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Md. Senate, House differ on sick leave as doubts grow on ability to override veto

Sen. Thomas M. "Mac" Middleton, D-Charles and Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, sits down at the end of a re-opened debate on mandatory paid sick leave.

Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles and Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, sits down at the end of a re-opened debate on mandatory paid sick leave.

ANNAPOLIS — A new floor fight over mandatory paid sick leave in Maryland has set up likely debate between the House of Delegates and the Senate even as some supporters worry about the ability to override an anticipated veto by Gov. Larry Hogan.

The Maryland Senate, which gave preliminary approval to the measure last week, moved the bill back to amend it Tuesday to provide additional leeway for seasonal businesses. That change, accompanied by one last week reducing the number of paid sick days to five, will likely mean the House and Senate will have to negotiate a compromise in order to pass the law by April 11.

“Our problem is not with the governor right now,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. “Our problem is working out a compromise with the House of Delegates, who passed a very different bill and then we’ll see what the governor’s going to do. But right now we’ve got to see if we can get an agreement with the House.”

Del. Luke H. Clippinger, D-Baltimore City and sponsor of the House version of the bill, said he would need to review changes made by the Senate.

The Senate last week gave preliminary approval to its paid sick leave proposal that already differed from the House version. The Senate bill calls for five days of mandatory leave for companies with 15 or more employees. The House version calls for seven.

On Tuesday, the Senate used a procedural move to open the bill to one additional amendment meant to help seasonal businesses prevent workers from taking advantage of the system. Under the Senate bill, workers accrue sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 worked but cannot take time off until they work 106 days. The change made Tuesday allows employers to require a doctor’s note or other proof when sick leave is used between days 107 and 120 of employment.

“The impact of not having some type of verification, the concern is a legitimate concern because kids are real, real smart and if they know that they can play hooky and get paid for it, I think they are,” said Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles and chair of the Senate Finance Committee and lead sponsor on the Senate version of the bill.

The seasonal worker language added Tuesday was supposed to be the only change considered, but once the Senate re-opened the bill for amendment, other changes were sought. The debate on the Senate version is expected Wednesday with even more to follow once the House version of the bill comes to the floor.

Despite Miller’s concerns about a compromise with supporters in the House, concerns remain about the Senate’s ability to override a veto.

“The governor and administration hate this bill,” Middleton said. “I mean they hate it and I understand that.”

Hogan proposed his own paid sick leave measure that would have impacted fewer businesses and covered fewer workers.

Some Democrats, mostly from conservative areas, have already expressed a reluctance to vote for the bill, and a number of votes on proposed amendments have yet to show a consistent ability to garner the 29 votes needed to override a veto.

“I don’t know,” Miller said when asked if there were the votes to override a veto. “I don’t know. I’m going to vote for the bill.”

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