NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — Despite promises from last year, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee says he's not pursuing paid family leave for state employees this legislative session.
Last January, he announced an executive order to offer up to 12 weeks of annual paid family leave for state workers who become parents, or who have to care for a family member.
Even with bi-partisan support, the policy didn't make it to its launch date in March, and now, Governor Lee says he has no plans to bring it back on the table.
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FOX 17 News started by calling Gov. Lee's media representatives, to ask why he's not going to re-visit this push.
His office responded saying it's simply not part of their legislative package this year, and that they proposed a number of pro-family solutions on Monday.
Gov. Lee also discussed his reasoning for this yesterday at a media briefing.
"The COVID response required that we remove a number of those from, in fact any of those that had a cost were removed from our budget, and so we re-prioritized this year and that's not one of the things that we're prioritizing this year," Governor Lee said.
It's a move that's drawing some disappointment from across the aisle.
"I work with these people every day, and they were really counting on the Governor's word when he made that announcement, and now, in the middle of a pandemic when families are struggling more than ever and with a three billion dollar surplus, it's just upsetting to see it reversed," TN State Senator for District 20 Heidi Campbell (D) said.
But the Governor isn't the only one who can bring this idea to life.
Democratic State Senator Jeff Yarboro has drafted his own legislation that accomplishes the same thing. It passed on first consideration today.
Elizabeth Gedmark is the Vice President of A Better Balance, a nonprofit advocating for paid worker's leave.
"It should be a no-brainer and often times when we talk to folks, they're surprised that this is not already a benefit," Gedmark said.
She says it's crucial for the state to pass this legislation, especially now.
"When you think about a state employee who has a limited bucket of leave, if they are saving that leave for when they have a baby or saving it for a medical emergency, then they might feel like they have no choice but to go in when they're sick. That's a public health issue, right in the middle of a pandemic," Gedmark said.
Gedmarks says she's still hopeful that this time around, paid family leave for state workers will become law.
Senator Campbell has drafted her own legislation that would empower cities and counties to expand their paid family leave programs so they don't have to solely rely on the state.
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