Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that he plans to veto a paid-sick-leave bill that was approved by the legislature last month, calling it a “deeply flawed” measure that would be “disastrous to our state’s economy.”
The action is likely to lead to a showdown between the Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled legislature during the 2018 legislative session, just months before the gubernatorial primary.
The bill passed with enough votes to override a veto, and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said an override will be a priority for the General Assembly in January. If a veto override succeeds, Maryland would become the eighth state to require companies to provide the sick-leave benefit.
“It’s unfortunate that the Governor would not join the General Assembly in supporting 700,000 Marylanders by signing this legislation,” Busch said in a statement. “Marylanders need the opportunity to earn sick leave so they can support their families and take care of their health while not fearing losing their jobs.”
Hogan said two months ago that the paid-sick-leave bill was “dead on arrival,” but advocates held out hope he would let the bill become law without his signature. On Thursday, he made clear that he wanted to kill it.
A business owner before taking office, Hogan blasted the measure, arguing that it will “turn back the clock on the progress” made by the state’s economy. He said he supports paid sick leave but would not allow “this job-killing bill” to take effect.
The legislation would require businesses with 15 or more employees to provide five days of paid sick leave. Hogan’s plan would have required companies with 50 or more employers to provide five paid sick days a year and offered tax incentives to smaller businesses that agreed to do so. The governor’s bill never moved out of committee.
Hogan also said he plans to sign three executive orders involving the benefit and urged the General Assembly to work with him next session to forge a compromise.
One of the executive orders would create a task force, led by state Labor Secretary Kelly M. Schulz, to study the impact paid sick leave would have on the state’s small businesses. The others would provide paid sick leave to state contractual workers in the executive branch and give a preference for state contracts to companies that provide paid sick leave.
Del. Luke H. Clippinger (D-Baltimore), lead sponsor of the bill, said Hogan’s executive orders were the actions of a governor who “is just pretending to care” about the hundreds of thousands of workers who would lose paid sick leave under his veto.
He said despite the governor’s call for a compromise, he has never received a call from Hogan or his staff in the past three years to discuss the issue. And he criticized the governor for not offering the executive orders during the legislative session.
“Where was this before?” Clippinger asked. “This has not been an issue that has been quietly moving around in the legislature. It truly is too little, too late. He is trying to justify what truly is unjustifiable.”
Two possible Democratic candidates for governor, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., criticized Hogan for deciding to veto the legislation.
But Mike O’Halloran, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), applauded the move. He said the bill would “inflict dangerous consequences” on private companies.
“The governor has not just kept his promise from March, he has declared to our small business community that his advocacy efforts on their behalf and his dedication to drastically reducing regulations that hinder job growth and economic progress is and will continue to be his primary focus in making Maryland more business friendly,” O’Halloran said in a statement.
Labor advocates, who fought for five years to get the bill through the General Assembly, said they were deeply disappointed.
“Governor Hogan’s decision to deny hardworking Marylanders the ability to take time to care for their families is nothing short of heartless,” Liz Richards, the director of the Working Matters Coalition, said in a statement. “Make no mistake — the victims of this decision are Maryland parents and children. Instead of being able to take the time they need to care for their families, these Marylanders will continue to be forced to make decisions like taking off work to visit their sick child in the hospital or paying the rent that month.”
Hogan’s announcement came just days before the 30-day clock ran out on taking action on the bill and just hours after he signed 209 bills into law.
The veto is Hogan’s third of the 2017 legislative session.
Last month, the governor vetoed a bill that set up an accountability system for rating schools and prohibits the state school board from using vouchers and charters as a way to fix failing schools. The legislature overturned the veto before adjourning. Earlier this month, he vetoed a bill that put a nonpartisan commission in charge of drawing the state’s congressional districts if five other states agreed to do the same.
The governor said he plans to announce more vetoes Friday.