Legislation that seeks to grant state and public school employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave has been passed in the State House with a 27 to 13 vote. House Bill 3 could be used by both parents upon the birth of a child or the adoption of a child, 6 years of age or younger. The proposal, according to the Office of the Controller General, would initially cost taxpayers more than $5.1 million annually, with local school districts picking up about a quarter of that cost.
Advocates, including Governor John Carney, maintain the benefit would be strong tool for recruiting and retaining employees. They also claim allowing parents to spend three months with their new children will enhance pediatric health and build stronger family bonds.
Those who voted against the measure don’t oppose the concept of parental leave, but say Delaware’s benefit would be the most generous in the nation. Unlike some other states, Delaware employees would not be required to help finance the benefit; would receive 100-percent of their salary while on leave; and could claim the leave after only one year on the job.
Additionally, employees would have up to 12 months from the date of the birth or the adoption to utilize the benefit.
An amendment proposed by Representative Ruth Briggs King, that would reduce the benefit from 12 weeks to 4 weeks was voted down. She said her
amendment would still have provided significant help to new parents, while being more responsible to taxpayers.
House Bill 3 now heads to a Senate committee for consideration. If approved by the State Senate, the governor will sign it into law.