- Associated Press - Monday, August 28, 2017

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Hundreds of Missouri state government employees have taken advantage of paid parental leave since Republican Gov. Eric Greitens signed an order that provides the benefit to some executive branch employees.

St. Louis Public Radio said at least 580 state employees had applied for the benefit, according to the responses it received as of Friday to inquiries it sent to state agencies. Greitens’ order, issued in March, gives up to six weeks of paid leave to primary caregivers and three weeks to secondary caregivers who work in the governor’s office or agencies controlled by his appointees. The Missouri Department of Transportation also offers the benefit, although the department is not controlled by the governor.

The goal is to give new parents time to bond with newly born or adopted children.

The policy doesn’t apply to employees who work for the Legislature, judiciary or other statewide elected officials.

Some lawmakers objected when Greitens issued the executive order, saying it violated the principle of separation of powers because it would cost the state money that the Legislature had not appropriated.

Most of the participating agencies said the paid leave hasn’t cost money because they didn’t hire temporary workers to cover for those who take time off.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Dan Brown, a Rolla Republican, said that approach won’t be possible in every circumstance, offering examples of a prison or a mental health facility employee.

“I think if we’d been allowed to weigh in on this, maybe we would have had it a little more clearly defined before the executive order went out,” Brown said. “Just dealing with the departments that have a critical number of people that have to be on staff at a time, and a lot of those people, you have to realize, are younger people that are of childbearing years.”

Budget officials estimated this year that paid leave would cost around $1.1 million, which Brown said “seems extremely low to me.”

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