Mandatory Family Leave Bill Vetoed by Governor

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. George Deukmejian on Wednesday vetoed a bill to require employers to give their workers an unpaid leave of up to four months to care for sick children, parents or spouses without fear of losing their jobs.

In his veto message, the governor said the bill would increase costs of hiring and training workers to temporarily replace those who take family leave and that the issue is better left to employee-employer bargaining.

"California should be looking for ways to encourage more companies to do business in our state," Deukmejian said. "This bill represents a step in the wrong direction."

Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles), the sponsor of the rejected measure, charged that the veto shows that the governor "fails to understand the reality of the work place in California."

"He says this bill would have an adverse effect on our economy," Moore said, "but employers who already offer family leave say it boosts employee productivity."

She pledged to reintroduce the bill next year, noting that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dianne Feinstein has promised she will sign it into law if elected. Moore called on Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Wilson to do the same.

Bill Livingstone, a Wilson press spokesman, said the GOP nominee, as a U.S. senator, supported parental leave at the federal level but would make no promises about signing or vetoing any bill. "Unlike Feinstein, we want to actually read the bill first," Livingston said.

Congress passed a federal parental leave bill earlier this year, but it was vetoed by President Bush.

The Moore bill had a rough time in both houses of the state Legislature with heavy opposition from Republican members. It ultimately passed the Assembly by a 45-28 vote and the Senate 23-14 to get to Deukmejian's desk.

The Women's Legal Defense Fund also criticized the governor for his veto. "California could learn lesson from its neighbor to the north," a spokeswoman said. "Since 1988, Oregon law has protected the jobs of both fathers and mothers when they (take time off to) have or adopt a baby. According to recent surveys, the law has worked well, for business and employees."

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