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Family Medical Leave Bill Dies in NH Senate

Family medical leave would let workers take up to six weeks at 60 percent pay to care for a new child or sick family member. (Sanjasy/Pixabay)
Family medical leave would let workers take up to six weeks at 60 percent pay to care for a new child or sick family member. (Sanjasy/Pixabay)
April 27, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. – The New Hampshire state Senate voted Thursday to send a family medical leave insurance bill back for further study, effectively killing it for the year.

House Bill 628 would have allowed workers at privately-owned companies to take as much as six weeks off for a birth or adoption, an illness or to care for a family member, and still receive 60 percent of their pay. The bill had cleared the House three times and advocates were confident they had the bipartisan support to pass it in the Senate.

But according to Amanda Sears, director of the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, two weeks ago Gov. Chris Sununu, who had supported family medical leave during his campaign, reversed course and opposed the bill.

"It really made a lot of senators nervous, and a lot of the support we had seems to have been drying up,” says Sears. “And that's unfortunate, because the people of New Hampshire need this."

Sununu told the Senate Finance Committee more research is needed into the bill, and Republican senators say there are questions about the costs and how people could opt out.

Sears says instead of voting to pass or reject the bill, the Senate's Thursday vote was on a motion for interim study of the measure.

"However it has nothing behind it – there's not a study going to be set up, there's no money going into a study,” says Sears. “So, it's the same interim study motion that's been made on bills for family medical leave insurance for 20 years in this state."

She adds the bill had already been modified to incorporate changes that ensure the program would be financially solvent – changes that were recommended by the governor.

Sears says 80 percent of New Hampshire voters support creating a family medical leave insurance program, and senators who voted to kill HB 628 are going against the wishes of those they were elected to represent.

"They need to be held accountable for that,” says Sears. “So, we'll make sure that those voters leading up to the November elections know that and then, we'll work with the newly elected legislators to put together a new proposal and move that forward."

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NH