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Minnesota House passes paid family and medical leave bill

The legislation comes as health officials are urging sick workers to stay home as COVID-19 spreads.

Amid concerns of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Minnesota House passed a bill that would establish paid medical and family leave for the state’s workforce.

Authored by Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan), the bill would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave by establishing a taxpayer-funded insurance program. The program is modeled after the state's existing unemployment insurance.

Paid leave could be used in for situations including serious illness of an employee or employee’s family member, as well as to care for a newborn following childbirth or an adoption.

Halverson said the bill would help address uncertainties around private insurance. She also pointed to issues including childcare and mental health care that could require time away from work.

Employers can opt out of the program if they demonstrate equal or better benefits. Otherwise the program would be funded by a 0.6 percent payroll tax that is split between employees and employers.

“Too many Minnesotans feel insecure in our healthcare system,” she said on the House floor.

The bill passed on a largely party line vote of 70-59. Paid leave legislation could face challenges in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Paul Gazleka (R-Nisswa) has already voiced opposition to it.

Gazelka said the bill would create a tax burden for small businesses and employees, per Session Daily, and also opposes extra taxes on employers and employees.

The legislation comes at a time when the Center for Disease Control has urged employers to encourage workers to stay home if they’re feeling sick. On Friday, Minnesota’s first case of novel coronavirus was confirmed in Ramsey County. 

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