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Originally published Monday, April 22, 2013 at 6:15 PM

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Senate OKs potential repeal of paid family leave

The Senate on Monday approved a measure that repeals an as-of-yet unfunded law giving Washington state parents five weeks of paid time off to be with a new child unless a task force finds a way to pay for it by the end of 2015.

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

The Senate on Monday approved a measure that repeals an as-of-yet unfunded law giving Washington state parents five weeks of paid time off to be with a new child unless a task force finds a way to pay for it by the end of 2015.

The bill was approved on a 27-21 vote and now heads to the House, where any discussion of repeal is likely to face resistance. The measure calls for the creation of a task force on Jan. 1, 2014, that will meet monthly and will send funding recommendations to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2015. If the law isn't funded by Dec. 31, 2015, it would be repealed. If a funding mechanism is found, benefits would start being paid on Oct. 1, 2017.

Paid family leave for state residents was approved by the Legislature in 2007, and was supposed to start paying benefits of up to $250 a week starting in October 2009. But without an agreed-upon funding source, the Legislature has postponed its implementation twice.

"I'm offering this as a compromise so that we can re-engage a discussion of funding," said Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who offered the amendment of a deadline to an initial bill that sought to repeal it immediately. "I believe in this program, but I also believe it needs to be funded."

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, the bill's sponsor, said he agreed with Hobbs' approach.

"A good idea that is never funded is an empty promise," he said. If a way to pay for the measure isn't found in the next two years, "we need to be honest with ourselves and allow the bill to sunset."

"This is about governing with integrity," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray called the measure "a step backwards."

"Regardless of the intent of the amendment, this is still a virtual repeal," he said. "This is not a step to assisting families who need this leave."

Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, said that while the House does plan to delay implementation of the underlying law once again, there's not support among majority Democrats in that chamber to repeal it outright.

"I think it's important," Green said of the underlying law. "We need to find a way to do it. If we just repeal it, it sort of takes it out of our mind. If we keep it in the forefront, I think we have a better chance of finally getting it done."

Green said she hoped that finding a funding stream for paid family leave would be a priority for lawmakers next year.

A repeal of the state paid-leave law would have no impact on federal leave laws. Under federal law, paid leave is not required, but businesses with 50 or more employees must give workers up to 12 weeks of medical leave per year for themselves or to take care of a new child or ailing relative.

The state law requires the paid leave be taken concurrently with the federal leave.

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The paid family leave measure is Senate Bill 5903.

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Online:

Legislature: http://www.leg.wa.gov

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