Sick Leave Bill Meeting Prompts Preemption Debate

At a meeting called by Senator Middleton, proponents and opponents to statewide sick leave legislation discussed the legislation that passed the House of Delegates last year. Much of the conversation focused on preemption of local laws.

senator middleton
Senator Middleton will sponsor statewide sick leave legislation this year.

Senator Middleton, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said that he would be the primary Senate sponsor of the sick and safe leave legislation this year at a meeting he called today in Annapolis.

The primary sponsor of the legislation last year was Senator Pugh, who is now Mayor-elect of Baltimore City.

To start the conversation at today’s meeting, advocates for the legislation walked through the bill as passed by the House of Delegates, describing each amendment and the purpose of each amendment.

Background

When the legislation was introduced last year, it included language preempting local governments from enacting their own sick leave legislation, unless they had done so before January 1, 2016. That provided protection for Montgomery County’s law, which was passed in the summer of 2015.

While the statewide legislation did not pass last year, the Montgomery County law went into effect on October 1 of this year. Today a business coalition opposing the statewide legislation announced that preemption of local laws is their number one issue.

In years past, business interests opposing the legislation had raised broader-based concerns with the effect of the legislation on costs and operations. MACo also opposed the sick leave legislation in prior years, citing how the law could create additional administrative costs for county government employers, and cause operational inefficiencies.

Strategy

Senator Middleton stated his interest in involving Montgomery County in discussions regarding this year’s statewide legislation with the aim of passing statewide legislation that is strong enough that Montgomery County might amend their local law the match the State’s.

According to advocates of the statewide sick leave legislation, the Montgomery County law provides stronger sick and safe leave rights for workers than the bill that passed the House last year. Opponents of the statewide legislation called the Montgomery County law “irreconcilable” with the bill that passed the House.

Next Steps

At the end of the meeting, Senator Middleton asked all interested parties to sign-up for an email list with a plan of creating smaller groups for discussion and reconciliation of differences about the legislation.