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Texas Senate advances paid parental leave for state employees

A view of the Texas State Capitol dome around twilight. The United States and Texas flags are fluttering in the wind. The Goddess of Liberty statue on top of the dome is towering above everything else.
Gabriel C. Pérez
The Texas Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that would grant paid parental leave to state employees.

Bipartisanship is still alive in the Texas Legislature.

While on many hot-button issues that’s not the case, on Wednesday afternoon the Senate unanimously passed SB 222, a bill that would grant paid parental leave to state employees. It’s also a measure some Republicans have said is necessary after the state banned nearly all abortions.

Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, said his bill would promote “maternal mental and physical health and reduce healthcare costs for the state.” He also said it would send a signal.

“The passage of this legislation will highlight the necessity of paid leave for new mothers, and encourage employers to follow suit,” Nichols said.

Currently, state employees who have a baby are not granted paid parental leave. Instead, the worker has to use accumulated vacation or sick time. They can also use unpaid time under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

But Nichols’ legislation would grant newborn parents six weeks of paid parental leave. The measure also applies to adoptive parents.

Since its inception, the legislation has garnered bipartisan support. Republican and Democratic senators even supported the original version of the bill, which granted four weeks of paid parental leave.

Nichols and other members agreed on increasing the time since day care facilities start accepting kids when they are at least 6 weeks old.

Senator Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, said the legislation “is going to be incredible help to all of our state employees.”

The bill has been sent to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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