UPPER MALRBORO – According to Progressive Maryland, a non-profit organization fighting for social and economic rights for constituents throughout the state, 42 percent of county workers do not have paid sick leave. Those residents will likely have to wait until next year before there is a possibility of changing that. After a shortened discussion session […]
UPPER MALRBORO – According to Progressive Maryland, a non-profit organization fighting for social and economic rights for constituents throughout the state, 42 percent of county workers do not have paid sick leave. Those residents will likely have to wait until next year before there is a possibility of changing that.
After a shortened discussion session over CR-52 and CB-65, both addressing paid sick leave for county residents, the planning, zoning and economic development committee voted 3-2 to table CB-65 and leave it in committee. The last day bills are eligible to be introduced by the County Council is Tuesday, Oct. 20. All other bills will be tabled until Jan. 2016.
“The bill needs to move out of committee. Period,” Councilwoman Karen Toles said.
Toles originally made a motion to move the bill unfavorable out onto the council floor, but lost the vote 2-3 with Councilwoman Deni Taveras being the other vote to move the bill out of council floor.
“No recommendation doesn’t mean we can’t hash this out before it goes to introduction. It doesn’t mean that we can’t hear it over public hearing with the full council,” Toles said. “We do no recommendation votes all the time in committee. I voted to move forward.”
Because of a fire alarm sounding off in the middle of the committee hearing, the council had to expedite the introduction process of both CR-52 and CB-65 in committee. Because of that, Councilmember Derrick Leon Davis, among others, said there needed to be more time to have more discussion about the pieces of legislation.
But Davis said, even though he made the motion to table the discussion, everyone on the council is in favor of paid sick leave for citizens everywhere. However, the discussion about how to enact this legislation must be discussed thoroughly.
“This council is for the concept and needs to fight vociferously at the legislative branch of government for the state of Maryland to ensure that the process and the outcome is good for all Prince Georgians and all Marylanders,” Davis said.
Davis co-sponsored CR-52 along with County Council Chairman Mel Franklin. CR-52 is a resolution for the council’s endorsement of a statewide paid sick leave and safe leave requirement at the state level.
Davis and Franklin both said a state level, paid sick leave piece of legislation would be ideal for everyone. It keeps the playing field level for businesses across the state, Franklin said, and would not present any particular advantage to any jurisdiction.
“We are in the process of what I think is an economic development boom. We know that our county residents have long believed we should provide more amenities, more job opportunities in the county, and more economic opportunity so folks don’t have to take their dollars to other jurisdictions,” Franklin said. “Doing a statewide paid sick leave requirement would have the benefit of having us on the same level playing field as every jurisdiction in Maryland.”
However, County Councilwoman Mary Lehman, who co-sponsored CB-65 along with Taveras and Toles, said the county does not have time to wait for the state on a piece of legislation as essential as this. The thought of working without paid sick leave had never occurred to her previously, Lehman said, before President Barack Obama spoke on the issue in his State of the Union address. Since, Lehman has been at the forefront of fighting for paid sick leave within Prince George’s County.
“We could wait years to see state wide legislation passed. In fact, there has been a bill in Annapolis for three years and it has gone nowhere,” Lehman said. “We can wait 90 days and watch January, February, March and April come and go without seeing a bill come out. Every day is another day that 131,000 workers have no access to paid sick leave.”
Taveras said she has worked jobs that have had no paid sick leave and it is a difficult, uncertain environment to work. This is something that needs to be acted on as quickly as possible, she said.
“I’ve been there. I’ve cleaned homes, I’ve taken care of babies. I’ve done it all. So I can definitely attest that I am the people that I represent,” Taveras said. “To that event, I think this is an issue that should be covered in this county.”
Former State Delegate Jolene Ivey said she knew a woman who had been in a relationship where she had been beaten by her spouse and had to go to work the very next day with her injuries. Had she had paid sick leave, Ivey said, that could have been avoided.
“She couldn’t afford to take a day off the next day and then she had to take a day off to go to court. Those are the kind of things this bill would help,” Ivey said. “It seems to be that Prince George’s County, of all places, would be able to lead on this issue.”
The committee did not get a grasp of the financial impact giving paid sick leave would have on workers. The legislation given to the council did not have a fiscal note on it, Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros said, which would normally indicate what the financial ramifications of a bill would be for the county. Normally, when council receives a bill, a fiscal note is always attached with it.
“This bill has been out there for more than a month. I’m more than astonished we don’t have a fiscal note for this today,” Glaros said.
Melissa Broome, a deputy director at the job opportunities task force, said it is manageable to have a stable economy and a stable business market even with employees being provided benefits like paid sick leave.
Surrounding jurisdictions like Montgomery County and Washington, D.C. are currently operating with “strong” paid sick leave legislation in place and Prince George’s County can do it as well, Broome said.
“Working people in this state, in Prince George’s County, should not have to make the choice between work and their families,” Broome said. “You can do this here and support families and support businesses simultaneously.”