators David Sanders and Missy Irvin joining Democrats Stephanie Flowers and Keith Ingram in voting yes.

Republicans John Cooper, Scott Flippo, Gary Stubblefield and Cecile Bledsoe voted against giving mothers who work for the state of Arkansas time to spend with their newborn infants. All other developed nations make several months of paid maternity leave available to new parents.

Tucker told the Times he had hoped to bring it back for another vote, but Bledsoe, the chair of the committee, announced on Monday that she would only allow votes on bills that have not already been voted on before, ostensibly because of the short amount of time left in the session.

Usually, a bill can be brought back in committee for multiple votes, giving sponsors time to wrangle votes and potentially make amendments to address other members' concerns.

Tucker said he'd found Sen. Stubblefield possibly amenable to supporting the bill if it came up for another vote, but that won't be happening. Tucker said he was "disappointed there wouldn't be another opportunity" to run the bill this session.

A fiscal impact study attached to the bill estimates that around 118 state employees per year would take advantage of paid maternity leave, if it were available. It would have cost the state of Arkansas about $350,000 annually spread across all state agencies' full operating budgets (including cash and federal funds), which amounts to about $20 billion. That was evidently too pricey.

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