Making good on a two-month old promise, Maryland’s governor today vetoed a bill that would have required small businesses across the state to give employees paid sick leave.
In his announcement, Gov. Larry Hogan condemned the Democratic-dominated legislature’s refusal to consider his own bill, which had less stringent requirements. The measure passed by both houses of the General Assembly, which was proposed by Baltimore City Del. Luke Clippinger, would require firms with 15 or more employees to give seven days of paid sick leave each year to full-timers, and require those with 14 or fewer employees to give unpaid sick leave to employees.
At the start of the 2017 session, Hogan proposed his own measure that would have required businesses with 50-plus employees to grant an unspecified number of sick leave days to all employees and promised tax credits to firms with 14 or fewer employees that offered their employees sick leave.
His bill, he said, was “fair, balanced and compromised,” and “made sure that we wouldn’t hurt our economy, crush small businesses or kill jobs.” He spoke pointedly of Clippinger’s bill, however, calling it “terribly, poorly written and deeply flawed,” and saying it would be “disastrous to our state economy” because it would stifle small businesses.
Maryland legislators have been trying to pass a mandatory paid sick leave bill for the last five years, and finally succeeded in this year’s legislative session. But the governor took issue with its more stringent cap on employee counts, as well as its language. In his press conference today, Hogan said phrases in the bill, such as “regularly work at least 12 hours per week” and “normal work week,” were difficult to define, and suggested the law would “impose a 1950s workplace mentality on a 21st-century workforce.”
Speaking by phone early Thursday evening, Del. Clippinger called the governor’s words “really disingenuous.”
“As the governor is well-aware, those terms are regularly addressed in the regulatory process, and there would have been a process in place to define those [phrases],” the 46th District state delegate said.
“I’m very disappointed,” he added. “I think, fundamentally, that what the governor did today is deny the opportunity for 700,000 Marylanders to earn sick leave. He did it while, at the same time, just window-dressing some alleged support for earned sick leave.”
The potential exists for a veto, as both houses passed the bill with the necessary “yea” margins. Asked about that threat to his decision, Hogan said he’ll try to convince lawmakers not to back the override this summer.
He also said he’ll issue three executive orders about paid sick leave. One will push state agencies to study small businesses’ needs and report back to the governor’s office ahead of the 2018 legislative session. Another will guarantee paid leave to more than 8,000 temporary and contracted workers for the executive branch, and a third will authorize agencies to give preference to contractors that already give employees paid sick time.
The sick leave bill was just one of more than 100 left on Hogan’s desk that he can approve, veto or simply let die before this weekend.
This story has been updated with comment from Del. Luke Clippinger, D-46th District.
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