From Del. Mary Ann Lisanti:
As many of you know, the Maryland General Assembly has convened in Annapolis for its 438th Legislative Session. I am now entering my 4th year serving the people of Harford County in this historic body, and I remain energized and hopeful that the Legislature can work together for all the citizens of Maryland. This is the first of my legislative updates to keep you informed of issues we will be addressing over the next 90 days.
The first week back to Annapolis was highlighted with several traditional acts and talk of bi-partisanship, let’s hope we can keep that spirit alive thought the coming weeks. One of the first priority bills taken up in the House and Senate was on HB 1, the Healthy Working Families Act, that was passed last year with overwhelming support of most Marylanders but vetoed by Governor Hogan. Both the House and Senate voted to override the veto. I want to take the time to explain this historic bill to you and let you know why I voted to support it.
HB 1 – Healthy Working Families Earned Paid Sick and Safe Leave
The Maryland Health Working Families Act is commonsense legislation that requires all employers in Maryland with 15 or more employees to allow their employees to earn paid sick leave creating a healthier working environment and a work/ life balance for Maryland’s families. Now more than 700,000 hard-working Marylanders and 52,000 Harford County residents will no longer need to choose between going to work sick and possibly infecting co-workers, clients or customers and forgoing a paycheck or risk being fired.
I have the privilege serve on the House Economic Matters Committee where the bill was assigned and hearings were held. I want you to know, that I went to great effort to help negotiate amendments to the original bill to lessen any unnecessary hardship on the business community. I listened intently to hours of testimony and worked with numerous businesses and industry leaders who testified to help address as many concerns as possible to make this legislation easy to understand and implement.
During my own deliberation, I asked my constituents to contact me and share their opinion of HB1. Surprisingly, I received over 300 personal calls, 128 letters and countless emails from my district all in support of this legislation.
Additionally, religious leaders and clergy members from Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Aberdeen, United Church of Christ in Churchville and Abingdon, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Jarrettsville, Ames United Methodist Church in Bel Air and several Catholic Churches in Harford County all contacted me to express their support. Conversely, I received one email of opposition and a copy of a letter sent to the Economic Matters Committee from the Harford County Board of Education. HCPS citied their concerns in providing sick and safe leave to seasonal and part time employees resulting in a financial burden on the school system. I made sure that their concerns were addressed in the final version of the bill, as those employees are exempt from the legislation.
The bill will become effective in 30 days, therefore here are a few things you should know:
1. The bill applies only to businesses with 15 or more employees.
2. Employees earn 1 hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours worked up to 5 days or (40 hours) per year. Workers can use up to 8 days of leave annually and carry over up to 4 days per year.
3. If a business with 15 or more employees already has a paid sick leave plan that allows an employee to earn at least 1 hour of leave for every 30 hours worked up to a total of 40 hours per year, they will need to make no changes to their sick leave policy.
4. Businesses are not required to pay workers for unused leave.
5. The bill does not apply to workers under the age of 18 who work part-time less than 12 hours per week.
6. Seasonal employees are exempt from the bill.
7. New employees must wait at least 106 days before using any of their earned sick leave.
8. Employees can use their leave: (1) to care for or treat mental or physical illness, injury or condition of the employee or family member; (2) preventative medical care; (3) maternity or paternity leave; (4) circumstances related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking of the employee or a family member.
I have concluded that at its core, HB1 responds to the simple reality that everybody gets sick. Teachers, waitresses, and even our Governor unfortunately have succumbed to illness requiring a day or in his case much more time off from work. HB 1 ensures that all Maryland workers are treated fairly under the law regarding sick leave, and protects employees from fear of retribution by an employer for taking a day off to care for themselves, a child or aging parent.
Economists estimate that passage of HB 1 will save Maryland businesses 132 million dollars annually by reduced turnover. Employees with earned sick leave will more likely not go to work sick and infect others and drive up the continuing high cost of healthcare. Employees with earned sick leave will not delay seeking needed medical care leading which prolongs illness and often leads to costly emergency room visits and increased insurance premiums. As an added advance, the new tax legislation passed by Congress provides tax relief to businesses therefore any anticipated implementation cost should be negligible. To learn more about this bill, please click here to view the official text: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2017RS/bills/hb/hb0001e.pdf.
I am proud to have stood up for the hard working men and women of Maryland by supporting this bill and feel we have gotten off to a great start for this legislative session.