Effort to Expand Parental Leave Law Stalls in Assembly Committee

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The state Capitol in Sacramento. (Getty Images)

A bill that would have expanded California's parental leave law stalled in an Assembly committee Wednesday, and politics may have played a role in its demise.

SB1166, from Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), would have required employers with 10 or more employees to allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to bond with a new child. Currently, the law is limited to employers with 50 or more employees. The measure was a priority of the California Legislative Women's Caucus.

The legislation was heard Wednesday by the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, which is chaired by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina). Earlier this year Jackson, who chairs the women's caucus, called for Hernandez to step down from his committee chairmanship following domestic abuse allegations against him. Hernandez has denied the accusations.

Hernandez did not comment on the bill during the hearing, but abstained from voting on it. He was joined by committee members Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) and Eric Linder (R-Corona), who all withheld their votes. Assemblymen Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) supported the measure, while committee vice chair Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) opposed it.

In a statement, Hernandez said he had some disagreements with Jackson about this bill. And while he agrees parental leave is an important issue, he said small businesses are facing many new requirements.

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"We've had some significant victories in recent years – increasing the minimum wage, passing paid sick days, and in other areas. In light of these new requirements, we need to look for balance," he said.  "I have concerns about the burdens that will be faced by employers with 10 or more employees in complying with this new leave requirement."

Jackson plans to keep pushing for the change.

“I’m very disappointed," she said in a statement. “I plan to reintroduce this bill next year and every year thereafter until our parental leave laws have caught up to the reality of the 21st century family.”

The bill had made it through the Senate legislative process on largely party line votes.