The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hogan, Md. Democrats feud over who failed to negotiate on sick leave

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, center, sits between Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, left, and House Speaker Michael Busch during a 2017 bill-signing ceremony. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Maryland’s debate over paid sick leave has devolved into a series of accusations and counteraccusations between Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Democratic legislative leaders.

When Hogan unveiled his latest sick-leave proposal at a Tuesday news conference, he devoted much of his time to criticizing the legislature for the sick-leave bill it passed early this year, which the governor vetoed. Hogan described that bill as overly intrusive and burdensome to small businesses. He also accused top Democrats of spurning invitations to negotiate a compromise plan.

Democratic leaders, in turn, issued a lengthy statement on Wednesday saying the governor’s claims of outreach were false. The lawmakers, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), Senate Finance Committee Chair Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles) and House Economic Matters Committee Chair Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s), said the governor never reached out to Democrats to negotiate an agreement, but rather developed his latest plan in closed meetings with business groups and members of his administration.

Their statement can be viewed here.

Hogan’s spokesman, Doug Mayer, says there was outreach, including a letter from Maryland’s labor secretary in June inviting lawmakers to recommend stakeholders who could provide input to Hogan’s task force, and attempts during the last legislative session to “find common ground.”

“But Marylanders could care less about what happened last year,” Mayer said. “They care about what’s going to happen now.”

Indeed, the decisive battle will come when the legislature reconvenes in January and Democrats vote on whether to override Hogan's veto and enact their preferred sick-leave bill, which would affect more businesses more quickly than what the governor is proposing, without tax credits to offset the impact. The measure passed the majority-Democratic legislature with exactly the number of Senate votes needed for an override, and with two votes to spare in the House.