Gov. Larry Hogan: Common sense needed in paid sick leave debate

Last year, I was proud to be the first Republican governor in the United States to put forward a statewide plan to expand paid sick-leave benefits to workers. It was a common-sense proposal to strike a much-needed balance between providing benefits hard-working Marylanders deserve and not hurting our economy, killing small businesses or laying off the men and women employed by them.

From that point on, I made it very clear that our administration was not drawing a line in the sand but rather extending an invitation to leaders on both sides of the aisle for open, honest dialogue.

Regrettably, the legislature refused to engage in any discussions with our administration and failed to take any action on our paid sick-leave measure. It instead passed a confusing, unwieldy and deeply flawed bill on a partisan vote — hoping I would veto it because many legislators would rather have an election-year campaign sound bite than a solution we can all get behind.

It was the type of finger-pointing, point-scoring politics we see in Washington. Marylanders deserve better. After careful consideration, I vetoed that inflexible and burdensome bill in the hope that we could work together this session to get it right.

To further that goal, I signed an executive order forming a task force to conduct a comprehensive study to determine the realities of paid sick leave for Maryland employees and employers. After six months conducting expansive, in-person interviews with affected workers and businesspeople across the state, the task force confirmed that the vetoed bill has major policy and legal flaws and numerous unintended negative consequences. …

“Perhaps most egregiously, an employee could be obligated to reveal deeply personal and private information — including about domestic violence, sexual assault or sensitive medical procedures — to use their leave. This issue was raised by a dozen members of the legislative women’s caucus in a letter to the House speaker and Senate president.

To address these serious flaws and chart a path forward, I will introduce the Paid Leave Compromise Act of 2018 as emergency legislation on the first day of the upcoming legislative session. This legislation, which would take effect in January with no delay, would require businesses with 25 or more employees to offer paid sick leave by 2020. To give our small-business job creators time to prepare, these benefits would be phased in, similar to the approach used in states such as New York and Rhode Island. Our legislation would cover full-time and part-time employees and protect workers’ privacy.

The Paid Leave Compromise Act of 2018 would provide Marylanders with paid time off — no questions asked — and would eliminate the costly and punitive red tape in the legislature’s flawed bill.

To help offset the costs to small businesses for providing these benefits, we are introducing a bill in tandem that would provide $100 million in tax incentives for companies with fewer than 50 employees that offer paid leave. Our legislation would enable small businesses to offer paid-leave benefits to hundreds of thousands of hardworking Marylanders who would have been left behind under the bill I vetoed.

Now, we need the legislative leaders to finally work with us on behalf of the people of Maryland. The issue of paid sick leave is too important and the impact is too far-reaching for us to risk getting it wrong. …

We will continue to call on our colleagues in Annapolis to avoid the divisive politics of Washington, to engage in thoughtful, civil debate and to strive for common-sense solutions to the issues we face. Together, we will continue to strive toward that middle temperament that our great state was founded on.

Larry Hogan, a Republican, is the 62nd Governor of Maryland.

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