Maryland paid-sick-leave bill passes House

By Len Lazarick

The House of Delegates easily passed a bill requiring paid sick leave for all but the smallest businesses in Maryland, rejecting Republican warnings that it was job killer.

In the 84-54 vote, five Democrats joined all 49 Republicans present opposing the bill, which faces an uncertain fate in the Senate Finance Committee.

The legislation has been introduced several times in both House and Senate, but this is the first time it has not died in committee.

The bill, HB580, covers both full- and part-time workers for any business with 15 or more employees, with limited exemptions for seasonal workers. The workers would earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work.

‘War on work’

Sen. Catherine Pug catches paid sick leave vote on House floor.
Sen. Catherine Pug catches paid sick leave vote on House floor.
Republicans came up with a new catch phrase to describe the bill and others introduced this year — “the war on work.”

“This bill raises the poverty rate,” said Del. Mark Fisher, R-Calvert. He cited the new kiosks he found on the table of one chain restaurant, eliminating the need for servers.

“This bill kills opportunity, this bill reduces employment,” Fisher said. “The war on work stops now.”

Del. Dereck Davis, chair of the Economic Matters Committee that sent the bill to the floor, said: “Every time we’re going to do something for workers, they say it’s going to kill business, but we’re still here.”

“We all get sick,” Davis said, chastising his fellow delegates. “We all have paid sick leave.”

(Members of the General Assembly have no formal paid leave, but get paid whether they attend meetings or not, though they are supposed to submit written excuses for not attending.)

Del. Trent Kittleman, R-Carroll and Howard counties, read a long list of groups opposing the bill.

“This bill is clearly written by someone that has never owned a small business,” Kittleman said. “We don’t need to do it this way.”

Democrats defend

Democrats defended the action. Del. Brooke Lierman recounted the story of a woman who lost her job when she could not take a sick day after a miscarriage. As an attorney, she could not help the woman because it was not against the law.

Marylanders cannot wait any longer for the protections under this bill, said lead sponsor Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore City.

House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, Anne Arundel, said the measure was “going to be devastating for some business,” and the bill itself recognized that by exempting the smallest businesses. However, they would have to offer unpaid sick leave.

The five Democrats who opposed the bill were Dels. Pam Beidle and Ned Carey of Anne Arundel County, Eric Bromwell of Baltimore County, Mary Ann Lisanti of Harford County and Jay Walker of Prince George’s County.

Only Bromwell, a former restaurant manager, spoke against the bill.