Living Our Values: A Proposal for Paid Parental Leave in North Dakota
As a member of the North Dakota Senate, it is my job to make sure that our laws reflect the values of the people in our great state. One thing I know for sure is that we value families. Yet I am distressed that this fundamental value is often not reflected in the way our state does business.
For example, we know that it is critical that newborn babies have the opportunity to bond with their parents. Yet we have done little to ensure that parents who want to take parental leave are able to. Too many families cannot afford to take unpaid leave, especially when they have a newborn child at home and all of the expenses associated with that. One story of a mother of a newborn son really shows how much parents have to struggle to do right by their families:
“I did not have the option of paid maternity leave, but I was able to combine my sick and annual leave. That amounted to 9 weeks off. I also took 3 weeks of leave without pay. I split that time off with some part-time hours. So my son was 2 months old when I went back to work. Taking 3 weeks off without pay put a huge burden on my family. My husband and I don't make a lot of money. My husband was allowed to take 2 weeks off, but he has to use his sick and annual leave as well. Having more (or any!) paid maternity leave would have made a huge different in our lives. My husband and I would love to have more children, but we will have to wait until I can accrue enough sick and annual leave again. I do realize that there are people out there that have it far worse than us, but it's time the US got with the program. We are supposed to be a country that leads the world, but we cannot take care of our own families!"
I strongly believe that parents shouldn’t have to choose between meeting their babies’ physical needs of food and shelter at the expense of meeting its emotional needs of bonding with its parents and learning that it is loved and safe.
But it is not enough to believe. We all must act on our beliefs. That is why I intend to create a new tax credit for North Dakota businesses that offer paid parental leave to their employees. The more businesses that adopt this policy, the better off all of our children and families will be and the better off North Dakota will be. Other developed countries do this, we can too!