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Family leave bill would bring Maryland into the present

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Maryland’s Senate Democrats renewed their push Thursday to get a paid family and medical leave bill through the General Assembly.

The General Assembly passed a paid parental leave bill in 2018, but efforts to pass a family and medical leave bill have failed in the last three legislative sessions. Senate President Bill Ferguson insisted in a press conference surrounded by his fellow Democrats this will be the year those efforts succeed.

“We cannot delay any longer,” he said. “Paid family and medical leave continues to be essential for our society overall, for the workforce, and for our overall economy as we recover from this pandemic.”

The bills, awaiting action in House and Senate committees, create a state-run insurance fund. Employers and employees would contribute a small amount from each paycheck to the fund and workers who need leave to care for an ill family member, or themselves after a catastrophic injury, could submit a claim and draw a portion of their weekly salary for 12 weeks.

Sen. Antonio Hayes, the lead sponsor of the Senate bill and an expectant father, said Maryland has failed to follow the lead of other states and countries.

“Maryland has remained behind, stuck in our framework from the past that ignores the realities that the modern workplace and workforce have,” he said.

In the last 10 years, nine states and the District of Columbia have passed paid family and medical leave bills. Legislatures in 13 other states, including Virginia and Delaware, have such bills under consideration.

Earlier in the day, Mary Kane, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, said in a speech she supports “the concept” of medical and family leave, but has problems with the legislation before the General Assembly. She said she worried about the costs to small businesses already hurt by the pandemic and objected to the state, rather than employers, controlling how the leave is taken.

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