Despite a last-minute push by supporters to save the bill, the New Hampshire Senate voted along party lines — 14 Republicans to 10 Democrats — to send a proposed paid family and medical leave program for further study.
The plan passed the House three times with bipartisan support but failed to win over top Republicans along the way, including Gov. Chris Sununu. While Sununu and other Republican critics of the bill said the concept of paid leave is commendable, they argued the math on this particular bill just doesn't add up.
"Nobody in this room believes caring for our families in times of crisis is a bad thing,” Sen. Bob Giuda said during Thursday’s floor debate on the bill. “But I would equally submit that no one in this room thinks we should do it irresponsibly, with really no supporting data, that puts the state at risk for a $160 million dollar program and would do a more severe injustice to those who depended upon it, should it fail."
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley also pointed to a recent Concord Monitor report examining claims from supporters of the program that the bill is guaranteed to be solvent.
The Monitor noted that the 2016 study frequently cited by paid leave supporters to back up that claim came with a number of “significant caveats” — including the fact that the other states included in the study used mandatory leave programs while New Hampshire’s would be voluntary.
The Monitor also spoke to the author of that study, who said more research into New Hampshire’s proposal wouldn’t hurt.
“I think that given the originality and uniqueness of what [New Hampshire’s] proposition is, I think another analysis is probably a great idea,” he told the Monitor.
Democratic Sen. Dan Feltes and other supporters argued that the bill is already the product of years of research and review by past legislatures.
“Every time this comes up — study it more, study it more, study it more,” Feltes said. “It's time to act.”
The bill would have established a paid leave fund run by the state. Employees could opt to pay into the program and would then have access to that money to cover time off from work for the birth of a child, a family member's illness or death.
In sending the proposal to interim study, the Senate effectively killed the bill for now.