Paid Sick Leave Bill Advances in House

A push to require Maryland employers to offer sick leave to workers is gaining momentum in the General Assembly, with the House of Delegates advancing House Bill 1 to a vote on Friday.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

The Democrat-led House rejected nine Republican amendments to the bill during 90 minutes of debate on Wednesday, setting up the final House vote at the end of the week.

“I believe we’re going to move a bill and pass a bill this year,” said Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who has sponsored the bill for three years. It’s been discussed in Annapolis for five years.

The bill — dubbed the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act — would require companies with 15 or more employees to offer seven paid days of sick leave per year. Smaller companies would be required to offer the same amount of unpaid sick leave.

In the state Senate, meanwhile, the Finance Committee is still considering the bill. The committee spent two-and-a-half hours discussing sick leave on Monday, and members plan to continue work on the bill Friday.

The sick leave bill is moving through the legislature much more quickly than last year, when it died on the final day of the 90-day General Assembly session. On the same day last year, the bill was just getting its House committee hearing.

Clippinger said the quicker schedule means there’s enough time to work out any differences between House and Senate versions of the bill. Lawmakers have not taken action on another version of the sick leave bill being backed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

The governor’s bill would require companies with 50 or more employees at a location to offer paid sick leave. Tax credits would be available for smaller companies that offer paid leave.

Democrats contend that their bill will mean that 720,000 more Maryland workers will get sick leave, while Hogan’s bill would affect about 300,000 workers.

Several of the Republican amendments in the House attempted to incorporate parts of Hogan’s proposal into the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. One failed amendment tried to turn the entire bill into Hogan’s bill.

All failed by wide, party-line votes.

Republicans argued that mandating paid sick leave is a burden to employers and puts jobs at risk at companies that can’t afford it. Republican delegates repeatedly said their amendments were “common-sense” fixes to the bill.

The failed amendments would have given a tax break to companies that employ home health aides, extended the exemption for seasonal employees from 90 days to 120 days, limited the amount of damages awarded to workers when the company doesn’t provide proper leave and required workers to have half of the cost of sick leave deducted from their paychecks.

The bill would also require county governments to provide sick leave to all employees. While county governments generally provide generous benefits, at a much higher rate than the legislation would require, MACo opposed the legislation, raising concerns with the bill’s potential effects on provision of emergency and essential services and with the bill’s broad requirements for providing leave to part-time, seasonal, and contractual employees in the same manner as full-time employees.

Useful Links

MACo Testimony on HB 1

The Baltimore Sun Article