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Family leave is up for debate in Congress, but one state lawmaker wants even more than the current proposal

Lawmakers are preparing to return to Richmond for next year's General Assembly session, and lawmakers are already introducing bills, including one expanding family and medical leave.

Congress is currently debating a proposal for four weeks of paid family and medical leave as part of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda. But, even if that plan gets to the president's desk and becomes law, state Senator Jennifer Boysko, a Democrat from Herndon, says that's not enough. That's why she introduced Senate Bill One to make sure people have 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

"If you got four weeks at the federal level, then if we were able to implement my program, it could address the next eight weeks so we would have a full 12-week program in Virginia," Boysko says.

Instead of dipping into existing money to pay for it, Boysko's plan would have employees set aside money to pay for it. Some critics say that creates a new set of problems, critics like Thomas Jefferson Institute senior fellow Stephen Haner.

"The bottom line is that it's an employer mandate. If there's an extra 15 cents an hour that has to be put into this tax fund to pay for this benefit, that's 15 cents an hour that won't be in a pay raise. So it's just another employer cost," explains Haner. "It was unsuccessful when they had control. I don't see why it's going to pass when they don't have control."

The last time she had a similar proposal, she was able to get only three of the 12 Democrats on the Commerce and Labor Committee to vote in favor of the bill. Nevertheless, Boysko says paid family and medical leave remains a top priority.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.