Md. will com­pel paid sick leave

BE­COMES 9TH STATE IN NA­TION TO DO SO Col­leges’ ques­tions on crim­i­nal pasts are barred

The Washington Post - - METRO - BY OVETTA WIG­GINS

Mary­land on Fri­day be­came the ninth state in the coun­try to re­quire paid sick leave and the sec­ond to bar col­leges from ask­ing prospec­tive stu­dents about their crim­i­nal his­to­ries af­ter Democrats eas­ily over­rode two 2017 ve­toes by Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan.

Both bills were top pri­or­i­ties of pro­gres­sive ad­vo­cacy groups. Their res­ur­rec­tion il­lus­trates the power Democrats wield in both houses of the state leg­is­la­ture even as Ho­gan main­tains sky-high ap­proval rat­ings, and they un­der­score the ur­gency of Ho­gan’s quest to flip five Se­nate seats in the Novem­ber elec­tions and dis­solve the Democrats’ veto-proof ma­jor­ity.

Ho­gan cam­paigned hard to per­suade Democrats to en­act his own pro­posal and aban­don the Gen­eral Assem­bly’s sick-leave leg­is­la­tion, which he said would hurt busi­nesses and po­ten­tially in­vade work­ers’ pri­vacy. But the Se­nate voted 30-17 to over­ride the veto, one vote more than was needed.

It voted 32-15 to over­ride the ban-the-box leg­is­la­tion af­fect­ing col­lege ap­pli­ca­tions. The House of Del­e­gates over­rode both ve­toes on Thurs­day.

Ad­vo­cates pushed for six years for Mary­land to join other states in forc­ing busi­nesses to give sick leave to work­ers who are ill or need to care of a sick fam­ily mem­ber. The bill also pro­vides “safe” leave for work­ers to seek help to deal with do­mes­tic abuse or sex­ual as­sault. Un­der the law, com­pa­nies with 15 or more em­ploy­ees will be re­quired to pro­vide five days of paid sick or safe leave a year.

“Pas­sage of this bill will make

life a lit­tle eas­ier for thou­sands of hard-work­ing Mary­lan­ders,” Caryn York, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Job Op­por­tu­nity Task Force, said in a state­ment. “No longer will work­ing fam­i­lies have to choose be­tween tak­ing care of them­selves or loved ones and pay­ing for rent or gro­ceries.”

Eight other states — Con­necti­cut, Cal­i­for­nia, Mas­sachusetts, Oregon, Ver­mont, Ari­zona, Wash­ing­ton and Rhode Is­land — as well as smaller ju­ris­dic­tions that in­clude the District and Mont­gomery County have en­acted paid­sick-leave laws.

Repub­li­cans said the Mary­land law will lead to job loss, and they crit­i­cized Democrats for re­fus­ing to con­sider a less-gen­er­ous al­ter­na­tive Ho­gan pro­posed this year be­fore act­ing on the over­ride. Mi­nor­ity Whip Stephen S. Her­shey Jr. (R-Kent) called the mea­sure “an overly pre­scrip­tive pol­icy that hurts job cre­ators.”

But sup­port­ers said the leg­is­la­tion will en­sure that more than half a mil­lion work­ers, many of whom are in low-pay­ing jobs, are able to take time off when needed. Sen. Thomas M. Mid­dle­ton (DCharles), chair­man of the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, which de­bated the bill last year, said he viewed its pas­sage as part of his re­spon­si­bil­ity as a leg­is­la­tor to “pro­tect the health and wel­fare of our cit­i­zens.”

Ho­gan spokes­woman Amelia Chasse said the gover­nor will con­tinue to push the Gen­eral Assem­bly to con­sider his pro­posal, which would re­quire busi­nesses with 25 or more em­ploy­ees to of­fer paid sick leave and which phases in the pro­gram over three years.

At the very least, she said, Ho­gan is call­ing on law­mak­ers to fix “se­ri­ous flaws” in the bill, in­clud­ing the lack of flex­i­bil­ity for busi­nesses and the pos­si­bil­ity that work­ers’ pri­vacy could be vi­o­lated if em­ploy­ers ask about the rea­sons they need time off.

Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said the gover­nor’s bill would re­ceive a hear­ing and that he hoped Ho­gan, who has not ap­peared be­fore a leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee to dis­cuss a bill dur­ing his three years in of­fice, will tes­tify about the mea­sure.

He said the leg­is­la­ture would con­sider en­act­ing the law in 90 days, rather than 30, giv­ing the state ad­di­tional time to set reg­u­la­tions and help busi­nesses get up to speed.

Mike O’Hal­lo­ran, Mary­land state di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­ness in Mary­land, said he was “thor­oughly dis­ap­pointed” in the over­ride vote of a “one-size-fits-all” man­date that will have “dis­as­trous” re­sults on the state’s econ­omy.

But Mid­dle­ton said the Se­nate amended the bill last year to ad­dress con­cerns from the busi­ness com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing re­duc­ing the num­ber of an­nual paid leave days from seven to five.

Mary­land fol­lows Louisiana in en­act­ing the “ban-the-box” leg­is­la­tion, which pro­hibits pub­lic and pri­vate col­leges from ask­ing about crim­i­nal con­vic­tions on stu­dent ap­pli­ca­tions. Louisiana passed a sim­i­lar mea­sure last year.

The bill ex­pands Mary­land’s crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form ef­forts. Sen. Joan Carter Con­way (D-Bal­ti­more City) said it was de­signed to pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to crim­i­nals who are try­ing to turn their lives around.

Mary­land al­ready pro­hibits pub­lic em­ploy­ers from ask­ing about past con­vic­tions on job ap­pli­ca­tions. The new law is aimed at mak­ing it eas­ier for peo­ple with a crim­i­nal past to im­prove their lives by at­tend­ing col­lege and earn­ing a de­gree.

Ad­vo­cates say hav­ing the ques­tion on col­lege ap­pli­ca­tions can dis­qual­ify some prospec­tive stu­dents and scare away oth­ers.

The ban does not ap­ply di­rectly to Mary­land col­leges that use the Com­mon Ap­pli­ca­tion or other third-party ap­pli­ca­tion sys­tems. But those col­leges will be re­quired to in­clude a no­tice on their web­sites that any in­for­ma­tion they re­ceive about crim­i­nal his­tory will not dis­qual­ify ap­pli­cants from be­ing ac­cepted.

Sha­reese DeLeaver Churchill, a spokes­woman for Ho­gan, said the mea­sure shows “bla­tant dis­re­gard for vic­tims’ rights” and will make cam­puses less safe.

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