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Legislators consider paid parental leave for state workers

By Jim Hannah, LRC

Frankfort, KY - A legislative panel took testimony today on measures that would grant state employees paid parental leave and annual cost of living raises.

Bill Request 344 would allow state employees a paid leave of absence of 12 weeks for the birth or adoption of a child. Employees would have to work for the state for at least 52 weeks to be eligible for the proposed benefit.

"This is not unique to Kentucky," Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, said while presenting the prefiled bill to the Interim Joint Committee on State Government. "This is Kentucky getting on board with what Republicans and Democrats are doing across the country and in Washington."

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, asked whether the 12 weeks would have to be taken consecutively. Nemes said the paid time off would not have to be taken consecutive but would have to be used within the first 24 weeks.

Sen. Michael J. Nemes, R-Shepherdsville, who is Rep. Nemes' father, asked why fathers would also be eligible for the paid leave under the proposal.

The younger Nemes responded that science has shown maternal and paternal leave benefits infants the most. Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, who also testified in support of BR 344, added that mothers who have complications during childbirth often need someone to care for them. Fathers, she said, are often uniquely positioned to provide that care.

"Paid leave gives families peace of mind to focus on the baby in this really important, but short period, of their lives," Raymond said after recalling returning to session in January, two weeks after she gave birth. "Without paid parental leave, we see mothers, in particular, going back to work before they have recovered."

In response to a question from Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, Nemes said if both parents worked for state government, each would be eligible for the 12 paid weeks of leave.

Bill Request 70 would provide an annual cost of living raise for state employees. The cost of living adjustment would be the average of the consumer price index for two calendar years.

Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, testified that all state employees are supposed to get a 5 percent salary increment increase every year, under current state law, but that hasn't happened since July 2001.

"The idea behind this legislation (BR 70) is to have a more obtainable goal as far as compensation," said Tipton, who sponsored the prefiled bill along with Rep. Derek Lewis, R-London.

Lewis said a coalition of lawmakers has been working to address state employee compensation over the last several sessions. "It's a bipartisan issue," he said. "Let's get this thing passed."

Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, said something is needed to keep the state competitive in the job market. "I think it is desperately needed," he said. Graviss has also filed similar legislation, known as Bill Request 180.

The prefiled bills could be taken up during the 2021 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, set to convene on Jan. 5.

This story was posted on 2020-10-27 16:06:06
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