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Committee Passes Paid Family Leave Bill In Minnesota Senate

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- A Minnesota Senate Committee today OK'd a bill to expand family and medical leave. Many companies already voluntarily offer extended leave to families, but Minnesota would require it for certain businesses.

"We are going to have a huge patchwork, around this state, of Minnesotans who have these kind of benefits, and Minnesotans who don't," Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL) said.

Rural lawmakers say it's an important tool to keep workers from moving away. Family and medical leave benefits are becoming more and more common around the country.

But there's resistance in Minnesota to a bill forcing private companies to participate. For new parents, or adult children caring for seriously ill family members, it's a significant benefit -- 12 weeks of family or medical leave, which is more than many other states.

"There [are] no states that give more than six weeks right now," Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) said. "And so we are moving into an area that we don't know."

The bill requires private companies with more than 21 workers to offer family and medical leave. Workers and businesses would pay into an insurance fund to page wages for workers on leave for pregnancy, bonding or family care.

Supporters not only say it's the right thing to do. Lawmakers in rural parts of the state say it's necessary to keep workers from moving away so they can get a benefit like it.

"The rest of the state -- businesses will be left behind as this labor shortage deepens, not being able to attract workers to run their businesses," Sen. Bakk said. "And the result of it will be: they too will have to move to the city."

Many states now have laws allowing unpaid family and medical leave, and many companies offer paid leave to their employees. But only three states -- California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island -- have laws requiring private companies to give the benefit to their employees.

The bill allows family leave for giving birth and the bonding that creates, but also bonding with an adopted child or a foster child. It would also allow children to take care of seriously ill parents, and parents to care for sick children.

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