Maryland General Assembly Gives Final OK to Democrats’ Sick Leave Bill

The General Assembly gave final approval to a bill that would extend paid sick leave to almost 700,000 Maryland workers, setting up a potential clash with Gov. Larry Hogan, who has threatened to veto the measure.

The House of Delegates approved the Senate version of the Democratic legislation by a veto-proof margin, sending it to the Republican governor.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

A Hogan veto would set up an override vote as one of the first items of business when the legislature reconvenes in an election year next January. Hogan promised last month to veto the bill, which he derided as “a partisan attempt to put points on the board to use against me in a campaign in 2018.”

Asked about the bill at an event in Baltimore Wednesday afternoon, Hogan was more equivocal.

“We’re dealing with the 27 bills they sent us,” he said. “They’re going to send us another thousand. We’ll have until May to talk about all those.”

The legislation, five years in the making, would require businesses with 15 or more full-time employees to let their workers earn at least five days of sick time a year.

Hogan had proposed a rival bill that would have applied to businesses that employ 50 or more workers in a single location. Democrats rejected that approach, saying businesses that large typically already provide employees with paid sick leave.

The governor’s bill would have offered tax credits for smaller businesses to offer such a benefit. Democrats said Hogan never explained how he would pay for the $60 million annual cost of the credit.

Republicans warned that the bill sponsored by Democrats would hurt small businesses and cause them to close their doors or move out of state.

The House voted 87-53 to approve the legislation. GOP delegates voted as a bloc against the bill. Three Democrats joined them. Another was absent Wednesday. It takes 85 votes in the House to override a veto.

The Senate passed the bill Monday, after amending it to reduce some burdens on businesses.

Where the House had proposed seven days of leave, the Senate changed that to five. The Senate also changed the average number of hours an employee needs to work per week to qualify from eight to 12, and extended the minimum number of days on the payroll to qualify from 90 to 106, a concession to employers who hire workers for seasonal jobs, such as those in Ocean City in the summer.

Similar legislation passed the House last year but got hung up in the Senate Finance Committee.

That panel’s chairman, Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton, convened a work group including businesses and advocates last summer. The group helped hammer out a more acceptable version of the bill.

With the Democrats’ proposal gaining momentum, Hogan weighed in late last year with what he billed as a “common sense” alternative. The measure won praise from Republican lawmakers, but business groups did not line up to support it.

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