As 2016 drew to a close, Governor Larry Hogan announced that he would be introducing a bill in 2017 that would require businesses with 50 or more employees, who work at least 30 hours a week, to provide five days of paid sick leave per year. Part-time employees who work at least 30 hours a weekly would also receive paid sick leave. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees would be eligible for a tax break if they offered paid sick leave.
In a statement from the Office of the Governor, Hogan argued, “Balanced paid sick leave benefits … have the potential to cover nearly all working Marylanders without placing an unmanageable burden on job creators.” At a press conference in Annapolis broadcast on Facebook, he said, “It’s clear that in order to move forward, we’re going to need to strike a balance that meets the needs of Maryland’s employees while not hurting our small businesses and continuing to foster a more business friendly climate in our state.”
Several Republicans have readied themselves behind Hogan’s plan, including House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga. According to the Washington Post, she commented, “[The bill] strikes a good balance in protecting Maryland employees while not hamstringing new businesses.”
However, the proposed legislation faces opposition from Maryland Democrats, who wish to expand the reach of paid sick leave beyond Hogan’s bill. In a news conference, Senator Thomas Middleton made the claim that the governor’s bill would cut off the legislation that he and other liberal lawmakers have proposed, which would also require paid sick leave benefits for smaller businesses.
One example of this legislation is a recently proposed bill requiring businesses with at least 15 employees to provide sick leave. The Democrats’ bill covered part-time employees, while Hogan’s bill would only cover those who work at least 30 hours a week. The bill was approved by the House of Delegates but did not advance in the Senate by April last year.
Delegate Ariana B. Kelly, one of the co-sponsors of the Democrats’ bill, acknowledged Hogan’s bill’s success in expanding sick paid leave benefits while highlighting its shortcomings. According to the Washington Post, she expanded. “It sounds like a reasonable compromise, but in reality it’s not providing coverage to the people who need paid sick leave the most — people who don’t have it now, and the part-time and low-wage hourly workers.”
Hogan’s bill would require jurisdictions that have enacted more generous policies to follow the state law on paid sick leave. In Montgomery County, employers with more than five employees are required to provide a minimum of one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Commenting on the bill, County Council Member George Leventhal criticized, “The effect will be to take the benefit away from tens of thousands of employees in Montgomery County,” according to the Bethesda Magazine.
“While I think that Governor Hogan’s bill is a good start, there is definitely more that can be done to help workers,” Richard Montgomery High School sophomore Russell Corbin said. Corbin, an avid supporter of paid sick leave for workers, suggested reforms to Hogan’s bill. “Smaller businesses should definitely be included within the sick leave proposal as well”, he added.
Mr. William Vicari, a Richard Montgomery High School US Government teacher, supports Hogan’s plan because he believes it presents a reasonable compromise. “Even though some small and medium-sized businesses might be excluded, if Hogan can reach a compromise on this divisive issue, then I think Marylanders will have to live with the choice,” he said.
It remains to be seen whether Democrats in the House and Senate will see the bill as an honest attempt at compromise or a political maneuver to override county-level sick paid leave benefits. The first bill of the Hogan administration in 2017 could turn into a vicious legislative battle between Maryland Democrats and Governor Hogan.
Article by MoCo Student Staff Writer Bhavesh Kemburu of Richard Montgomery High School