Oregon Lawmakers Consider Paid Family Leave

Oregon is taking another pass at implementing a statewide paid family leave program. Employees in the state could earn up to 12 weeks of leave per year, to cover things like parental leave and caring for family members with serious health conditions. 

The bill creates an insurance fund which both employers and employees pay into, splitting the costs evenly, though employee contributions from payroll would be capped at 0.5 percent of their wages. All employers with at least one employee are covered, and a worker is eligible for the program if they make at least $300 in wages over the year. This includes self-employed and tribal workers, but would not include independent contractors, volunteers, work training, or work-study programs. 

Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) and others sponsored a paid family leave plan in 2017, but did not make much legislative progress. This year, 33 lawmakers from both chambers have sponsored HB 3031, and even a contingent of small businesses have stated they would support the proposed system. 

Some reports point to part of Gov. Kate Brown’s “State of the State” address in January, in which she stated that she would support paid family leave legislation, as a sign that this bill may fare better than the last. Rep. Mark Meeks (D-Clackamas) of the House Human Services and Housing Committee, gave it a 60 percent chance of passage, noting that HB 3031 would go to the House Business and Labor Committee next. 

Washington and California both have paid family leave plans in place, as well as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington D.C. Oregon is one of 19 states with paid family leave on the agenda in 2019.