Editorial: Hogan’s paid sick leave proposal has merit

Earlier this week, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan announced a “compromise” bill regarding requirements for paid sick leave in the state, expected to be a contentious election-year issue when the General Assembly returns to work in January, after he vetoed legislation passed by the Democratic majority in Annapolis earlier this year.

The bill, which Hogan plans to introduce on the first day of the 2018 session, contains a number of good ideas that Maryland Democratic legislators would be wise to consider — although they likely have the votes to ignore them. State Democrats passed their bill during the 2017 session by large enough margins to override the governor’s veto, and could make doing so the first order of business once next year’s session begins Jan. 10.


Republicans will likely spend the next few weeks trying to appeal to center-left Dems with a number of small businesses in their districts to at least consider some of the concepts the governor is trying to push.

Legislation that passed last year but was vetoed by the governor in May would require companies with 15 or more employees to let those who work at least 12 hours each week to earn up to five days of paid leave per year. Democrats and Republicans seem to disagree on exactly how many Marylanders this would affect — estimates range from around 300,000 to upward of 700,000.

Hogan and some state Republicans have come around on the idea of paid sick leave — so long as it’s done “right,” in their eyes. We agree. Workers shouldn’t have to be concerned their boss might fire them if they have to stay home a day or two to take care of a sick child, tend to family emergency or, heaven forbid, get sick themselves. However, any legislation should also be fair to employers and not put undue burdens on small businesses, financial or otherwise.

Legislation passed last year is particularly complex, creating more administrative paperwork for small business owners and potentially fining them if found in violation of the law. The governor’s bill simplifies some of this, eliminating the need for employers to exempt certain part-time employees, instead allowing all employees to accrue one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.

Not everything in Hogan’s legislation strictly benefits businesses either. The compromise bill would allow workers to use accrued leave for any reason — no questions asked — versus the Democrats’ bill, which potentially requires workers to disclose personal or health-related information, including details about domestic violence or sexual assault, to use leave.

The governor also proposed companion legislation that would provide $100 million over five years in tax credits to businesses with fewer than 50 employees that provide paid leave and other benefits to their workers.

Not to say the governor’s proposal is perfect; his bill calls for phasing in requirements — those with 50 or more employees must provide paid leave in 2018 and 40 or more in 2019, before settling on business with 25 or more workers in 2020 — which leaves some out in the cold for several years, and Hogan hasn’t made clear yet how he plans to pay for incentives in the companion bill. However, many of the issues raised about the current legislation and his proposed solutions have merit and are worthy of consideration by the Democratic majority.

However, with the Democrat’s majority being veto-proof and their not wanting to give a Republican governor an election-year “win” (even if paid sick leave has largely been a Democratic issue), it’s unlikely we’ll see much compromise. That’s unfortunate for both small business owners and their employees, who instead of getting better legislation end up as pawns in the never-ending game of political chess.