Ho­gan backs manda­tory paid sick leave at large com­pa­nies

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By ERIN COX

The Bal­ti­more Sun

— Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan an­nounced Wed­nes­day he will lobby the Gen­eral Assem­bly to man­date paid sick leave at large com­pa­nies, of­fer­ing a pro­posal that puts his stamp on an is­sue long cham­pi­oned by Democrats.

Ho­gan said com­pa­nies with at least 50 em­ploy­ees would be re­quired to of­fer full-time work­ers five sick days per year. He said he will in­tro­duce his leg­is­la­tion when the Democrat­con­trolled leg­is­la­ture re­con­venes next month.

The plan would al­low smaller busi­nesses to get up to $20,000 a year in tax de­duc­tions for of­fer­ing paid sick time. That pro­posal would cost the state roughly $63 mil­lion a year, Ho­gan aides said.

Ad­vo­cates for paid sick time wel­comed the gover­nor’s sup­port but said Ho­gan’s plan fell short of what was needed to help the state’s low­est-in­come work­ers. A small busi­ness group of­fered tepid praise.

Ho­gan, mean­while, called his pro­posal “fair, bal­anced, com­mon-sense and bi­par­ti­san.”

The gover­nor’s ini­tia­tive is less sweep­ing than one passed by the House of Del­e­gates this year, which man­dated seven sick days a year for com­pa­nies with 15 em­ploy­ees or more and in­cluded ben­e­fits for part­time em­ploy­ees. Leg­isla­tive

AN­NAPO­LIS

an­a­lysts said that would have guar­an­teed sick leave to 500,000 work­ers who don’t have it now.

The Ho­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion did not of­fer es­ti­mates of how many busi­nesses and work­ers would be af­fected by its pro­posal.

Democrats have been work­ing since April on leg­is­la­tion for next year, and bris­tled at the gover­nor’s pre­emp­tive al­ter­na­tive.

“This Christ­mas sea­son, work­ing fam­i­lies are get­ting a lump of coal,” said Demo­cratic Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Mid­dle­ton, who has been lead­ing a study of the sick leave is­sue as chair­man of the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee.

Paid sick leave is a pop­u­lar pol­icy idea in Maryland. Three- fourths of re­spon­dents in a 2015 Goucher Poll said they sup­ported it for com­pa­nies that em­ploy 10 or more peo­ple.

Goucher Col­lege po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Mileah Kromer said Ho­gan is savvy in em­brac­ing a po­lit­i­cally pop­u­lar idea in a way that ap­peases the busi­ness com­mu­nity.

“This is ul­ti­mately a blue state, and Ho­gan has to bal­ance the pro­gres­sive val­ues of Maryland with his busi­ness val­ues,” Kromer said. She said walk­ing that line be­comes more im­por­tant as the 2018 elec­tion draws closer.

Ho­gan aides said he mod­eled his plan from a pro­posal made by the Au­gus­tine Com­mis­sion, a panel con­vened by lead­ing Democrats to rec­om­mend ways to im­prove the state’s busi­ness econ­omy.

“A strong ma­jor­ity of Mary­lan­ders want to see the state fi­nally ad­dress this is­sue in a com­mon sense way that ben­e­fits our work­ers while also pro­tect­ing our small busi­ness job creators,” he said.

Ho­gan said the 50-em­ployee thresh­old mir­rored the fed­eral def­i­ni­tion of small busi­ness and re­quire­ments un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act. Democrats said it would leave many work­ers be­hind.

Chuck Con­ner, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Maryland Demo­cratic Party, called Ho­gan’s pro­posal “very wa­tered down com­pared to the bills we saw last year.”

Bal­ti­more Del­e­gate Luke Clip­pinger, a Demo­crat, who spon­sored paid sick leave leg­is­la­tion in the House, said the pro­vi­sion for part-time work­ers is cru­cial.

“This bill, in my mind, is a way that we can help peo­ple work their way out of poverty,” Clip­pinger said. “I’m happy that the gover­nor is com­ing to the con­ver­sa­tion. I wish it hadn’t taken so long, but we’re glad that he’s here now.”

A trade group rep­re­sent­ing small busi­nesses of­fered luke­warm sup­port for Ho­gan’s pro­posal, char­ac­ter­iz­ing it as a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive to what Democrats wanted.

“Any time a new man­date is in­tro­duced, it gives the small busi­ness com­mu­nity rea­son to be alarmed,” Mike O’Hal­lo­ran, Maryland state di­rec­tor for the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­ness, said in a state­ment.

“That be­ing said, we cer­tainly ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­forts by the ad­min­is­tra­tion to ad­dress con­cerns ex­pressed by the busi­ness com­mu­nity when con­sid­er­ing this pro­posal,” he said. “If the leg­is­la­ture is in­tent on pass­ing a paid sick leave bill, we hope they will con­sider the Gover­nor’s pro­posal as it pro­vides much-needed pro­tec­tions for the small busi­ness com­mu­nity.”

Some de­tails of Ho­gan’s pro­posal re­sem­ble a failed ef­fort by House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nic Kipke to scale back paid sick leave leg­is­la­tion that ad­vanced through the House this year.

Kipke’s amend­ment failed on an 83-51 vote. It would have lim­ited the man­date to com­pa­nies with 50 em­ploy­ees in one lo­ca­tion. Com­pa­nies with 50 em­ploy­ees spread across mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions would have been ex­empted.

Ho­gan spokesman Doug Mayer said the gover­nor’s pro­posal would ap­ply to com­pa­nies with 50 em­ploy­ees, re­gard­less of where they are lo­cated. Sea­sonal em­ploy­ees would be ex­empted.

Fur­ther de­tails on the re- leg­is­la­tion were not leased.

Ho­gan said he con­sulted leg­isla­tive lead­ers and “most of them are thrilled with our pro­posal.”

Aides to House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller said they were not no­ti­fied in ad­vance of the gover­nor’s plans. They de­clined to com­ment.

Ho­gan’s pro­posal would over­ride more ex­pan­sive lo­cal laws, such as the man­dated paid sick leave re­quired in Mont­gomery County.

Mont­gomery County Coun­cil­man Tom Hucker said pre­empt­ing his county’s law could ef­fect hun­dreds of thou­sands of work­ers that are guar­an­teed paid sick time or parental leave un­der lo­cal laws.

“That’s a big deal,” he said.

The gover­nor said he sought con­sis­tency for busi­nesses op­er­at­ing across the state.

“Any com­pany that al­ready has a leave pol­icy that meets the re­quire­ments would not have to change any­thing, and the state would not in­ter­fere,” Ho­gan said. “Our goal is to pro­vide paid sick leave to more em­ploy­ees who need it, not to dic­tate or in­ter­fere with the po­lices of small busi­nesses.”

The Gen­eral Assem­bly re­con­venes in An­napo­lis on Jan. 11 for its an­nual 90-day leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

Bal­ti­more Sun re­porter Michael Dresser con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE GOVER­NOR’S OF­FICE

Gov. Larry Ho­gan an­nounces his plan We­dens­day for paid sick time at large com­pa­nies in Maryland.

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