FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A bipartisan bill aimed at expanding access to paid family leave won final passage Thursday as Kentucky’s legislature shifted into overdrive before a two-week break.
The Senate voted 36-0 to send the family leave legislation to Gov. Andy Beshear.
Supporters said House Bill 179 would amend state law to allow voluntary paid family medical leave to be offered as an insurance product. Such policies would be available to Kentucky employers, who would choose whether to offer it as a benefit to their employees.
“This is a market-driven policy proposal that includes no mandates on employers, workers or families,” Republican Sen. Amanda Mays Bledsoe said while presenting the bill to her colleagues.
Supporters say the goal is to expand the benefit to more Bluegrass State workers who now can’t afford to take time away from work in times of need at home, without forcing anything onto employers. They’re characterizing it as a good first step, while acknowledging it won’t be enough to help everyone.
If employers chose to offer the benefit, it would provide temporary wage replacement for workers who need to be away from work to care for a sick relative, bond with a newborn child or care for a relative in the military or is a first responder and was injured in the line of duty. Still more reasons could be outlined in an employer’s benefit plan. Supporters see it as a way to help employers attract and retain workers.
The bill’s leading sponsors are Republican state Reps. Samara Heavrin and Stephanie Dietz.
The vote came as lawmakers worked through stacks of bills as they neared the start of their extended break, which will give the governor time to review bills and decide whether to sign or veto them. Lawmakers will return to the Capitol in mid-April for the final two days of this year’s session.
Also on Thursday, lawmakers voted to give themselves authority over what statues are installed or removed from the state Capitol’s Rotunda. The Senate passed the bill 31-7, sending it to Beshear.
The legislation comes nearly four years after a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was removed from the ornate Rotunda — a popular place for rallies when the legislature is in session. For decades, the Davis statue stood just feet away from a statue of Abraham Lincoln — his Civil War adversary and the president who issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Both were Kentucky natives.
Republican Rep. David Hale has said his bill was not a response to the Davis statue’s removal.
“I have no intention of making any kind of a request to bring anything back that’s gone,” he said in an interview after the measure won House passage several weeks ago.
Beshear led the push for the Davis statue’s removal and the Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted to take it out of the Rotunda.
The bill headed to Beshear’s desk would require legislative approval before any statue, monument or artwork could be installed or removed from permanent display in the Rotunda. The Historic Properties Advisory Commission could submit proposals to lawmakers but it would have no authority to add or remove any such permanent Rotunda display without legislative approval. Commission members would be liable to pay all removal or reinstallation costs if they violated terms of House Bill 513.