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Md. paid sick leave delay clears hurdle, faces ticking clock

Sen. Thomas M. "Mac" Middleton (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

ANNAPOLIS – An effort to delay Maryland’s mandatory paid sick leave law moved one step closer to completion in the Senate.

But the unanimous vote in the Senate Finance Committee in favor of a bill delaying the law until July 1 still faces uncertainty in the House of Delegates as lawmakers attempt to beat the clock and a Feb. 11 effective date.

The bill is expected to have a preliminary vote before the full Senate on Monday night.

“The Senate needs to do the right thing,” said Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and sponsor of the bill.

The General Assembly last month voted to override Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill that would require businesses with 15 or more employees to provide paid sick leave to its workers. But the veto delayed the original Jan. 1 implementation date, and Hogan’s own Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation delayed drafting regulations pending the veto override votes.

Middleton’s bill initially would have delayed implementation until April 11 — a few days after the legislature ends its current session. The bill, however, did not delay the accrual of leave nor the responsibility of businesses to properly track the leave even in the absence of regulations.

Businesses, nonprofits and local governments and school systems called for a delay until July to allow the state to develop regulations and for entities starting a new fiscal year to budget for the new required benefit.

The legislation amended Friday by the committee would also delay any leave accrual or enforcement until July.

Middleton said the additional delay until the summer was needed to “get it right.”

“Can you imagine the confusion that will be out there if this bill takes effect (Feb. 11)?” asked Middleton.

Business groups, including the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, applauded Middleton’s amended bill.

The bill, however, faces multiple challenges that must be overcome in order to have the measure on Hogan’s desk by Feb. 10 in time to delay the law taking effect.

The bill requires a three-fifths vote in both the Senate and the House.

If the bill passes the Senate, perhaps as early as Tuesday, it will still require a hearing in the House and a vote by the full chamber.

So far, leaders in the House and advocates for paid sick leave have questioned the need for the bill.

Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore City and sponsor of the bill that will become law as soon as Feb. 11, did not respond to a request for comment.

And Middleton said he has no indication that Hogan, who has proposed new paid sick leave legislation that would replace the current law, would even sign his bill.

Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman, said the governor would support a bill delaying implementation of the law.

“But we are still pushing for the governor’s compromise legislation and the small business tax credit to help ease the burden on job creators,” said Mayer.


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