BERLIN – The Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations across the state have sent letters to Gov. Larry Hogan asking him to uphold his promise to veto the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act before the bill becomes law.
The Ocean City chamber said the governor has until May 27 to either veto the paid sick leave bill or to let the bill become law.
The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, cross-filed in both the House and Senate, would require employers with more than 15 employees to provide a policy in which a worker earns at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
In an original version of the bill, employees who work at least 90 days with the employer would be eligible for paid sick leave. For Ocean City businesses, this would mean that most of the resort’s 12,000 seasonal workers would meet the bill’s eligibility requirements for paid sick leave, according to the chamber.
In an effort to make the legislation more agreeable to resort businesses, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (R-38C), who represents Ocean City and the Lower Shore, proposed an amendment that would increase the 90-day eligibility to 120. Although the amendment was rejected in the House, Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38) was able to attach a 106-day requirement to the bill, which passed the Senate.
Although the amendment would raise eligibility requirements, Carozza said the bill as it stands is a job killer.
“The current 106-day exemption simply does not cover the season which conservatively starts at Springfest and runs through Sunfest and through the end of September,” Carozza said. “The 106-day exemption was not a compromise supported by small business. As more and more of our local businesses better understand the devastating effects of the paid sick leave bill, they have been urging Gov. Hogan to veto HB (House Bill) 1. Whether or not Gov. Hogan vetoes HB 1, I am committed to working with our local employers, the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, the National Federal of Independent Business and others on providing relief from the devastating and onerous provisions of HB 1.”
In a letter sent to the governor last week, the Ocean City chamber calls on Hogan to consider resort businesses.
“Most regional businesses make their annual profits over a small three-month window and incorporating this mandate would be very costly and affect the employer’s ability to operate, even with the 106 day amendment,” the letter reads. “In fact, we anticipate that employees starting at the beginning of the season (which is typically before Memorial Day), would be eligible for leave at our busiest time of year, when we need them the most to operate.”
More specifically, the Ocean City chamber took issue with four sections of the bill, all of which is said to hurt the resort town and small businesses.
“Maryland employers have maintained a competitive edge to other states by providing generous benefits to employees, thus building a strong and loyal workforce,” the letter reads. “Almost all of our members provide paid leave to their full time year round employees. There is no reason to mandate such requirements to employers and then have such aggressive sanctions for non-compliance. With Ocean City bordering Delaware and Virginia, our business owners are already very aware how to remain competitive with our precious workforce.”
Delegate Chris Adams (R-37B), who serves on the House Economic Matters Committee that has jurisdiction over this bill, said multiple business organizations and chambers have sent letters urging Hogan to veto the paid sick leave bill.
“The business community has decided to come together to reinforce the idea that this is a job killer,” he said.
Adams explained that many Marylanders support the bill because it would allow workers to earn paid sick days, but added that businesses could cut pay or jobs to accommodate the mandate.
“He (Hogan) is truly a governor for all people,” Adams said. “He tries hard to listen to all sides. He’s very deliberate.”
Adams said Hogan can sign the bill, veto the bill or allow the bill to pass. In a bill signing Thursday, however, the paid sick leave bill was not among the pieces of legislation.
Melanie Pursel, executive director of the Ocean City Chamber, said as of Wednesday she has yet to hear a response from the letter.
The governor’s office declined to comment as of Wednesday.