ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland lawmakers are getting close to requiring paid sick leave at many businesses after the House of Delegates voted Thursday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto.
The bill faces a close-as-can-be vote in the Senate, which would have to agree to override the veto for the sick leave bill to become law.
The Democrat-controlled House voted 88-52. The chamber needed 85 votes, or three-fifths, to override the Republican governor’s veto.
Supporters said the measure has been debated for six years and includes dozens of compromises in response to the concerns of businesses.
“It’s time because it reflects our values as Marylanders,” said Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who sponsored the bill, noting it would affect an estimated 700,000 Maryland residents. “It reflects our belief that no one should have to choose between their health and their livelihood.”
Opponents say the measure will hurt small businesses and threatens privacy for domestic violence victims by requiring them to disclose why they were absent from work, a claim supporters deny. Republicans support an alternative proposed by the governor, who says the Democrat-sponsored measure will kill jobs.
“I believe that there was a better way to go about this law without violating privacy, taking into account of the needs of Maryland small employers, and I think there is a way to extend this benefit to more people,” said Del. Nic Kipke, an Anne Arundel County Republican who is the House minority leader.
The vote comes in a year when Hogan is seeking to become the first Republican governor re-elected in Maryland since 1954, and all 188 legislative seats are up for re-election.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Shareese Churchill, said the vote “was largely a political exercise.”
“Fortunately, there is plenty of time to pass the governor’s compromise legislation, including the incentives for small businesses, and create a paid leave policy that provides needed benefits to workers while protecting our job creaters,” Churchill said.
Getting three-fifths in the Senate means 29 of 47 members would need to support the override. The paid-leave bill passed the Senate last year with exactly that, 29 votes. If the override passes, the measure would take effect in 30 days.
The bill would require businesses with 15 or more employees to provide up to five days of earned paid sick leave. Hogan has urged lawmakers to support an alternative bill that would phase in paid sick leave for businesses with 25 or more employees by 2020.
Lisa Klingenmaier, assistant director of advocacy at Catholic Charities in Baltimore, said during a rally in front of the statehouse before the House vote that she is optimistic the measure will finally be enacted after years of trying.
“It’s monumentally important,” Klingenmaier said. “We work with a lot of folks experiencing homelessness at Catholic Charities, and so many of their stories start with, ‘I got sick. My kids got sick. I lost my housing, and now I’m homeless,’ and so I think we can make a real tangible difference in the lives of low-income Marylanders by passing this bill.”
In other business, the House also voted to override Hogan’s veto of legislation that aims to prohibit public colleges from denying admission to people who admit to committing a crime. Churchill says the bill puts students at risk and doesn’t differentiate between repeat violent sex offenses and drug possession.
Supporters say the bill doesn’t block colleges from collecting information, but rather shifts the time when it is collected. Supporters say the bill’s aim is to give people who have been incarcerated a chance at better lives. The Senate also would need to override that veto for the bill to become law.