Capitol Alert

California family leave bill revived after Roger Hernández exits panel

Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D- Santa Barbara, listens to testimony during a hearing on the Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif.
Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D- Santa Barbara, listens to testimony during a hearing on the Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. AP

Stalled California legislation ensuring new parents can take time off without fear of losing their jobs will get another chance.

Multiple Democrats withheld votes when the policy went before the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee in June, dooming the measure to defeat. Weeks before that vote the bill’s author, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, had publicly called for the labor committee’s chair, Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-Baldwin Park, to take a leave of absence amid domestic violence allegations.

The bill was a priority of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, of which Jackson is a co-chair, sparking indignation that an all-male panel blocked it.

Now it will return in a new vessel and go before a reconstituted committee. The contents of Senate Bill 1166, which died in June, have been transplanted into Senate Bill 654. Known as a “gut and amend,” the tactic of swapping a failed bill’s provisions into different legislation is a common end-of-session tactic to revive sidelined measures.

Since that last vote Hernández has seen his influence evaporate. He was stripped of his committee assignments after a judge granted a restraining order to his ex-wife, who said Hernández had beaten and verbally abused her, and is absent from the Legislature on a medical leave. The committee’s new chair, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, voted for the earlier version of the family leave bill.

The measure also has the support of leadership. Its new vessel was formerly a bill of Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, released a statement calling family leave “a vital issue.”

“I’m pleased to join with the Women’s Caucus to ensure this issue receives the full consideration it deserves,” Rendon said.

The bill would allow parents who work for companies with at least 10 employees to take up to 12 weeks of maternity or paternity leave. For six of those weeks, parents could seek compensation from the state’s Paid Family Leave program. Gov. Jerry Brown recently approved an increase in how much new parents can claim from that program.

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-Baldwin Park, would not let Assemblyman Matthew Harper speak at a committee hearing on July n8, 2015. Hernández told sergeants to remove Harper’s microphone. He later apologized. Video courtesy of The California Chan

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert