Abstract: What Can We Learn from the Policy Making Process? an Example of Paid Family Leave in Hawaii (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

What Can We Learn from the Policy Making Process? an Example of Paid Family Leave in Hawaii

Sunday, January 20, 2019: 9:45 AM
Union Square 14 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Jing Guo, PhD, Associate Professor, PhD Program Chair, University of Hawaii at Manoa, HI
Hua Zan, PhD, Assistant Research, University of Hawaii at Manoa, HI
United States is the only advanced economy without a nationwide paid family leave law, and only a handful states have implemented paid family leave programs. In recent years, proposals of paid family leave policies have been introduced and discussed at both federal and state levels, including Hawaii. This study examined paid family leave bills introduced by the Hawaii State Legislature in the 2016 regular session accompanied by a content analysis of testimonies submitted for the public hearings. We aimed to answer: a) what process have the proposed paid family leave bills been through in the Hawaii State Legislature? b) who are the key stakeholders for and against the proposed paid family leave bills? and c) what are the critical issues in the policy debate?

Methods: We drew study data from the Hawaii State Legislature website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov, which is the key portal for obtaining information to participate in the lawmaking process. It also hosts the Legislative Archives, which includes bills and resolutions as well as testimonies and committee reports of each legislative session from 1999 to present. We searched all bills in the 2016 Archives using the keyword of “paid family leave”.  We screened the results of initial search by applying two criteria: a) the bill was related to paid family leave, and b) the bill had public hearings and committee decision making in the 2016 legislative session. Our final analysis focused on SB2961. Our study sample consisted of five drafts of SB2961, four committee reports on SB2961, as well as 155 written testimonies submitted to the standing committees. We reviewed the timeline of public hearings, synthesized amendments to the bill, and analyzed written testimonies to identify key stakeholders and critical issues in the policy debate.

Findings: The process of the SB2961 in the legislative session demonstrated the complexity in lawmaking, including multiple referrals, public hearings, and committee actions within deadlines.  SB2961 passed three readings in the Senate and was sent to the House. It was deferred by the House Committee on Finance at the end. a number of components in the bill have been changed through amendments, including paid family leave coverage and duration of the leave. The majority of the testimony support the bill, and these stakeholders include groups interested in the health and wellbeing of women, parents, and family caregivers. The oppositions were primarily from the business sector. State departments also concerned about the actuarial soundness, administrative process, and management issues.

Conclusions and implications

This study describes the legislative process using a real-world example, which can be used as an educational material in social work to enhance social workers’ competency in policy advocacy. The analysis sleds light on the direction of continuing efforts in the paid family leave policy development and advocacy in the state.  A successful passage of a paid family leave policy requires building a stronger coalition among supportive groups which may involve seeking common grounds and strategic compromises.