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Sick leave bill still on Hogan's desk

Rachel Baye

Last month, state legislators passed a bill requiring businesses to offer paid sick leave to employees. But more than three weeks after the General Assembly’s 90-day session ended, it’s still not clear whether Gov. Larry Hogan plans to veto the bill or to allow it to become law.

Advocates for the bill held a press conference Wednesday morning to urge Hogan to sign the measure.

Paul Brown, a 69-year-old security officer at an apartment building in downtown Baltimore, was among those who spoke.

“I was on my way to work. I felt dizzy, leaned up against the wall, passed out. This was because I had — a clog was in my heart,” he said. “I believe if I had went to see the doctor, it wouldn’t have got that serious.”

That was last year. Brown had a triple bypass surgery and a stent inserted into his heart in September.

But even after his surgery, Brown said he still rarely lets illness stand in the way of a day’s pay. And in his 10 years working for AlliedBarton as a security officer, he said he’s seen many coworkers do the same calculus.

“I’ve seen them so sick that some have passed away. Some have quit due to their health,” he said. “They died because they didn’t properly take care of themselves or go to a doctor and get treatment for it.”

The legislature considered a version of the bill for each of the last five years. The version that finally passed requires businesses with 15 or more employees to offer five paid days off a year.

For Baltimore City Del. Luke Clippinger, who led the push for the last three years, the issue is personal.

“Today I’m going to see my oncologist,” he said. “I suffered from — and I still suffer from — leukemia, a rare form of leukemia that I found out about last summer, and I was able to take time off to be able to be able to figure out what was going on and what was wrong with me.”

He reminded reporters that the governor has had his own battle with cancer.

“If it was good enough for the both of us to have sick leave, it’s good enough for nearly 700,000 Marylanders to have sick leave,” Clippinger said. “That’s why I believe that he will look within himself and see a way forward to signing the bill.”

In the past, Hogan has sided with critics of the measure who say it places a heavy burden on small businesses.

A statement issued Wednesday reiterated those criticisms.

"Governor Hogan supports common sense paid sick leave, which is why he proposed a fair, balanced measure that would have covered hundreds of thousands of additional working Marylanders without placing undue burdens on our small business job creators,” spokeswoman Hannah Marr wrote. “Ultimately, this is one of hundreds of bills that are currently under review."

Hogan’s sick leave bill would have applied to businesses with at least 50 employees and provided tax breaks to smaller businesses that voluntarily offered the benefit.

“If people took advantage of the tax incentives then offered the paid sick leave to their employees, which we’re trying to encourage them to do, our bill covers far more people,” Hogan said at a press conference during the 90-day session.

His bill died in committee.

In March he promised to veto Clippinger’s bill, calling it “dead on arrival.”

But on the last day of the session, he softened his stance, saying he would “take a look at it.”

Sick leave is among 580 bills passed during the General Assembly session that are waiting for Hogan’s signature or veto. Other pending bills cover everything from education to criminal justice to the environment. Some are controversial. Others Hogan is expected to sign or has already signed a version of.

The governor has already signed more than 340 bills and is expected to sign another 200 Thursday.

Hogan has just over three more weeks to sign or veto bills, or they automatically become law.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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