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Maine Legislature clears 12-week paid medical leave proposal

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The Maine House voted Thursday to give workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave to deal with illness, care for a relative or birth of a child by joining other New England states in creating a paid family medical leave program.

The 79-65 vote followed a party-line vote the day before in the Senate, putting the bill on track for approval in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is reviewing recent changes to the bill.

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“Maine is currently the only state in New England that doesn’t offer any version of (paid family medical leave). Now, we’ve taken another significant step closer to joining them,” said Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston, who sponsored the bill with Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick.

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A proposal to establish a state medical leave fund in Maine has cleared both chambers of the state’s Legislature.

The proposal, to be funded through a payroll tax split between workers and employers and capped at 1% of wages, would allow up to 12 weeks a year of paid leave for qualifying conditions, such as the birth or adoption of a child, a worker’s serious illness, care for a sick relative, or transition from military deployment.

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The original cost of implementing the bill was estimated to be $71 million, according to legislative documents, but the figure for the amended bill is $12 million for startup and $14 million for the first year.

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Companies with fewer than 15 employees would be exempt, and workers would have to be employed for 120 days to qualify. The exact contribution rate has yet to be set; lost wages would be replaced at a tiered rate.

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