Supporters of sick leave rallied in front of a Highlandtown bar Wednesday morning, calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to sign into law a bill that would provide paid time off for illness for some 700,000 Maryland workers.
Del. Luke Clippinger, the bill's sponsor in the House of Delegates, said that since both he and the governor recently had cancer, they know how important it is to have time off to get treatment and recover.
"I call on the governor from the bottom of my heart to sign House Bill 1," he said, referring to the measure's designation in the legislature. "This is the time, this is where he can show some leadership."
The bill would require businesses with 15 or more full-time employees to allow workers to earn at least five paid sick days a year.
Advocates say it would let workers take care of their own health and that of their families, and give them greater economic stability. But business groups say the measure imposes a costly mandate on owners, and Hogan has previously said the bill was "dead on arrival."
Hannah Marr, a spokeswoman for the Republican governor, said Hogan was still reviewing the bill and hundreds of others. She said the governor "supports common sense paid sick leave," like the bill he proposed that would have applied to businesses that employ 50 or more workers in a single location and offered tax credits for smaller businesses to offer paid sick leave.
Democrats nixed that idea for their own, saying most businesses that large already provide workers with paid sick leave and that the governor never explained how the state would cover the $60 million annual cost of the credit.
Hogan, who is holding a bill signing ceremony in Annapolis Thursday, has until the end of the month to act on legislation sent to him by the legislature.
"He hasn't vetoed it yet," Clippinger said. "And I think he's thinking long and hard about it because of the people who are behind me."
Supporters of the bill rallied in front of the Laughing Pint, a neighborhood bar that is one of more than 50 businesses advocates say support their cause. But it was not clear how many of those businesses would be large enough to be affected by the law or chose to voluntarily offer paid sick leave.
The Laughing Pint does not provide it to its six employees. Owner Shannon Cassidy said it wouldn't be affordable, so when someone gets sick, her workers swap shifts or she steps in to pick up the slack. She said a law that covers all businesses would need to include a provision to help owners pay the costs associated with an employee taking a day off.
Cassidy said she supports the bill passed by the General Assembly as a good first step.
"I've been on the other side of the table," Cassidy said.
Paul Brown, a security guard at a downtown office building, described what having paid sick leave might have meant for him when he began to develop heart problems.
The 69-year-old suspected something was wrong but couldn't afford to take time away from work to get checked out. His condition deteriorated, he said. On his way to work one day he felt dizzy, leaned on a wall and blacked out. Eventually, he had to have a triple bypass and a stent.
"I don't believe it would have got that bad if I could afford to take off to see a doctor," Brown said.
"Five paid sick days would help hardworking people like me get the care we need," he said. "I am urging the governor to consider hardworking people like me and sign this bill."