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House committee kills bill to delay mandatory paid sick leave

The Maryland State House. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

The Maryland State House. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

The House Economic Matters Committee voted Thursday to reject a bill that would delay the state’s mandatory paid sick leave law until July 1.

The 12-11 committee vote was not unexpected. Supporters, including Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles and sponsor of the bill, conceded that members of the House of Delegates had little interest in additional delays on a law that took six years to pass.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of balancing competing interests,” said Del. Dereck E. Davis, D-Prince George’s and chairman of the committee. “Maybe we aren’t as business friendly as some others or as some would like, but I think we take a critical look at legislation and we try to be as fair as we possibly can.”

But Davis said he became frustrated with businesses not preparing for the bill to go into effect even though Hogan vetoed it last spring.

Middleton said the delay was needed to avoid confusion and allow businesses time to properly prepare.

Republicans and some Democrats pleaded for the delay.

“This isn’t about the merits of the (law) it’s about a delay in implementing the bill,” said Del. Warren E. Miller, R-Carroll and Howard. “We’re not hurting Walmart with this bill. We’re not hurting a large employer. The people who are going to get hurt are the smaller businesses that aren’t very profitable.”

The state had yet to issue regulations that would help businesses implement the law, track leave and avoid stiff penalties.

The law mandating businesses with 15 or more employees to provide at least five days of paid sick leave went into effect Feb. 11.

“I believe businesses are going to get what they need to do what the bill requires of them, and I don’t believe there is a need for a delay,” said Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore City and sponsor of the 2017 bill that is now law. Clippinger is also a member of the House Economic Matters Committee and voted to reject Middleton’s delay proposal.

Supporters of the delay, including business groups, expressed disappointment.

Larry Richardson, lobbyist for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, said Middleton’s bill wouldn’t change the law but did allow for small businesses to make sure they could comply.

Richardson said lawmakers “chose to get it now and not get it right.”

Mike O’Halloran, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said his group wasn’t trying to reopen debate on the new law.

“We were just asking for a little more time so we could help small businesses,” said O’Halloran. “We just wanted a crumb, and we couldn’t even get that.”