UPPER MARLBORO – Paid sick leave has been an ongoing issue in the state legislature for the last three years and the Prince George’s County Council wants to leave it there. The council passed a resolution, with an 8-0-1 vote, endorsing a bill making paid sick leave a state requirement, but this did not satisfy […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Paid sick leave has been an ongoing issue in the state legislature for the last three years and the Prince George’s County Council wants to leave it there.
The council passed a resolution, with an 8-0-1 vote, endorsing a bill making paid sick leave a state requirement, but this did not satisfy everyone.
Larry Stafford, a local activist and acting executive director at Progressive Maryland, said he and many citizens in Prince George’s County are dissatisfied with the passing of CR-52. Although it does endorse this legislation on the state level, it does not create the immediate closure needed for Prince George’s County citizens.
“I just don’t find it all that meaningful. It’s a nice gesture, but it’s not really affecting actual policy change that can really make a difference in people’s lives,” Stafford said. “They had the opportunity to do that and they did not choose to take that opportunity.”
The council moved CR-52 out of their planning, zoning and economic development committee earlier this month, but they also had the opportunity to move CB-65 onto the council floor as well. However, the final committee vote of 3-2 caused the bill to “die” in committee for further discussion at a later date in January.
Stafford said the council passing up on the opportunity to lead the charge with paid sick leave is disappointing for Progressive Maryland and Prince George’s County citizens. There are strong bills enforcing paid sick leave in Montgomery County and Washington, D.C. already, so it is not inconceivable for Prince George’s employees to want the same thing.
“It’s playing political games instead of actually making policy change,” Stafford said.
County Council Chairman Mel Franklin said, although he sponsored CR-52 and did not favor CB-65 because of what he called a “disadvantage to businesses around the county,” he believes paid sick leave is important for county residents.
However, he said, the bill needs to be a statewide piece to prevent businesses in certain jurisdictions from facing any disadvantage.
“A statewide sick and safe leave standard places the businesses in each jurisdiction on a level playing field in competition between jurisdictions,” Franklin said. “This legislation supports employees and employers.”
Franklin did not have a vote in committee when CB-65 could have been passed, but he previously stated passing it could potentially put Prince George’s County businesses at a disadvantage and could prevent businesses from coming into the county in the near future.
Because of that, Franklin said, the legislation should be considered statewide before it is considered in Prince George’s County. Prince George’s is different from Montgomery County and the District of Columbia and they do not face the same circumstances.
Should the general assembly follow the endorsement, workers across the state can earn one hour of sick leave for every thirty hours they work. They would be able to accrue up to 56 hours, or seven work days, in a calendar year.
Councilwoman Mary Lehman said she does not support “kicking an issue” to the state of Maryland and depending on them to act on the legislation first. Prince George’s County should adopt this bill on their own, she said.
“We had an opportunity last week to show leadership on this issue and we chose not to,” Lehman said during last week’s council session. “We could have passed a strong sick leave bill on what I think is an important economic issue to 131,000 people in this county.”
The county’s proposed bill included the smallest employers, Lehman said, including businesses with an owner and just one employee. The bill the state has considered passing over the last few years only considered businesses that have 10 or more employees.
While a statewide bill being passed would be a good thing, Lehman said, it could potentially create disparity among the state and different jurisdictions because of the different standards the different bills present.
Councilwoman Deni Taveras said she is disappointed in how things have developed with the paid sick leave bill. Even though she is a sponsor, it is still disappointing to see nothing being done at the county level.
“I wish we had done something a little harder,” Taveras said. “I’m nervous about the carve outs that will happen at the state level, should it pass. I’m a little nervous that nothing is going to happen there.”
Stafford said he is encouraged by what he has heard from the state level on the chances of the bill being passed this year. There has been more of an outcry about the legislation throughout Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties and there has even been legislation passed on it in Montgomery County.
Because of that, he said, he is confident that something may get done this time despite the inactions of the past.
“We feel good about this year,” Stafford said. “We were on the ground in Prince George’s. We got it passed in Montgomery. And a couple of the members in the Prince George’s delegation have decision making power over this really saw our efforts that we’ve put forward. We feel like that increased the likelihood.”