Paid family and medical leave bill struck down in Senate on party lines

  • Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, speaks on the Senate floor in favor of a state-run paid family and medical leave insurance program, April 26, 2018. Ethan DeWitt—Ethan DeWitt

Monitor staff
Thursday, April 26, 2018

A proposal to establish a state-run paid family and medical leave insurance program in New Hampshire died in the Senate Thursday, in an anticipated party-line vote that came after Gov. Chris Sununu raised concerns over its solvency. 

After an 80-minute debate, the bill, House Bill 628, was pushed into interim study by the Senate, 14-10.  The bill would have established a program, run by the Department of Employment Security, to create an insurance program for private sector employees that would provide up to six weeks of paid leave at 60 percent of pay, and allow those who didn’t want to participate to opt-out .

Proposed by Rep. Mary Gile, D-Concord, the proposal left the House with bipartisan support, clearing three floor votes earlier this year. But it faced tougher challenges in the Senate, after the state’s Department of Insurance and Department of Employment Security warned that they couldn’t guarantee long-term viability and Sununu expressed opposition. 

On Thursday, Republican senators echoed those concerns, praising the motivation behind the bill but arguing the program is not ready to take off. 

“At the end of the day, we have an obligation to ensure that whatever we do implement will work and not fail down the road,” Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren. 

But Democrats pointed to a past actuarial study into potential family leave models in New Hampshire and maintained the program is solvent.

“Every time this comes up: Study it more. Study it more. Study it more. Study it more,” said Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord. “It’s time to act.”

While the bill has been sent to interim study, the move effectively stalls its progress for the remainder of the legislative calendar. Sununu has called for the Legislature to fund a new actuarial study into a program; Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said Thursday that that would be unlikely to happen this year.