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Inslee signs strong family leave law

Governor Jay Inslee signed Washington's historic family leave bill Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by legislators, parents, children, and labor leaders.

"We know that states must lead this common sense policy," Governor Jay Inslee said at the signing, "and in so many ways, in these United States, the state of Washington today is leading the way in paid family leave, and I'm happy about that."

Related: Washington Legislature passes paid family leave measure

The legislation gives Washington workers one of the strongest paid family and medical leave insurance policies in the nation, the Washington Work and Family Coalition said in a statement.

The measure offers eligible workers 12 weeks paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child or for the serious medical condition of the worker or the worker's family member beginning in 2020 - or 16 weeks for a combination of both. An additional two weeks may be used if there is a serious health condition with a pregnancy.

Washington joins four other states with paid family leave programs: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York, though New York's program doesn't take effect until next year. The District of Columbia earlier this year also approved a paid family leave program that takes effect July 2020.

"This is not just a promise—it's a program with meat on the bones. It has what real families need, and real laws, to give them real time when they need it with their families," Inslee said.

Senate Bill 5975 allows employees to take extended paid leave if they get extremely sick, have a new child, or a family member falls ill. Progress stalled on a similar bill several years ago when the recession hit, Inslee said.

Rep. Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said he's been advocating for such legislation for the past 30 years, even when he was a citizen.

"Today it is with great pleasure that I am here to witness the governor signing paid family leave legislation, which is the largest expansion of Social Security in Washington state in the last 50 years," Chopp said at the ceremony.

Chopp thanked several people in attendance, including all the legislators and business owners that helped with the process.

"It's historic because this achievement marks an amazing collaboration of work over the last several years of both Republicans and Democrats, and business, and labor, and family leave advocates," Inslee said.

The Associated Press contributed.