Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday rejected both versions of paid-sick-leave legislation advancing through the General Assembly, apparently because they require businesses with as few as 15 employees to offer the benefit and do not give employers tax credits or other incentives to lessen the financial blow.
“They are dead on arrival,” Hogan (R) said of the House and Senate versions of the legislation, the culmination of five years of effort by advocates to mandate paid sick leave in Maryland. “I will veto them immediately because they will simply kill businesses and jobs.”
The bill approved last week in the House would require employers to give seven paid sick-leave days a year. The version that will be voted on by the Senate as early as Thursday would require five paid sick days a year. Companies with fewer than 15 employees would have to provide five days of unpaid sick leave.
Hogan is pushing a different sick-leave bill that would require businesses with 50 or more employees to provide five paid sick days a year and would offer tax incentives to smaller businesses that agree to do so.
The governor’s measure has not moved out of committee. At a news conference on Wednesday, he urged lawmakers to negotiate with him and create a bill more like what he is proposing, saying he cannot support a sick-leave law unless it provides flexibility and support for smaller businesses.
“The main point is the difference between providing incentives so that businesses can [afford paid sick leave], versus forcing them to spend lots of money and potentially making them fire people,” Hogan said.
He faulted Democratic sponsors of the other bills for not including tax incentives to encourage businesses with fewer than 15 employees to offer paid sick leave.
If both chambers of the majority-Democratic legislature agree on a sick-leave measure that is then vetoed by Hogan, it is not clear that there would be enough votes in the Senate for a veto override.
About six Democratic senators sided with Republicans this week on unsuccessful attempts to amend the Senate version of the bill, an indication that they might not vote for the final version, or for a veto override, which would require at least 29 votes. There are 33 Democratic senators.
Advocates who have pushed for years to make Maryland one of the few states in the nation to require paid sick leave urged the governor to rethink his position.
“It is clear that this bill is a middle-of-the-road solution to a very serious problem,” said Liz Richards, director of the Working Matters Coalition. “We are disappointed by the governor’s announcement today and urge him to do the right thing.”
But Mike O’Halloran, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, applauded the governor’s decision to oppose the bills, which he said businesses consider to be an “extremely costly mandate.”
The Senate gave initial approval to the sick-leave bill last week, then changed its own rules Tuesday to consider additional amendments before the final vote.
On Wednesday, Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) offered three amendments aimed at lessening the impact of the bill on employers, all of which were rejected. They would have reduced the number of paid sick days per year from five to four; allowed the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to provide hardship waivers to businesses that could prove the mandate would hurt them; and prohibited workers from carrying over days they do not use.
Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, argued against reducing the amount of sick days that businesses would have to offer, saying the amendment would put Maryland below the national average among the seven other states that, in addition to the District, have enacted paid-sick-leave laws.
In arguing against the waiver amendment, Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s) called it a “radical” option that would give the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation “unfettered authority” to free businesses of the requirement to offer sick leave.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would allow courts to terminate the parental rights of men who conceive a child through rape and another that calls for a two-year study of the 2016 transportation-scoring law, a compromise on Hogan’s call for a repeal.