Vetoes Flawed Bill, Signs Executive Orders Creating Task Force, Expanding Paid Leave for State Employees, and Prioritizing Employers Offering Paid Leave in State Procurement Process
Governor Larry Hogan today reaffirmed his commitment to providing common sense paid sick leave for Maryland workers, while vetoing House Bill 1 (HB1) – a deeply flawed, job-killing paid leave bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly – and making an impassioned appeal to legislative leaders to work with the administration on a compromise by January, when the bill was set to take effect. The governor also signed three executive orders expanding paid leave benefits at the state level and creating a task force to gain insight from Maryland workers and businesses to further assist with developing a common sense compromise.
The governor began by outlining the administration’s common sense paid sick leave proposal, unveiled in December 2016, which would provide benefits that hardworking Marylanders deserve without hurting the state’s economy and costing jobs. It requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide paid sick leave and encourages small businesses, as defined by the widely accepted federal standards, to offer paid sick leave by providing tax incentives to offset the costs of these additional benefits. In direct contrast to HB1, the governor’s proposal has the potential to cover 100 percent of Maryland’s workforce.
In a process rife with political opportunism, the legislature never considered the administration’s common sense, balanced plan. Instead, they moved forward with a poorly written and deeply flawed bill that is more harmful than legislation previously rejected by the Democrat-controlled legislature four years in a row. If allowed to go into effect, this legislation would severely jeopardize the economic progress Maryland has made under Governor Hogan, including creating nearly 100,000 new jobs, reducing the unemployment rate, and providing $700 million in tax, fee, and toll relief for Marylanders. This bill puts Maryland’s gains in jeopardy, and studies show it would cost thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost economic activity.
“We cannot afford to turn back to the failed job-killing policies of the past. Our administration fully supports paid sick leave benefits for Marylanders, but we cannot and will not support this job-killing bill passed by the legislature, which would hurt the very workers that they are pretending to want to help,” said Governor Hogan. “The refusal of legislative leaders to meet us halfway, to negotiate with us, or to try to reach a compromise represents the very kind of politics that people are completely fed up with.”
The overly-burdensome, job-killing provisions in HB1 are as numerous as they are problematic for Maryland’s small businesses. It creates a one-size-fits-all approach that does not allow for flexibility or take into account the needs and structure of a 21st-century workforce. It requires the state to mandate specific procedures that businesses must follow or else be found in violation of the law, which carries with it heavy civil penalties. The bill gives courts extremely broad discretion to award damages in a civil action – including forcing businesses to pay three times the value of unpaid sick and safe leave.
Perhaps most egregiously, the notification provision in the bill creates an extremely intrusive situation where workers could be required to provide a reason – and obligated to offer proof – in order to use sick leave, including divulging sensitive personal and medical information to an employer.
The governor, noting that HB1 does not take effect until January, renewed his call for a common sense compromise with the legislature, stating that today marks the beginning – not the end – of negations and vowed to submit a compromise bill as emergency legislation on the first day of the 2018 legislative session.
“We still have time to work together to get this right. We can and we must come together by January to make this happen. I am again calling on our legislators to put the partisan politics aside and work with us to pass a better bill,” said Governor Hogan. “Let’s reach a compromise to ensure that our small business job creators aren’t forced to lay off workers or shut their doors in order to comply with overly-strict, burdensome, and costly regulations. Let’s make sure that hardworking Marylanders don’t end up paying the price for a politicized legislative process. We owe it to the citizens of Maryland to work together and get this right by January.”
To take immediate action to advance the cause of common sense paid sick leave in Maryland, the governor executed three executive orders: Executive Order 01.01.2017.08 creates a task force, headed by Maryland Labor Secretary Kelly Schulz and including the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Human Resources, to conduct a comprehensive field study to further and formally determine how a better paid sick leave plan can be implemented, with a report to be submitted in December. Executive Order 01.01.2017.09 provides paid leave benefits to all contractual employees in the executive branch, which totals over 8,000 workers. The governor called on leaders in the legislative and judicial branches to join the administration in leading by example and providing these benefits to their contractual employees. Finally, Executive Order 01.01.2017.10 authorizes all state procurement authorities to begin giving preference to contractors who offer paid sick leave to their employees.