Advocates have pushed state lawmakers for five years to pass a bill requiring businesses to offer paid sick leave. Earlier this year, they finally passed it. But Thursday afternoon, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the bill and urged lawmakers to develop a new, compromise bill.
Hogan said he supports paid sick leave, just not the bill the General Assembly passed.
“This legislation is an ill-conceived, poorly written, complicated, confusing and inflexible mess,” he said.
The veto launched a flood of criticism from advocates who pushed for the bill.
“Clearly he has sided with his donors here and with big business,” said Patrick Moran, president of the Maryland branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union. “He is throwing working people off the Bay Bridge.”
The Working Matters Coalition, which led the effort for the bill, said Hogan’s veto is “nothing short of heartless.”
House Speaker Michael Busch said overriding the veto will be a priority when the legislature reconvenes in January. The measure passed both chambers of the General Assembly with the necessary votes to override a veto.
Had the Republican governor allowed the Democrat-backed measure to become law, workers who work at least 12 hours a week at businesses with at least 15 employees would have been able to earn an hour of paid leave for every 30 hours they worked, up to 40 hours a year.
The bill has specific rules about things such as how long an employee had to work at a business before he or she could use the leave and the total amount of leave workers could take in a year.
Hogan said the regulations would have burdened Maryland businesses and cost the state jobs.
“The bill completely fails to take into account the specific needs and structure of 21st-century Maryland businesses,” he said.
He also pointed out that the measure wouldn’t cover smaller businesses or certain part-time workers.
He compared the bill with one he proposed this year that would have required paid sick leave at larger businesses — those with 50 or more employees — and offered tax incentives for smaller businesses to offer paid leave.
“Our plan had the potential to cover everyone in Maryland, 100 percent,” Hogan said Thursday.
But that bill didn’t make it out of committee this year.
Baltimore City Del. Luke Clippinger, who sponsored the vetoed bill, said Hogan’s version didn’t quite do what the governor claims. He referenced a loophole in Hogan’s bill that would have left out businesses that had more than 50 employees who were spread across multiple locations.
“His bill wouldn’t have covered Under Armour. His bill was drafted in such a way that it left out lots and lots of people,” Clippinger said. “In fact, his own Minority Whip, Del. [Kathy] Szeliga, got out and said that she didn’t know of any business that didn’t provide sick leave that had 50 or more employees.”
Instead of the legislation, Hogan said he plans to sign three executive orders.
The first one directs his administration to study what he called “the realities” of paid sick leave across the state.
The second offers paid sick leave to state executive branch contractual and temporary employees who work at least 30 hours a week and at least 120 days a year.
The last one gives preferential treatment in state contract procurement to companies that offer workers paid leave.
But those executive orders don’t do enough, said Moran.
“Is this a positive step in the direction where it needs to go? Yes, but it’s one step forward and two steps back,” he said.
Hogan said it’s not too late for paid sick leave. He urged the legislature to come up with a better bill.