UPDATE: GOP comes up with plan to have state workers pay for state maternity leave | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, January 12, 2017

UPDATE: GOP comes up with plan to have state workers pay for state maternity leave

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 4:46 PM

Rep. Clarke Tucker of Little Rock has been working for months on legislation to provide paid maternity leave for state employees. It's low-cost (no cost, really), pro-family and good for the workplace.

So today comes new legislation on the subject from two Republican legislators, Sen. Missy Irvin and Rep. DeAnn Vaught. If there's to be paid state maternity leave, the Republican view is, other state employees should pay for it.

They propose to have paid maternity leave provided by allowing use of days donated to a catastrophic leave bank by state employees. Maternity leave — either for a woman giving birth or a woman taking an adopted child into her home — would be considered a catastrophic event for this purpose.

The Republican Party has generally followed a policy of attempting to stymie Tucker's work because he's one of the Democratic Party bright lights. (Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin's truncation of voting in the Senate on a Tucker ethics bill in 2015 was a notable example.) It wouldn't do for him to build up a record of achievements. Additionally, he defeated Stacy Hurst in his first race for House and she's a Hutchinson administration insider, from the Governor's Mansion to the Heritage Department she now runs. She is one sore loser.

Tucker's legislation covers all state agencies except higher education.

Irvin's legislation expands the catastrophic leave program — in which donated unused leave days may go to other employees — to mandate it for many state agencies. It is, however, optional for the General Assembly; the Bureau of Legislative Research; Arkansas Legislative Audit; Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department; Game and Fish Commission; Supreme Court; Court of Appeals; administrative offices of the courts; constitutional offices. She also provides only four weeks of paid leave while Tucker provides six.

Republicans will say that their leave bill provides full pay while Tucker caps his at $500 per week. I'm sure if the cap is the problem, Tucker would be happy to take it off. The money for all these salaries is already budgeted, no additional expenditure is incurred by the leave his bill provides. Under Tucker's bill as written, the state actually saves money on anyone making more than $26,000 a year.

The Irvin bill insures the state won't spend a cent. Money is tight. But I suspect this is more political than fiscal.

I wish I'd known about the submarining of Tucker on this bill before I wrote a glowing column about the governor this week. At a minimu, I'd have added an asterisk.

If paid maternity leave is good employment policy — it is and it ought to cover men, too (a deficiency of both bills) — the employer should pay for it, not ask a bunch of working stiffs to fork over their accrued days off to do it.

Pregnancy isn't a catastrophe in my book. Republican governance? That is another matter.

UPDATE: Tucker commented on the bill on his Facebook last night. High road:

Thank you to Senator Missy Thomas Irvin and Representative DeAnn Vaught for filing SB125 today. This bill creates a mechanism to provide paid maternity leave for state employees. This is great news for paid leave advocates in Arkansas and means that our ideas and this policy are catching on and gaining bipartisan momentum in the legislature. I very much look forward to working with Sen. Irvin and Rep. Vaught on this issue. Whether it's HB1046, SB125, or some combination of the two, I am confident that, if we put our heads together, then we can create the best policy for the people of Arkansas and get it passed into law. Chances for paid maternity leave in Arkansas went up today, and I am excited about it.

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