To win the federal paid family leave debate, first allow states to lead the way, Baker Institute expert says


Jeff Falk

To win the federal paid family leave debate, first allow states to lead the way, Baker Institute expert says

HOUSTON – (Sept. 26, 2019) – In mid-August, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Act into law, making it the eighth state in addition to Washington, D.C., to have a statewide paid family leave law. Within the last 12 months, Massachusetts and Connecticut enacted paid family leave rules, and two dozen states are considering similar proposals.

Credit: University

Joyce Beebe, a fellow in the Center for Public Finance at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said that while paid family leave is quietly gaining ground in state legislatures, federal policy and debate related to the issue has been noisy and disjointed. “For now, we should allow states to lead the way on this issue,” she said.

Beebe is available to discuss the issue with the news media.

As the country heads toward November 2020, paid family leave policy probably has drawn more attention in recent months than it ever has, Beebe said. “President Trump, senior adviser Ivanka Trump, legislators and many current and former presidential candidates from both parties have expressed support on this issue,” Beebe said. “However, there are major ideological differences among their proposed policies.”

Beebe said a national paid family leave law is no doubt the end goal for both parties; however, the federal policy discussion is gradually departing from mandating employers or federal agencies to establish a paid leave program. “Instead, it focuses on providing financial resources to workers, which provides, at best, indirect support to the most vulnerable workers primarily because of limited Family and Medical Leave Act coverage, accessibility and timing issues,” Beebe said.

“In the coming years, the most promising developments that truly provide workers and their families with guaranteed paid leave will still be at the state level,” she said. “Federal lawmakers should focus more on the programs that directly provide paid family leave instead of only the financial incentives.”

For more information or to schedule an interview with Beebe, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at or 713-348-6775. The Baker Institute has a television and radio interview studio available.


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Related materials:

Beebe biography:

Baker Institute Center for Public Finance:

Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top three university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at or on the institute’s blog,   

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.