xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Bill would delay enforcement of Maryland sick-leave law

The chief sponsor of a new state law requiring most employers to grant sick leave to workers introduced a bill Tuesday that would delay enforcing the requirements of the law.

Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton’s measure would prohibit the state from enforcing the sick-leave law until the middle of April. It’s an emergency bill, which would require a three-fifths majority in both the state Senate and the House of Delegates to pass.

Advertisement

State lawmakers and the governor have debated whether to require companies to give their workers sick leave, with lawmakers passing a bill last year. Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the bill, but lawmakers overrode the veto this month.

But some lawmakers expressed concerns that companies would have to come into compliance too quickly with the new law.

Advertisement
Advertisement
The Maryland Senate voted Friday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to hundreds of thousands of Maryland workers.

Middleton, a Charles County Democrat, said at that time of the veto override that he’d consider introducing a bill to delay implementing the new law. And Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said he he was willing to consider a delay.

The new sick-leave law becomes effective Feb.11, or 30 days after the final override vote was taken.

Middleton’s bill introduced Tuesday would prohibit enforcement of the sick-leave law for 60 days after that. The bill is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday afternoon, putting it on a fast track in the legislative process.

Middleton said the delay in enforcement gives state labor officials time to draw up necessary regulations and to spread the word to companies that are affected.

Advertisement

The Charles County Democrat said he wanted to “hold harmless” companies that are figuring out the details of how to set up their sick leave programs.

“Ninety days should give the administration enough time to get a guide together,” he said.

Middleton said he talked with Republican senators and made a deal that if Democrats supported delaying enforcement, the GOP wouldn’t try to make other changes to the sick-leave law through the emergency bill.

But Sen. Stephen Hershey, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said Middleton’s bill doesn’t reflect what he said was promised.

Hershey said the Republicans asked for the implementation of the bill to be pushed back until July 1. Just a delay in enforcing the bill is not enough, said Hershey, an Eastern Shore Republican.

“This is not what we were asking for,” Hershey said, pointing to a copy of Middleton’s bill.

Hershey said Republicans would have to discuss their next steps, including whether they would try to make changes when Middleton’s bill reaches the full Senate.

The question of whether up to hundreds of thousands of Maryland workers will be entitled to paid sick leave is in the hands of the Senate after the House of Delegates.

Hogan touted Middleton’s bill in an email blast, saying “legislators should now work with Governor Hogan to extend common sense, balanced paid sick leave to Marylanders.”

A spokesman for Hogan said the governor hopes this opens the door to discussion for ways to change the sick leave law so that it has less of an impact on small-business owners.

“We view this as an opportunity to continue our discussion to improve the bill and make it less burdensome on Maryland’s small-business job creators,” said Doug Mayer, the spokesman.

Mayer said the governor has been talking with lawmakers from both parties about possible changes. Middleton’s move to delay enforcement is a sign that lawmakers are willing to consider adjusting the law, he said.

“We see this as a clear signal that Senator Middleton and many other legislators have major concerns about the bill they just passed,” Mayer said.

But Charly Carter, executive director of the advocacy group Maryland Working Families, which lobbied for the sick-leave law, said that’s wishful thinking on the part of the governor.

“It’s really sad to see the governor come out with his news alert and imply there is some opportunity to re-litigate this now-established law,” Carter said. “It is time for Governor Hogan to stop digging in his heels on this issue.”

Hogan, meanwhile, issued an executive order earlier this month creating an Office of Small Business Regulatory Assistance within the state’s labor department to help businesses comply with the new sick leave law.

The law requires companies with 15 or more workers to allow them to earn up to five days per year of paid leave, which could be used for illness or dealing with certain issues related to domestic violence or sexual assault.

Companies with fewer employees would be required to allow workers to earn the same amount of unpaid leave.

Hogan, a Republican, had sponsored his own sick-leave bill that offered tax credits to companies that offer paid leave to workers at some companies. Lawmakers didn’t advance the governor’s bill last year, but Middleton said he’ll consider Hogan’s pitch this year.

“The administration has to come down and work it,” he said.

This story has been updated to reflect the correct date of the hearing on the bill.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement