When the United States Supreme Court struck down federal abortion rights last June, triggering a Texas law who makes the procedure a crime, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) tweeted that its legislative chamber “would double maternal health care and resources for women, children and families”.
These resources apparently do not include paid parental leave for the almost three quarters workers in Texas who currently have no paid family leave.
Last Thursday, Texas Rep. Angie Chen Button (R), chair of the State House International Relations and Economic Development Committee, briefed Texas Rep. Penny Morales Shaw (D), the main sponsor of a bipartisan paid parental leave invoicethat the bill will not be heard and is therefore effectively dead, according to a Democratic Texas House staffer involved in advancing the legislation.
Chen Button decided not to hold a committee hearing, a prerequisite for a committee vote and a potential House vote, after two business groups – the Texas Association for Business and the National Federation of Independent Business — objected to the idea of the hearing, according to the Democratic staffer, who was aware of the conversation and requested anonymity to speak freely.
The development was particularly disappointing for Democrats because Chen Button had assured Morales Shaw days earlier that the bill would at least be heard, the Democratic staffer added. And Morales Shaw had signaled his desire to dilute the bill by making the program optional for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
“It feels like a punch,” the Democratic staffer said. “Ultimately, the corporate lobby has a veto over the extent of their commitment to families.”
“If we are truly family friendly, we would have no inhibitions or concerns about offering paid leave to families with newborns and newly adopted children.”
– Amanda Posson, senior political analyst at Every Texan
Chen Button could still change his mind. She has until next week to put the bill on the committee’s hearing schedule through normal channels. After that, it would take extraordinary and extremely unlikely steps to grant the bill a hearing or a vote in the House.
Spokespersons for Chen Button, the Texas Association for Business and the NFIB, respectively, did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment on the Democratic staff version of the conversation between Chen Button and Morales Shaw.
Morales Shaw’s Texas Family Act would guarantee full-time workers in Texas 12 weeks of paid vacation, up to $1,000 a week, upon the birth or adoption of a new child.
The bill’s funding mechanism is what has drawn the ire of the powerful Lone Star State business lobby. To fund the program, Morales Shaw and his nine co-sponsors would levy a tax equivalent to 0.15% of the total wages paid by a company. For example, on a payroll of $500,000, a company would pay $750 to a new state entity called the Texas Family Fund, which would pay benefits to workers with a new child.
Proponents of the bill note that the new program would help women, in particular, stay in the workforce, potentially release 19 billion dollars in lost wages.
“The free market hasn’t solved a very public and widespread problem and loophole in our system,” said Amanda Posson, senior political analyst at Every Texan, a liberal think tank that worked closely starring Morales Shaw. “It is time for a people-centered public solution that can close this huge gap that is eroding our workforce retention, and which we have clearly seen in the pandemic, which is driving women and mothers out of the labor market and ultimately costs us all.
There is no exact data available on the number of workers in Texas who currently do not receive paid parental leave from their jobs. But 74% of workers in Texas – 10.8 million people – have neither paid parental leave nor paid time off to care for a family member, according to an analysis of official data conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Familiesa pro-paid vacation group in Washington, D.C.
Every Texan estimates that approximately 144,000 full-time Texas workers would receive benefits from the Texas Family Fund in its first year of operation.
“If we’re truly pro-family, we would have no inhibitions or concerns about providing paid time off for families with newborns and newly adopted children to provide this really valuable and important care,” Posson said. “There should be no conflict here.”
Texas Republicans are known for their opposition to higher taxes on corporate and employer mandates of any kind.
There was some optimism, however, that even the Lone Star State GOP would warm to modest benefits for new parents in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling overturning a federal right to the abortion. The High Court judgment brought into force a 2021 Texas law that bans abortions in all cases except those where the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother.
The law, which threatens doctors who perform abortions with life imprisonmentalso spotlighted Republicans like President Phelan who promised the self-proclaimed “pro-life” party would help families care for children after they were born.
Indeed, Texas Republicans are well on their way to pass legislation provide state employees with paid parental leave benefits.
Morales Shaw and his allies hoped the next step would be to guarantee private sector workers the same benefits. She succeeded in recruiting a Republican co-author for his bill, State Rep. Ben Bumgarner, whose vote would have ensured passage of the bill by the State House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development. And representatives from the labor, medical and religious communities were prepared to testify at a hearing on the bill.
Additionally, Chen Button, a pro-business Republican from suburban Dallas and vice chair of the Texas House Early Childhood Caucus, seemed like the right person to confirm that the bill had been given due consideration.
Chen Button could benefit politically from a bipartisan compromise with the Democrats. As suburban voters swung to the Democrats in response to Donald Trump’s presidency, she nearly lost her re-election bid in 2020. Texas Republicans drew him a much more conservative district in 2022, allowing him to be re-elected easily this past November.
When Chen Button had reservations about the impact of the Texas small business bill, Morales Shaw was willing to play along by exempting smaller businesses from the program, saving them from the new payroll tax. 0.15%.
But now the Democratic Texas House staffer fears that canceling a hearing on the bill and shifting blame to two business groups could be Chen Button’s way of protecting Republicans from having to vote against the bill or run into supporters of the big business party.
“One thing that we anticipated from the start, since most Republicans support paid parental leave ‘in theory,’ is that it’s the kind of bill no one wants to kill in broad daylight,” he said. said the assistant. “So he’s being killed in the shadows by not getting a hearing.”