- Is home to 14 children's hospitals, the highest number in any state
- Issues a state-tax credit of up to $1,050 per year for childcare expenses -- one of the best credits in the nation, according to a recent report by the National Women's Law Center
- Mandates special training in sudden infant death syndrome for firefighters and emergency medical technicians; just eight states do this
Despite the political upheaval involving Governor Gray Davis, California is still a great place to start a family, offering the nation's most comprehensive paid parental and medical leave program. In addition to Temporary Disability Insurance, which provides women who have recently given birth with partial wages, usually for six to eight weeks, a law that goes into effect next year will entitle them to about half their salary -- up to $728 per week -- for six more weeks. Plus, it allows dads and adoptive or foster parents to take six weeks of paid leave.
"Only four other states -- Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island -- have Temporary Disability Insurance, but it doesn't apply to dads and foster or adoptive parents," says Lissa Bell, a senior policy associate at the National Partnership for Women and Families, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group.
California's bill, introduced by State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D) in 2002, passed the legislature in just one session. "Although we had to make some compromises -- for instance, the initial legislation called for 12 weeks of leave -- we never thought the bill would make it onto the books so quickly," says Netsy Firestein, director of the Labor Project for Working Families in Berkeley. "Californians rose to the occasion, coming out in droves to support this legislation. They really made it happen."
Another reason for the speedy turnaround: Employers couldn't contend that it would cost them too much money. California's workers foot the bill for paid leave, having on average $27 more taken out of their paychecks annually. The money goes into a fund and the state handles the distribution.
Firestein's immediate goal is to get the word out to the state's residents about how to take advantage of the program. "But in the long term," she says, "we're working to make California a springboard for other states. Paid parental leave is such a basic need. It's totally ludicrous that we're the only state that offers it."