Alabama state senator chides male colleagues for letting parental leave bill die

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Senate this week approved, and then killed, a bill that would give public school teachers eight weeks of paid parental leave.

Senators on Thursday voted 26-2 for the measure but then refused to grant the unanimous consent required to send the bill for a possible vote in the House of Representatives during the session’s final days.

State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, the sponsor of the bill, called it an example of the mostly male Legislature ignoring the concerns of women in the state.

“Maybe I’m going to have start raising hell” at the Senate floor, she said. “The females are a minority in elected office all over, but we are not a minority as voters.”

Alabama legislative rules require unanimous agreement after the 26th legislative day to send Senate bills to the House of Representatives for a vote. The Senate took the measure up on the 27th legislative day.

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed objected to the bill being transmitted. Reed said there are questions over how much the paid leave will cost the state and school systems.

Sen. Arthur Orr, the Republican senator who chairs the education budget committee, said he wants to get cost estimates and comparisons with what other states do on paid leave.

Figures said the issue goes beyond the one bill. There are four women in the current 35-member Alabama Senate. Three are Democrats and one is a Republican.

Alabama lawmakers in 2019 approved a near-total abortion ban with no exceptions for rape. Anti-abortion language that lawmakers and voters added to the Alabama Constitution in 2018 became the basis of a court ruling this year that led fertility clinics to halt IVF services. Services resumed after lawmakers approved legislation shielding providers from lawsuits.

“So many bills are passed that make decisions for us that you all don’t have to go through, but we do,” Figures told her male colleagues. “None of you have ever been pregnant or will be pregnant.”

Figures said she will be “back with a vengeance” next year with bills related to women’s rights.

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