Paid sick leave bill gains key approval in House

A bill that would require companies to offer sick leave to workers is advancing in the House of Delegates.

The House Economic Matters Committee voted 13-10 to approve a version of the bill Wednesday afternoon, and it's scheduled for consideration by the full House starting on Thursday.

The bill would require companies with at least 15 employees to allow workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave per year -- a change from 10 employees in the original bill. Smaller companies would only be required to offer unpaid sick leave.

The bill also has been changed so that companies would not have to offer sick leave to workers younger than 18.

And companies that have sick leave plans that are at least as generous as the requirements in the bill would not have to change their plans, said Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who is the bill's lead sponsor.

Getting the committee's approval was a key victory for the bill's supporters, who have lined up enough cosponsors to get the bill passed in the full House and the full Senate. The bill has died in committee in past years.

"I'm very excited that the legislation moved out of the Economic Matters Committee for the first time in four years," Clippinger said. "Hopefully we'll get the bill to the governor's desk."

Clippinger said 700,000 Maryland workers lack sick leave, so they put their jobs at risk when they miss work for illness.

Though time is running short on the 90-day General Assembly session -- the last day is April 11 -- the bill's supporters are hopeful.

"A week-and-a-half is an eternity in Annapolis, especially with bills of this magnitude," said Melissa Broome, deputy director of the Jobs Opportunities Task Force, a Baltimore nonprofit that advocates for low-income workers.

Business groups have spoken out against the bill, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Restaurant Association of Maryland.

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