PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The discussion on Governor Noem’s proposed paid family leave plan will face further discussion in the House Committee on Appropriations.
Wednesday, lawmakers in the House State Affairs committee heard testimony for House Bill 1151 which would establish a paid family leave program through the state Bureau of Human Resources for state employees. The bill would also include a group policy for non-state public and private employers in South Dakota to opt into.
Prime sponsor of the bill, Republican Representative Mike Weisgram, told the committee that the plan is “vital” to attract young employees to the state.
“This program has advantages too,” Weisgram said. “Currently employees use existing paid family leave, and their salaries are paid directly out of the agency’s budgets to fund the salary expense for the enhancement and insurance with the purchase by the state to pay 80% of the employee’s salary through the insurance policy.”
Rachel Oglesby, Governor Noem’s chief of policy, asked lawmakers to support the bill saying that it will expand the benefits offered to state employees while creating affordable options for the private sector.
“Under House Bill 1151, the state would issue an RFP to purchase an insurance policy that would expand these benefits. State employees would be eligible for paid family leave 12 weeks after the birth or adoption of a child, to take care of a sick family member, or for military exigency,” Oglesby explained. “They will be paid 80% of their salaries through the insurance policy and agency budgets will cover the remaining 20% so that state employees receive 100% of their salary.”
Oglesby continued that the program would provide options for private businesses to buy a policy from the same insurance provider that works best for them and their employees.
“There is no money whatsoever in this bill,” Oglesby said. “We work directly with private businesses and local governments to provide these benefits. It will take zero state dollars.”
One lawmaker asked for clarification on the “ongoing dollars” into the insurance policy. Oglesby answered that there would be a cost to the state and counties insurance policy in the Human Resources budget of $3 million a year which was included in the governor’s proposed budget.
The insurance policy, Oglesby continued, would be able to be crafted by individual businesses.
“The state will plan for over 12 weeks of all kinds of coverage on benefits at 80% of the salary,” Oglesby said. While that is what the state will cover, a business could tailor their plan to cover six weeks of leave at 60% of salary, Oglesby explained.
Non-state entities and private businesses would work directly with the insurance company and the state would not be involved in the process. Oglesby added that no business would be required to use the same insurance company that the state uses and can choose another carrier.
“We believe that this will offer competitive rates, better options,” Oglesby said.
The bill also received the support of lobbyists representing the South Dakota Chapter of the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Concerned Women for America, insurance companies, attorneys, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce, the Alzheimer’s Association in South Dakota and more.
Nobody testified in opposition to the bill.
After discussion among the committee who expressed support for the bill but also concerns about the $3 million insurance policy, a motion to refer the bill to the House Committee on Appropriations was introduced.
The motion received majority support and the bill will now move to the appropriations committee.