- Associated Press - Thursday, April 26, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - After a debate that pitted the emotional side of family leave against financial constraints, the New Hampshire Senate voted Thursday to further study a bill that would have established a state-run paid medical leave insurance program.

The Senate voted 14-10 in a party-line vote after discussing the issue for near an hour and a half. While the bill has been sent to interim study, many say the move is a way to effectively kill legislation.

The bill would’ve offered up to six weeks of paid family leave for private-sector employees to care for a new baby or a relative with a serious illness, among other related situations.

Supporters said that working families have waited long enough, and that the issue has been studied for 20 years. Some Senate lawmakers shared stories of people from across the state whose lives have been affected by family and medical leave. Democratic Sen. Dan Feltes, of Concord, told the story of Kurt Sundstrom, also a Concord resident, who did not have access to any paid leave when his wife was suffering from terminal cancer. In his wife’s last months, Sundstrom continued to work his full-time job to stay afloat financially.

“Do we let perfect be the enemy of good? If perfection is what we’re striving for, we’ll never pass any family leave and insurance, including this bill,” Feltes said.

Feltes said that nobody should have to choose between work and family.

Critics said the bill left too many unanswered questions on price costs and scrutinized the legislation’s solvency, echoing concerns that Republican Gov. Chris Sununu had voiced two weeks ago over the plan.

Republican Sen. Bob Guida, of Warren, said the Senate has an obligation to make sure whatever they implement doesn’t fail in the future. He called the underlying principles “compelling,” but ultimately said the program was not financially sustainable.

Republican Sen. Andy Sanborn, of Bedford, said that other states that currently provide paid family leave - California, New York and Rhode Island - aren’t the best economic models to follow. Sanborn said that taxing people’s personal incomes has come up as a possibility.

“On a policy perspective, I know we’re all on the same page,” Sanborn said. “Let’s continue the conversation.”

Amanda Sears, director of the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, a group that campaigns for working families’ rights, denounced the decision.

“While senators opposed to the bill voiced empty support for the concept, none brought forward an amendment or a practical plan to move forward and meet the needs of working families in New Hampshire,” Sears said. “Sending the bill for further study is nothing more than a disingenuous way to defeat this bill.”


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