Veto defeated, Most Maryland workers to get paid sick leave

Some 700,000 workers in Maryland will be able to earn up to five days of paid sick days a year now that state lawmakers have overturned the governor's veto.

The requirement applies to Maryland businesses with 15 or more employees.

The Maryland Senate voted 30-17 Friday to override Gov. Larry Hogan's veto, following a House vote on Thursday. Both chambers mustered the necessary three-fifths to override.

Employees can now earn an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work.

Hogan vetoed the measure, calling it badly flawed and damaging to small businesses. He urged lawmakers to consider an alternative that would have phased in sick leave for businesses with 25 or more employees by 2020.

Sen. Richard Madaleno, a Democrat, described the measure backed by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly as a common-sense approach that is needed, as the nature of the workplace changes with more single-family parents and fewer labor unions to look out for employees.

"These are the types of steps we have to do as a government in order to protect families," Madaleno said.

Republicans who sought to sustain the veto supported an alternative offered by the governor that included a tax cut as an incentive. Sen. Andrew Serafini, a western Maryland Republican, compared the dilemma to an old western movie.

"And the big thing is when you went into the shootout you didn't want to shoot the guys with the white hats. You wanted to make sure you shoot the guys with the black hats, and my concern is in this legislation we're going to shoot some guys with white hats," Serifini said.

Sen. Thomas Middleton, a Democrat who led the push for the bill in the Senate, said while employees will be able to start accruing sick leave in 30 days, lawmakers will consider a separate measure to delay enforcement provisions, such as fines, for 90 days to give businesses more time to comply.

He also expressed support for a scaled-back version of a tax credit Hogan proposed in an alternative bill.

"Is this the end of the discussion? Absolutely not," Middleton said.

Advocates have been trying to paid sick leave for six years. The veto override comes in a big Maryland election year, when all 188 legislative seats are up for re-election and Hogan is trying to become the first Republican governor re-elected in Maryland since 1954.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said lawmakers will have to fix flaws in the bill.

"Now that this political posturing is over, it's time for the legislature to get down to the business of fixing the serious flaws in this bill that Senator Middleton and numerous others openly acknowledged today. Given their own admission that HB1 will hurt small businesses, we urge legislators to fast track the governor's Small Business Relief Tax Credit to ensure employers aren't forced to close their doors and lay off their employees," Chasse said.

While Hogan offered his alternative, Democrats criticized the governor for not working with them on a shared solution.

"I think the practicality of this is we've done everything that we can as a body to be as understanding of business needs as we possibly can," Middleton said. "The governor's got a bill. If he wants to come down and work with us and work with the advocates to change it, I have no problem with that ... but just to put a bill in front of us and say: 'work it,' I just don't see how it happens."