[Update Saturday, June 1: The state House passed the paid family and medical leave bill 79-69 late Friday, May 31. Gov. Ned Lamont announced earlier in the day he would sign the bill after reaching an agreement with legislative Democrats.]

The state Senate passed a massive new paid family and medical leave mandate May 23 that applies to all Connecticut businesses.

The Senate passed SB 1 on a 21-15 vote, with Sen. Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury) the lone Democrat to vote against the bill, along with all Republicans.

Senate Paid FMLA vote
The Senate passed paid FMLA on a 21-15 vote following a seven-hour debate and a veto threat from Gov. Ned Lamont.

However, the legislation that now moves to the House faces an uncertain future, with Gov. Ned Lamont threatening to veto the measure.

The Senate approved the bill, an amended version of the original legislation, despite widespread concerns about the additional burdens it places on businesses, particularly small businesses.

It still applies to businesses with as few as one employee, allowing up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees to care for their own or any number of extended family member's illnesses or injuries.

Employee Tax

Employees will receive up to 95% of pay, capped at 60 times the minimum wage—$600 per week when the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour in 2023.

Every private sector worker in the state will see their paychecks reduced by up to 0.5% to fund the program, regardless of whether they ever use it or whether their employer already offers leave.

Businesses must pay nonwage benefits for employees on leave and handle all new administrative and personnel challenges.

One-size-fits-all mandates like paid FMLA disproportionately target small businesses, many of whom are absolutely fearful about the cost burdens.

And while lawmakers are exempting the majority of public sector employees from the program, there are still major costs for the state and taxpayers.

CBIA's Eric Gjede said one-size-fits-all mandates like paid FMLA disproportionately target small businesses, many of whom "are absolutely fearful about these measures and their cost burdens."

"It comes down to competitiveness," he said. "That's the key element driving the viability of any business.

"The last thing we should be doing is adding to the growing cost of running a business in this state."

Veto Threat

Lamont called a press conference shortly before the Senate began debating the bill, telling reporters he would veto the legislation if changes were not made.

The governor, who expressed surprise the Senate was taking up the bill, said his concerns were not with the intent of the legislation, but with the bureaucracy proposed to administer the program.

"The idea that it's going to be led by this top heavy bureaucracy," he told reporters, "just looks like it's not a recipe for success to me.

"The idea that it's going to be led by this top heavy bureaucracy, just looks like it's not a recipe for success to me."

Gov. Ned Lamont

"At the same time that we are trying to streamline state government to make it more efficient for our residents and businesses, we should not tie the hands of the quasi-public agency that will have to oversee and implement what is essentially a $400 million dollar start-up company.

"We need to make sure this program is solvent, efficiently administered, and nimble enough to adapt and adjust as needed, particularly in its first few, crucial years."

Balancing Act

Senate Democrats responded with their own press conference, vowing to vote on the amended bill despite the governor's veto threat.

They explained that if changes were needed, the program could be amended through other legislation.

The bill was immediately called once the Senate convened and passed after seven hours of debate.

SB 1 is now with the House, but with less than two weeks left in the 2019 regular session, time management becomes a balancing act for lawmakers.

Legislative leaders will have to determine whether to dedicate many hours debating a highly controversial bill, like paid leave, or use the time to pass other priority legislation the governor hasn't threatened to veto.


For more information, contact CBIA's Eric Gjede (860.480.1784) | @egjede