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Hogan vetoes paid sick leave legislation

ANNAPOLIS — Following through on his declaration that a legislative mandate for paid sick leave was dead on arrival, Gov. Larry Hogan Thursday vetoed the measure.

In doing so, Hogan sets up a potential veto override battle on an matter that Democrats certainly would like to turn into a campaign issue. Hogan, in an attempt to soften any potential political blow, reiterated that he supports paid sick leave but said the legislative plan would be devastating to small businesses in the state.

“Rather than working with us in good faith they instead passed a terrible, poorly written, and deeply flawed bill which was worse than the one that even liberal Democrats had rejected for four straight years in a row.” Hogan said. “If we allow this bill to go into effect in January, it would be disastrous to our state economy and make Maryland less competitive in our region. It would kill small businesses and jeopardize thousands of jobs.”

Hogan in December proposed his own legislation that would have covered businesses with 50 or more employees at any one location. Hogan said his plan was less onerous on small businesses and offered tax incentives to smaller companies who voluntarily joined in. Advocates for the legislative plan said the governor’s bill didn’t cover enough people.

Hogan’s bill was eventually killed, and in March Hogan declared the legislative plan would be dead on arrival when it hit his desk. But at the end of session, he told reporters he was reviewing the measure and wasn’t sure it was the same bill.

The pronouncement gave hope to supporters that he would allow the bill, which is highly supported in public opinion polls, to pass into law without his signature — a possibility that worried business groups who support Hogan and his pro-business message.

But Thursday, Hogan said there was little difference between the bill he declared dead and the one he said he needed to review. He brushed aside questions on why it took so long to make a decision.

“I said it was dead on arrival,” Hogan said. “It arrived, and it’s now dead.”

The comment drew laughs from his staff and department heads who attended the announcement.

In addition to restating his support for paid sick leave, the governor also announced three executive orders related to the issue.

The first creates “a fact-finding” study of the effects of paid sick leave on small businesses in the state — something the governor said the legislature failed to properly take into account.

A second order requires state agencies to offer paid sick leave to contractual employees.

The third order requires that agencies give preferential treatment in bidding for state contracts to companies that offer paid sick leave to employees.

Hogan also called on the legislature and the judiciary to take steps to ensure all of its employees have the benefit.

The decision angered supporters of the vetoed measure, including Del. Luke H. Clippinger, D-Baltimore and lead sponsor of House Bill 1.

“This legislation would help Marylanders,” Clippinger said. “This legislation will help Marylanders and it will help Marylanders when we override the governor’s veto in January.”

It’s estimated that the legislative initiative would cover as many as 700,000 Maryland residents starting in January 2018.

“His bill didn’t do anything, and it’s difficult to compromise with a governor who is just window dressing, who’s just pretending to care and who doesn’t have real solutions to the real problems that Marylanders are facing every day,” Clippinger said.

Clippinger said Hogan’s executive orders were meaningless and late, calling them “lipstick on a pig.”

“Where was this issue before?” Clippinger said of the executive orders. “This is not an issue that has been moving around quietly in the legislature. He’s deciding to come forward with these — it’s really too little, too late. He’s trying to justify what is really unjustifiable by putting the smallest Bandaid possible on a Grand Canyon of a wound. I really don’t think these executive orders are going to mean anything.”

The decision met with approval of business groups who not only opposed the legislative plan but also opposed what Hogan said was his “common sense” alternative bill.

“We agree that Marylanders need to be healthy,” Maryland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christine Ross. “We also appreciate that the governor knows bills like these are dangerous to business because they are undue administrative burdens and they increase operating costs, which means businesses suffer or customers pay more.”

Mike O’Halloran, state director for the National Federation Independent Businesses, said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement and counted on Hogan to stick to his promise to veto the bill.

“House Bill 1 is a shining example of government intruding on the day-to-day activities of businesses,” O’Halloran said.

The announcement Thursday came hours after Hogan signed a last batch of bills but left the fate of paid sick leave and others up in the air.

Hogan signed more than 200 bills during a morning ceremony. Hogan, along with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, signed into law legislation to strengthen the state’s response to Maryland’s heroin and opioid crisis; reforms to the state procurement system; protections for victims of domestic violence; and an expansion of the state’s P-TECH schools program.

Aside from paid sick leave, bills not on the list include legislation on generic drug price gouging; legislation to address concerns of state employees who were not paid for the full number of hours worked; and a brewery bill that supporters say will add jobs in western Baltimore County at a planned Guinness brewery and taproom.

Any bill not signed or vetoed by Hogan by Saturday becomes law. Hogan said additional announcements would come possibly as early as Friday.


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