Political Hay

Paid Family Left

Liberals pass outrageous bills in one-party Sacramento, then tout them as ''models'' for the rest of the country.

By 9.24.02

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Under one-party domination, Sacramento has become a sewer of poisonous legislation, polluting policy-making not just in California, but across the nation. Liberals pass outrageous bills in Sacramento, then tout them as "models" for the rest of the country.

This week's example is Senate Bill 1661, legislation that forces California companies to provide "paid family leave." To the cheers of labor activists and feminists across the country, Gray Davis signed SB 1661 into law on Monday, making California the first state to establish a compulsory program for paid family leave.

And who orchestrated this "victory for families"? None other than the noisy lesbian activist Sheila Kuehl. California companies will now get to grapple with her definition of family. Under her measure, they must allow employees six weeks of paid leave for emergency "family" reasons. This, of course, can include tending to the needs of a "domestic partner," and even includes "bonding" with a new foster child.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Kuehl originally wanted the law to mandate twelve weeks of leave and wanted employers to carry much of the costs. But Davis, always in split-the-difference mode, encouraged her to reduce the time to six weeks and to pin the program's financing to employee payroll deductions. (Workers will make themselves eligible for the program through a payroll deduction, "averaging about $26 a year," reports the Times. The paid family leave program will fall under the state's disability insurance system.)

Davis's compromise did not impress California companies. They will still pay mightily for "family leave," even if employees are theoretically paying for it. Who, after all, has to pay for all the costs of having workers missing for those six weeks? The companies do.

"California businesses will be at a competitive disadvantage because of this, and (Davis) doesn't seem to care," Julianne Broyles, a lobbyist for the California Chamber of Commerce, told the Times. "Paid family leave is one of the worst bills for employers in the 2001-02 legislative session. This bill fails miserably to address the real cost concerns of employers -- the costs of replacement workers and additional overtime to cover for absent workers, training costs, and the loss of productivity."

Kuehl says the program will help business by boosting the morale of employees. But her understanding of business is as fuzzy as her definition of family. What boosts morale is a growing economy, not a sluggish one weighed down by quasi-socialist laws designed to accelerate social engineering.

Not every bill labeled "family" helps the family. And this bill won't. Yes, it will help Kuehl's friends in the feminist and homosexual community. But it will hurt the family by making jobs more scarce. It is absurd to hear Davis's press secretary say that the governor signed the bill because "he believes in putting family first." Come on. Is this the same governor who opposed the marriage initiative Proposition 22, who doesn't think parents have a right to know whether or not their children are getting abortions, and whose voting record would make an ACT-UP activist proud?

Davis signed the bill because he is a hack in hock to the labor unions and feminists. He needed business to finance his campaign, but he needs left-wing activists to win it.

The AFL-CIO is delighted with Davis. They hope California's law will cow other states into creating paid family leave programs. Karen Nussbaum, assistant to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, said to the Los Angeles Times that labor advocates can now "go to other states and make the case that if a state as concerned as California was about balancing its budget can do this, other states can do it as well."

Perhaps Nussbaum hasn't heard the news: California's state government is $24 billion in debt. Before other states imitate California's paid family leave program, they might want to take a look at the politicians who are running it. Fiscal health and family health have never been their forte.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.