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Arkansas governor signs maternity leave bill for state employees

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs bill into law guaranteeing 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for state employees.
Josie Lenora
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs a bill into law on Monday guaranteeing 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for state employees.

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed new legislation guaranteeing paid maternity leave for state employees.

The new law will give employees of the State of Arkansas 12 weeks of paid maternity leave if they recently gave birth or adopted an infant. The law comes at no cost to taxpayers as those wishing to take maternity leave will pull their hours from a catastrophic leave fund, a program where state employees donate extra vacation and sick days to other workers.

Sanders says a balance of 1.6 million hours already exists in that catastrophic leave fund for state employees.

“As a mom of three kids, I know the difficulties that a lot of parents have juggling that work-life balance,” Sanders said, explaining that she hoped the bill would give Arkansas a “competitive advantage when hiring.”

The law's sponsor, Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, said the emergency clause in the language of the bill means it is already in effect.

“This amazing state employee named Brooke Holloway who testified on this bill... planned to be here today for the bill signing; however, she went into labor Saturday and texted me a picture this morning of a beautiful baby boy," Irvin said. "He is the first baby to be able to take advantage of this policy.”

The governor said she has no plans to create a paternity leave system for new fathers or to ask the private sector to mandate similar paid parental leave regulations.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.