North Dakota House tosses bill to start state-run paid family leave program

Republican opponents of the legislation said it would be too costly for the state and too burdensome for employers.

The North Dakota House of Representatives meets on Dec. 5, 2022.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — Legislation that would have created a statewide paid family leave program in North Dakota has met a quick death after failing to win over Republican lawmakers.

The state House of Representatives in a 77-16 vote on Thursday, Feb. 2, rejected House Bill 1460, which would have established a paid family leave program administered by the state and funded mostly by employers and their workers.

Under the proposal by Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, D-Fargo, businesses or their employees could have chosen to pay a small regular fee into a statewide pool of money that would have compensated workers for 60% of their salary for up to 12 weeks of leave.

To take paid leave, employees would have had to experience an “eligible event,” including the birth of a child or the deterioration of a family member’s health.

Rep. Paul Thomas, R-Velva, told colleagues prior to the Thursday vote that the bill would amount to a mandate on businesses by forcing them to let employees take leave if they had paid into the program. He added that the proposed $5 million for starting up the program would be insufficient.


Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, noted that a provision in the bill giving employers a corporate income tax credit for covering their workers' contribution to the program would be a major hit to state revenue.

Supporters of the bill argued it would improve workers' lives while giving the state an edge in workforce recruitment. Thirteen states have enacted some kind of paid family leave, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Rep. Gretchen Dobervich, D-Fargo, noted that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem recently announced plans to establish paid leave programs for both public and private workers.

“Would you want to move to a Dakota that is proactively trying to address workforce issues and child care issues, or would you want to move to one that had made the decision that they weren’t going to explore it any further?" Dobervich said on Thursday.

Hanson sponsored a nearly identical proposal in 2021, but the House amended it into a study of paid family leave. The Senate narrowly defeated the proposed study.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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