MN House passes Paid Family and Medical Leave bill

04/2023(Quinn Gorham)
Published: May. 2, 2023 at 8:11 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (GRAY) - Tuesday, the Minnesota House voted to pass HF2 with a vote of 68 to 64, a bill that mandates Paid Family and Medical Leave for all businesses across the state. The legislation has been a years-long work in progress for the DFL.

“We are here because after eight years of fighting, of Minnesotans declaring that it is time, we are now moving at the speed of need, and getting ready to pass paid family and medical leave right here in the state of Minnesota,” said JaNae Bates, Director of Communications with Isaiah MN and a supporter of the legislation.

Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL - Mendota Heights), the bill’s author in the House, explained the importance of the bill in a news conference just before Tuesday’s floor Session.

“At the foundation of this bill is a recognition of our shared humanity. At some point, we are all going to be tied to either care for ourselves or to care for a loved one,” said Richardson.

The bill was on its 6th engrossment as it hit the House Floor on Tuesday, a testament to the long and arduous list of changes it had to go through to get a vote.

Entering the floor, the bill allowed employees to take up to 24 weeks of paid leave each year, with a cap of 12 weeks per single incident. While the single incident cap remained the same, Richardson introduced an amendment to adjust the “per-year” cap to just 18 weeks. That amendment was adopted on the floor Tuesday.

The government-mandated program would require businesses to provide pay to employees that are taking time off for things like family care, personal medical emergency, or childbirth.

If the organization can provide a plan that meets or exceeds the state’s requirements, the state will allow them to “opt-out.”

While many Republicans support the idea of Family and Medical Leave, the party is opposed to the DFL’s model.

“It’s a forced mandate on everybody. We have to find a way to get the product we both want, but not through the system that I think you’re focused on,” said Rep. Lisa Demuth as the GOP introduced their own plan.

The GOP’s proposed alternative is titled “MN FaMLI,” and offers up a private-sector model for the FMLA.

That model would allow employers to choose from models set-up by insurance companies.

“I think the private industry knows this industry better than government. They have to live and breathe, they have to make it work financially. They do it every day, all day,” said Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar).

The DFL says a privatized system will only exacerbate inequities that already exist for Minnesota’s BIPOC community.

“If you look at the cost in terms of premiums that BIPOC folks play, that low-income folks play, they tend to pay higher premium rates than others. And when it comes time for coverage, they’re more likely to be denied as well,” said Richardson.

The House voted down an amendment to institute the MN FaMLI plan, but Republicans hope to reintroduce it as a standalone bill somewhere down the line.