Updated at 1 p.m. – Business officials are worried a statewide paid sick leave bill that grandfathers Montgomery County’s more stringent regulations will leave local businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
Ilaya Hopkins, vice president of public affairs for the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, wrote an email Friday to the county’s House delegation to Annapolis urging its members to adopt a “one state, one law” approach to a paid sick leave bill making its way through the House of Delegates.
It’s uncertain if the state bill—which would require businesses with 15 or more employees to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave—will pass before the legislative session ends April 11. The House of Delegates approved it Tuesday and it must move on to the Senate's Rules Committee before heading to the Finance Committee.
If it passes in its current form, it would grandfather in the paid sick leave law that the Montgomery County Council passed last June, which is set to go into effect Oct. 1.
That law, which the National Partnership for Women & Families labeled one of the strongest in the nation, requires all businesses with five or more employees to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave and businesses with fewer than five employees to provide up to four days of paid sick leave.
The version of the state bill that came out of the House Economic Matters committee preempts any local paid sick leave laws enacted after Jan. 1, leaving Montgomery County’s 2015 law unaffected.
“It takes away that competition in the marketplace and it just contributes to the overall perception and reality of [Montgomery County] being a difficult place to do business,” Hopkins told Bethesda Beat. “Business doesn’t stop at a political boundary. So when you have a carve-out leaving Montgomery County alone, it puts our businesses at a distinct disadvantage to businesses in Howard County, Prince George’s County, Frederick County, not to mention Virginia, Pennsylvania and other surrounding states.”
The state bill and carve-out got the support of all House members from Montgomery County during Tuesday's 84 to 54 vote.
District 18 Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, who sits on the House Economic Matters Committee that handled the bill, said the decision to grandfather Montgomery County’s paid sick leave law was made by committee Chairman Dereck Davis, who represents District 25 in Prince George’s County.
“I’m actually deeply sympathetic to the business community’s views on this issue, nonetheless it was the will of the chair to not preempt Montgomery County’s law as those benefits had already passed the [County] council,” Waldstreicher said after Tuesday’s vote.
Waldstreicher said the bill would mainly impact larger businesses, many who already provide paid sick leave and many who already must deal with paid sick leave regulations in Washington, D.C. The bill as first proposed would've applied to businesses with 10 or more employees but was amended.
Ginanne Italiano, president and CEO of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, said Friday county chamber leaders also are concerned about extra administrative costs—both for businesses and state labor regulators who have been asked to enforce the county’s law.
“They’re not taking into account the fact that if an employer has employees in Montgomery County and any other part of the state, administratively it will be a nightmare because they’ve got to figure out the sick leave for their employees in their Montgomery County store, but in their Prince George’s County store, those employees over there have a different sick leave policy,” Italiano said.
Washington, D.C., has a paid sick leave law that requires fewer paid sick days than the Montgomery County law for employees of small companies.
The bill could get a final vote in the House this week.