The big push is now on at the State Capitol for what the Democrats that now control the General Assembly say is their number one, top priority; a ‘Paid Family and Medical Leave’ law.
The Democrats also point to a poll last year that showed 85 percent of Connecticut residents support this idea. They say they heard it loud and clear as they campaigned in last year’s election.
Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin), the Speaker of the House, said, “To have the ability to take care of a sick family member without the fear of losing your job or going so far into debt you may never come out of it.”
The plan would call for up to 12 weeks off with pay, up to $1,000 per week, for childbirth or to take care of an elderly parent or an ill spouse. It would be paid for by a .5 percent withholding of your pay every paycheck.
“A program that is fully funded by the employee and I think that’s critical,” said Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven), the co-chair of the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee.
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39-year-old Jessica Lora of Hartford said she’s a perfect example of why this law is needed.
She added, “I was on maternity leave for three months. My husband, he lost his job two months after that and it was very hard.”
But the House Republican Whip, Rep. Jason Perillo (R-Shelton), described the proposal this way, “It’s a payroll tax, plain and simple. So, everybody is going to have to pay more out of their paycheck for this plan.”
The state’s largest business organization is opposed to the plan, saying it’s not sustainable and would leave employers with the burden of still paying employees’ insurance premiums, Social Security payments and other benefits for the entire 12 weeks.
Governor Lamont, who favors the idea, told News 8 that he’ll just have to work on winning the business community over to this plan.
In addition to the ‘Paid Family and Medical Leave’ proposal, the Democratic Leadership said their other top priorities include a $15 per hour minimum wage, although they don’t have a timetable for that yet, a major job training program for all the jobs that are becoming available at the state’s defense contractors, and some sort of a prescription drug price relief program.
So far, the Paid Family Leave proposal has the most detail. They expect to roll out other proposals every day this week.