A renewed effort to provide state employees 12 weeks paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child passed the House on Wednesday after a 104-4 vote.
And if the Senate follows suit, the governor said Wednesday he will support the measure — backing that could help the bill become law.
The proposed benefit is meant to help retain employees as the state competes with the private sector for workers.
“Paid family leave is crucial to supporting our working families’ economic security,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Richland. “This paid leave will provide mothers and fathers the opportunity to bond with their newborn baby during this critical time and will promote healthier outcomes, in addition to improving retention of our state employees.”
In 2020, 720 state employees took leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
Lawmakers made efforts last year to provide the benefit to state employees, but the legislation stalled as legislative work came to halt at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legislators refiled the bills this for this year’s legislative session.
The House bill this year had 29 co-sponsors in the House, including said Bernstein, and state Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Richland. A similar bill in the Senate has three co-sponsors including state Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, and Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington.
“I’m really happy the House has passed this,” Jackson said. “I hoped the Senate would have (done so) by now, but we have some work to do, and hopefully by the end of the year, we will get the bill to hopefully become law.”
Jackson added the making sure the state has the benefit sends a message to the private sector to consider the policy.
“Some private companies to do even more,” Jackson said. “There’s some that do considerably less. I think it’s a great signal to private companies, but I think it starts with state employees.”
The House measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
“It will have to go through the committee process, (and) be fully vetted, but I think there are some people here who are interested in the concept,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield.
In March of last year, McMaster expressed support of the proposed policy saying it is key for keeping families strong. He added paid family leave would help with state agency workforce shortages.
“I wish we could pay state employees more,” McMaster told reporters on Wednesday. “I wish we could pay law enforcement more, a lot of people. We need to help them as much as we can and (paid family leave is) one way we can.”