Democratic Infighting on Paid Family Leave
It’s been a wild week. Both chambers have moved substantive legislation in the last seven days, but the major session items of tolls, marijuana, and budgetary matters remain stalled. Notably, today the Governor held a press conference to announce that he would veto SB 1, the paid family medical leave bill, in its current form. The Governor has been adamant that SB 1 must include a private component to help manage the plan, and Senate democratic leaders have disagreed, instead advocating that the entire Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Authority would be an entirely government entity. Senate Democrats, undeterred by the Governor’s veto threat, called SB 1 earlier this afternoon. In the absence of a deal, Democrats may be forced by Republicans to debate this bill for 10+ hours.
The Governor and Democratic legislative leaders have decided to save highway tolls for a special session and focus their energy on passing a budget before the end of session. Strategically, this will prevent some of the last-minute horse trading that typically occurs in the last few days of budget negotiations, where legislators may trade a vote on tolls for extra funding on other issues for their district. By holding a vote on tolls in a special session, the only issue for legislators would be on the merits of the issue.
Over the last week, the House passed the Tobacco 21 initiative, which would raise the smoking and vaping age to 21, and later passed a bill that would address advertising practices by crisis pregnancy centers. The Senate also passed the minimum wage bill, which would increase the minimum wage to $15/hour over the next 4 years. The bill had previously passed the House and now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign it into law.
Partisan squabbling continues to increase as we approach the final few weeks. Dueling press conferences by Democrats and Republicans have been held over the past week on paid family leave and on tolls. The legislature has been in “hurry up and wait” mode for the last few weeks, as innocuous bills are debated for hours before a handful of bills are called in rapid fire fashion once a deal is struck. That being said, business has slowed to a halt in both chambers as Republican and Democratic leaders have been unable to reach deals on limiting debate in a timely fashion. While there are only two weeks left until sine die, we can expect an average of 12-16 hour days over the last 8 days of session.
Sine Die Countdown: 14 Days
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Ross S. Gionfriddo, Esq.