Ocean City Today

Now, it’s how and when bill becomes law

Effort to mitigate its impact underway
By Greg Ellison | Jan 18, 2018
Although Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled an alternative paid sick leave bill in late November, the Maryland General Assembly opted to override his earlier veto of mandated paid sick leave when the 2018 legislative session kicked off last week.

(Jan. 19, 2018) After the Maryland General Assembly opened its session last week by overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2017 veto of mandated paid sick leave, area legislators and the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce are continuing efforts to mitigate the impact on businesses that depend on seasonal employees.

Last Thursday, the House voted 88-52 to override Hogan’s veto of HB01, the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. The Senate followed suit the following day with a 30-17 vote.

The legislation will become effective within 30 days, retroactive to Jan. 1, although the potential to delay the start date by several months is under discussion in Annapolis. Montgomery County is exempted from the bill as it already requires businesses to provide paid sick leave.

The new law stipulates that businesses with 15 or more employees who clock in for at least 12 hours per week must give them one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 worked. Businesses with 14 or fewer employees would be required to provide unpaid sick leave at the same rate.

Following the veto override last week, Sen. Jim Mathias said the Maryland Attorney General is being consulted as work began to develop an emergency bill to extend the legislation start date.

“This isn’t over,” he said. “This is a work in progress.”

Mathias also noted the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation has yet to write regulations for paid sick benefits which, if for no other reason, would likely delay the start date.

The topic continues to concern Ocean City business owners, who each summer hire more than 5,000 J-1 workers. These workers generally receive 120-day visas.

Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who voted to sustain Hogan’s veto, said the focus remains on mitigating the fiscal impact on seasonal employers.

“There should be a delay in implementation … but this is in addition to the sense of urgency in … providing some targeted relief to our small businesses,” she said.

Calling the legislation flawed, in a press release Hogan called for lawmakers to find “common sense” solutions.

“We all agree that hardworking Marylanders need and deserve access to paid leave,” he said. “Our administration is committed to providing these benefits without crushing small mom-and-pop businesses and killing thousands of jobs.”

In light of the veto override, Hogan established the Office of Small Business Regulatory Assistance through executive order on Monday. The new office will serve as a “clearinghouse of information,” for statewide services and report on compliance problems, as well as propose policy improvements.

Mathias said he appreciates and supports the move by Hogan to create address employer concerns.

“I’ll work with that,” he said. “It’s good to see how quickly he’s moving.”

Mathis said paid sick leave legislation has been under discussion in Maryland for half a dozen years.

“In 2016, I addressed our business community and said it would pass in 2017,” he said. “I asked them to give me their needs to make it work.”

Although the initial bill allowed earned sick leave to be used after 90 days of employment, Mathias responded to concerns from resort businesses that requested an extension to 120 days.

While the approved legislation sets the usage date short of that mark at 106 days, Mathias negotiated a stipulation permitting employers to require a doctor’s note for sick leave used prior to 120 days of employment.

“I believe I achieved the compromise,” he said.

Carozza said she would continue working with the Hogan administration and small business leaders to fix the most “egregious” parts of the legislation.

“The bottom line is that we need to fix this bill now so our employers stay here in Maryland, and we don’t lose our businesses and workers to other states,” she said.

According to a senate fiscal and policy note on the bill, fewer than 20 percent of businesses in the state have 15 or more employees, but they employ 86 percent of workers. Also it said approximately 84,000 Maryland businesses that have fewer than 15 employees would be required to provide unpaid sick leave.

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, during 2016 about 61 percent of Marylanders employed in private industry received paid sick leave, as did 92 percent of those with state and local government.

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