Thursday, March 29, 2007

HB 2372 Passes Overwhelmingly in the Oregon House

I don't have time to say much about this today, except, Whoo-hoo and Thank you Diane Garret for all your amazing work and dedication! Next stop, the Oregon Senate! Here's the press release from Speaker Jeff Merkley.

SALEM—The Oregon House of Representatives today approved a bill that would give nursing mothers the opportunity to express breast milk in a private area while at work. House Bill 2372 passed the House on an overwhelming 49-7 vote.

“There is no nutrient as important to an infant as breast milk,” said House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D-Portland). “This bill gives nursing mothers more opportunities to provide that nourishment to their children and that is something we should encourage in as many ways as possible.”

The bill as passed requires businesses of 25 or more employees to accommodate the expression of breast milk in the workplace. They must provide a clean and private area and unpaid break time for their nursing employees. Under the bill, employers may negotiate different terms if those requirements would impose an undue hardship. The bill requires only that employees be allowed to express their breast milk; it does not require that mothers be allowed to actually nurse their children in the workplace.

“It’s a great day for mothers and babies in Oregon,” said Rep. Carolyn Tomei, chair of the Human Services and Women’s Wellness Committee. “Working moms now don’t have to choose between the health of their babies and keeping their jobs.”

Three members of the Human Services Committee opposed the bill as it was originally introduced, but eventually it passed that committee on a unanimous vote. In total, 18 amendments were offered by Rep. Tomei and approved by the committee to gain broader support for the bill.

“Carolyn Tomei deserves the credit for shepherding this bill through the House,” said Merkley. “Let me also extend my thanks and congratulations to Rep. Diane Rosenbaum, Diane Garrett and the Nursing Mothers Counsel for their years of hard work on this bill. It has all paid off today.”

The bill is expected to clear the Oregon Senate before the end of the legislative session.