Vermont Vetoes Paid Leave: When Perfect Is the Enemy of Good

Doug FrenchFatherhood on Friday

Attendees at this month’s Dad 2.0 Summit will experience an historic first: Two panels devoted to the same subject. That subject is the persistently thorny problem of paid leave, which is confronting two very distinct obstacles: Legislatures can’t agree on how to implement it, and men are still too wary of social stigma and professional punishment to take it. We’ve talked a lot about the latter, which will be the basis of our second panel on Saturday morning. But this week’s veto story from Montpelier sheds more light on how an idea that seems universally supportable can still be stalled in the statehouse.

It’s interesting to watch this drama unfold in Vermont, where a lot of factors seemed perfectly lined up to get a paid leave bill passed. Vermont has by far the lowest state GDP in the country and net-negative demographics, so the time feels right for the state to effect bold change in order to reverse some alarming trends. And although Republican governor Phil Scott won another term in November 2018, Vermonters also sent 102 Democrats and Progressives to its House of Representatives, a majority large enough to override any veto.

H.107, the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill, passed Vermont’s House with a vote of 89-58, and the Senate followed suit with a 20-9 affirmation. When Gov. Scott vetoed the bill, citing an aversion to the $29 million payroll tax that would pay for it, an override seemed inevitable. But when four Democrats broke ranks—because the bill didn’t go far enough, or they questioned how the program would be run—the override effort, which needed 100 votes to succeed, failed 99-51. By one. Lousy. Vote. 

A good bill failed because it wasn’t perfect.

Supporters of paid leave have been quick to assert that getting this close to a statewide mandate is encouraging, and that it’s a matter of time before enough lawmakers find the compromise necessary to enact it. We’ll be curious to see how many families leave Vermont in the meantime because they can’t wait any longer. 


Did you see? Yesterday, we announced our third round of Speakers at the 2020 Dad 2.0 Summit! Thanks to them, and to those we included in our first two announcements, we think we’ve built a great roster of marketers, writers, parents, and thought leaders to bring our 2020 discussion topics to life. Stay tuned for more information about programming, Sponsors, and our new Sched app that will keep you in the know all weekend long! 


AND: The deadline to book your room at the Mandarin Oriental is fast approaching! If you’re a leave-stuff-to-the-last-minute type of person, the last minute is Monday, February 17. Click here and secure the $199/night rate before it shoots up to north of $345 on Tuesday! 


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Photo by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash