State Paid Parental Leave Is Back

Local 920's Roberta Suski, pictured here with her family, supports paid family leave for state employees which got reinstated despite GOP maneuvering.

Updated 5/30/17 at 9:33 p.m.

State workers will once again get paid parental leave.

The benefit had expired Monday when the Republican-controlled Legislature adjourned. But during the special session, GOP leaders tacked reinstatement of parental leave for state workers onto a completely unrelated bill known as preemption, even though they had promised Gov. Dayton a clean bill. That preemption bill would have prevented local governments from requiring better wages and working conditions like paid sick time. It seemed that Dayton could not veto local control without also losing paid parental leave.

But that GOP maneuvering has backfired.

Gov. Dayton was able to veto the attempt to undermine local control and worker rights Tuesday, and still save paid parental leave. Dayton and Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans pointed out that according to Minnesota law, state labor contracts, compensation plans and arbitration awards go into effect once ratified by the Legislature. The Legislature ratified paid parental leave when it passed the bill May 24 in the Senate and May 25 in the House.

The reinstatement of that benefit means mothers and fathers, both biological and adoptive parents, who work in the state executive branch can take up to six weeks of paid parental leave.

Losing that paid leave would have made it harder for the state to recruit and retain workers and compete with the private sector.

Some parents would have to return to work early and lose that precious time to bond with their newborn or adopted child. It would have left mothers and fathers scrambling to cobble together sick leave and vacation time, taking a financial hit at a time when families can least afford it.

Dayton called it both "reprehensible" and "unconscionable that Republican legislators would pit the earned financial security of hardworking state employees and retirees against the rights of local officials to make the decisions for which they were elected by their citizens."

"Should local officials, who were elected by their constituents in their communities, approve higher wage and benefit levels to meet the needs of their residents, they ought to retain the right to do so," the Governor wrote in a letter to legislators announcing his preemption veto Tuesday. "Local governments can be more adept at responding to local needs with ordinances that reflect local values and the unique needs of their communities.

"Instead this legislation interferes with local control, harms workers, and takes away the power of citizens to make positive changes in their communities," he wrote, adding it would strip 150,000 Minnesotans of earned sick and safe time.