Democratic lawmakers in Maryland's House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly Thursday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the paid sick leave law passed last year.
The House voted 88-52 to override the veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. Before the bill can become law, the Senate must also override the veto with a three-fifths majority vote. That vote is expected to take place Friday.
The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act was a top priority for Democrats last year. The law requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide up to five days of paid sick leave. Businesses with fewer than 15 employees have to provide five unpaid sick days. A coalition of groups including the National Federal for Independent Businesses and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill.
"We’re sorry to see that the House did not understand the damage HB1 will do to employers and their employees, especially in small businesses," Christine Ross, CEO of the Chamber said in a statement. "We hope to see that understanding from the Senate."
Hogan, a Republican, vetoed the legislation last May. He has described the law as "confusing, unwieldy, unfair and deeply flawed" and said it would destroy Maryland's economy, hurt small businesses and result in the loss of thousands of jobs.
A spokeswoman for Hogan's office called the House's vote a "political exercise" and said, "many legislators have already acknowledged that this bill is deeply flawed and needs to be fixed."
"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 creators," Shareese Churchill, Hogan's press secretary, said in a statement. "Marylanders are more interested in good policy than partisan politics and there is still time to get this right."
Hogan proposed his own paid sick leave law last year, but the legislature never voted on it. He has proposed another one, but if the General Assembly overrides his veto it is unlikely those bill would be considered either.
The vote to override the veto sets the stage for what is shaping up to be a contentious 90 days as Hogan and Democratic lawmakers face off ahead of the gubernatorial election later this year.
During the debate before the vote, Republicans argued that the bill hurts small businesses and is "deeply flawed." Some women from the Republican caucus said the bill would put women who are victims of sexual violence in a position of "revictimizing" themselves because they have to explain to employers why they are taking sick leave.
Del. Dereck Davis, chairman of the Economic Matters Committee, said over the last three years there have been 30 amendments to the bill at the behest of business advocates.
"It's time to fold it guys," Davis said on the House floor. "There have been countless hours of debate. We have met with stakeholders and read hours of testimony...Democracy has to run its course. HB1, time to get it done."
Del. Cheryl Glenn, a Democrat from Baltimore City, said she was a victim of sexual violence at the hands of her ex-husband. She implored her colleagues to support the bill because providing paid sick leave would give women the ability to stay home at work without having to make a tough decision between staying home or going to work and risk being followed by the abuser.
"As a survivor and a victim, it's a very, very tough situation to be in, especially if you are working and trying to take care of your family every day," Glenn said. "Let's give victims an opportunity to take leave here."
The 32BJ SEIU union and the Maryland Working Families Party have been pushing for the law for the past several years. They and other left-leaning organization rallied Thursday morning in front of the State House to support paid sick leave.
"Marylanders are sending the message loud and clear: they need paid sick leave, so they don’t have to decide between their health and financial ruin,” 32BJ SEIU Vice President Jaime Contreras said in a statement. “An overwhelming majority of voters on both sides of the aisle expect leaders to put their health and well-being over politics.”
Contreras and Maryland Working Families Executive Director Charly Carter both celebrated the House's vote as an important step in helping families across the state
"Today, the Maryland General Assembly voted to put Maryland’s working families first," Carter said in a statement. "We commend their choice to stand up to our out-of-touch governor, and to tear down barriers to employment for all Marylanders."
The union and Maryland Working Families are using social media, print media, an online petition and brochures to target senators "who are on the fence" in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George's County.
The Chamber of Commerce is also mobilizing its members to call senators, urging them to sustain the veto. One Democratic senator has to flip in order to sustain the veto.