Dueling paid sick leave plans under debate

State lawmakers, intent on passing some version of a law that would require employers to offer paid sick leave to their workers this year, began Thursday to sort through the details of two competing proposals.

A proposal by General Assembly Democrats would benefit more people and expect employers to bear the costs. A proposal by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan would apply to fewer people, and would offer smaller employers a tax credit that could cost the state up to $60 million per year.


Both plans would extend paid leave benefits to hundreds of thousands of workers who currently lack it. Business leaders told a Senate committee Thursday that they did not support either proposal.

Hogan's top lobbyist, appearing before the Senate Finance Committee, was asked if the governor would sign the Democrats' plan.


Christopher Shank, Hogan's chief legislative officer, suggested that the governor was not open to further compromise.

"What we have presented, we think, is a compromise," he said.

Hogan's plan would require businesses with at least 50 employees in one location to offer them five days of paid sick time per year. The proposal would cover roughly 272,000 workers who currently do not have that benefit.

It would also offer a tax break of up to $1,700 for companies with fewer than 50 workers who voluntarily offer paid time off — a policy that could cost taxpayers about $60 million a year, according to legislative analysts.

It was not clear whether the proposal would apply to franchised companies such as McDonald's, which might have hundreds employees in the state, but no locations with 50 or more.

"The bill strikes all the right balances," Shank, a former state senator, told his former colleagues. He said it does not "mandate things that should be left to an employee handbook."

The Democratic-dominated legislature nearly passed a mandatory sick time proposal a year ago, but negotiations stalled in the final days of the legislative session. Hogan had not weighed into the debate then.

The Democrats' proposal this year closely resembles the plan that cleared the House of Delegates in 2016: companies with 15 employees or more would be required to offer them seven paid days off per year. Smaller firms would be required to offer unpaid leave for illness.


That proposal would force businesses to give paid time off to about 675,000 Maryland workers who do not have it, according to legislative analysts.

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The Democrats' proposal, sponsored in the Senate by Finance Committee Chairman Thomas M. "Mac" Middleton, would also require companies to keep detailed records and impose fines for violations. It offers no tax break for smaller companies.

"Every group that had concerns, we've talked to them," Middleton said.

He said he would entertain changes. He praised Hogan's tax credit plan as "making a lot of sense."

The House of Delegates has not considered the dueling proposals yet.

Seven states and the District of Columbia now require most employers to provide mandatory sick leave to workers. Legislative analysts said only one — Connecticut, which in 2011 was the first to pass such a law — limits the mandate to companies with 50 workers or more.