Capitol Alert

Unpaid family leave expansion advances to Jerry Brown

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, led the push for expanding unpaid family leave.
State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, led the push for expanding unpaid family leave. The Associated Press

Overcoming significant opposition from business groups, a bill expanding California’s unpaid family leave policy squeaked through the Legislature on Friday.

Current law entitles workers at companies with at least 50 employees to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick parent, child or spouse. Senate Bill 406, by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would add siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partners and parents-in-law to the list of family members.

SB 406 was a major target for the California Chamber of Commerce, which placed the measure on its influential annual list of “job killer” legislation. Though it passed the Senate in June, the bill faced stiff resistance from business-friendly Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Assembly, where it was amended last week to drop a provision that would have added businesses with more than 25 employees to the policy.

The proposal still struggled Friday, where it survived the Assembly on a razor-thin 41-29 margin. Jackson and fellow Democrats walked the floor trying to drum up votes as it initially stalled short of passage.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, worked particularly aggressively to jockey support. She tugged at heartstrings by sharing a photo of a colleague’s baby and, as the bill hovered just below a majority, audibly shouted the names of lawmakers who hadn’t yet cast votes.

After returning to the Senate for a 23-16 concurrence vote, the bill advanced to the governor’s desk for a signature. Jackson said she was excited, but “disappointed that it was so difficult.”

“All we’re trying to do is recognize that Californians live in multi-generational families,” she said, “and when they get sick, we shouldn’t lose our jobs to care for them.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff. Christopher Cadelago and Jeremy B. White of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.