Members of the Maryland House of Delegates hold a session on April 5. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Members of the Maryland House of Delegates hold a session on April 5. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

ANNAPOLIS — After about 40 minutes of debate, the Maryland House of Delegates approved paid sick leave legislation Wednesday that some advocates have pushed for five years.

The 87-53 vote requires businesses with 15 or more employees to offer sick leave. Those with 14 or fewer would provide unpaid sick leave.

The House approved a version with amendments from the Senate such as workers being able to carry over up to 64 hours of unused sick leave into the following year. A previous proposal had 80.

The vote anticipates being vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan, who proposed sick leave for merchants with 50 or more employees. In addition, those with fewer than 50 workers who would provide it could receive tax incentives.

If Hogan formally rejects the legislation before the sessions end Monday, then lawmakers would meet next year and decide to override the veto.

Delegates spoke passionately on both sides of the topic, but Del. Dereck Davis (D-District 25) of Mitchellville gave a strong statement to those who opposed the legislation.

Davis, who chairs the Economic Matters Committee, mentioned how some delegates have asked him to review their bills first because they either felt ill or needed to care for a parent.

“You cannot in good conscience take advantage of something that we’re unwilling to do for our fellow citizens,” he said on the House floor. “They rely on us to do for them what they cannot do for themselves.”

Darlene Butler-Jones of Fort Washington supports paid sick leave so her grandchildren, who are about to enter the workforce, can have it available for them. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Jerry Clark, a Republican businessman who represents portions of Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, said he already provides his workers sick leave.

“What I’m worried is the employees that you think this is going to affect and help them,” said Clark, who voted against the legislation. “There will be many small-business people out there figuring how to overcome, how to adapt [and] how to make their business successful.”

When the House adjourned, sick leave advocates cheered outside the State House and held signs that included this one: “I shouldn’t have to choose between caring for my sick child and my job.”

Michele Douglas, a partner with the lobbying firm Public Policy Partners of Annapolis, said Maryland would join seven other states and the District of Columbia to offer paid sick leave to workers. Delegates and advocates say more than 700,000 Marylanders would receive those benefits.

Darlene Butler-Jones of Fort Washington, who worked for years as a single parent without sick leave, came to Annapolis to support the legislation and has a message for Hogan.

“Look into your mind and into your heart and think about the people who do not have it,” she said. “He should think about that. By the grace of God, it could be him.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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