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DC Council passes controversial paid leave bill

WASHINGTON — D.C. Council on Tuesday approved legislation for what could be one of the nation’s most generous paid family leave programs.

The Universal Paid Leave Act passed in the D.C. Council, with nine votes in favor and four against.

D.C. Council on Tuesday approved one of the nation’s most generous paid family leave programs. The bill, which now goes to the mayor, will provide up to eight weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

Should the mayor veto the bill, the council’s vote margin is enough to override it. If the bill becomes law, it would be sent to Congress for approval, like all District laws.

“This legislation is thoughtful, heavily debated and as I will keep saying, it is simply the right thing to do,” said co-sponsor David Grosso, D-At Large.

At the heart of controversy over this bill was is its funding. The act casts a .62 percent tax on all D.C. businesses, which some council members expressed concerns was too high for small businesses to bear.

“The question is, do you support a tax on businesses to do it? What’s not lost on me is what that cost might be to those businesses,” said Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie to his colleagues before the vote.

Also of concern among council members is the loss of tax revenue generated by the bill. Taxing businesses will pull $250 million in to the District, but $166 million will go home with D.C. workers who live in neighboring states.

“To take government money and disperse it to Virginia and Maryland with only $80 million going to our residents is appalling,” said Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, who voted against the bill.

He joined Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh offering an amendment to fund the program alternatively through an employer mandate. The amendment failed in a 5 to 8 vote.

As council members realized a perhaps flawed bill was the only course forward, many expressed their disappointment with the version in-hand.

“I’m going to vote for it despite the fact it’s ill-considered and may cause a situation that we may regret. Nevertheless, I also feel even more strongly … that we need a path to get people paid leave. And if this is the only path left open to me, I’m going to take it,” Cheh said of the bill.

In response to the vote, Mayor Muriel Bowser released a statement quoting Cheh’s sentiments.

“I predict the Council will need to revisit this legislation and address the detrimental impacts on District residents and small businesses. I will not add my name to this legislation,” the mayor said in a statement.

The mayor also took issue with tax revenue leaving the District.

“It is wrong to raise District taxes to fund a costly, new government program that sends 66 percent of the benefits outside of the city, and leaves District families behind,” she said.

The new benefits would not apply to federal workers or city employees.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report from Washington.

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