(Updated 7:48 p.m.) The legislature’s Judiciary Committee passed a controversial bill Tuesday that will allow employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year after they work 680 hours.
The bill, which has been raised four years in a row, was called a “lightning rod” by at least one lawmaker who continues to support it.
Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said each year the bill gets better because the concerns of business are incorporated in it. He said he understands opponents believe it will kill business in the state, but he thinks the high tax burden and unpredictable regulatory structure is more of a strain on business than this legislation. He said he supports the legislation because many of the workers that would benefit from it work in the food service and health care industries. He said these are the people are the very people everyone should want to have paid sick leave because of the public health risk.
Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said for whatever amount this legislation might help people, it will hurt them much more. She said it’s unlikely they will have jobs to take paid sick leave from if this legislation passes.
Opponents say companies with a few more than 50 employees will begin laying people off so the requirement doesn’t apply to them. Proponents say it’s about the health and safety of the workers and the customers they serve.
Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said she supported the bill out of committee, but continues to have concerns about the impact it will have on small manufacturing in the state. She said she can’t say with any certainty how she will vote on the floor, but she believes manufacturing is vital to turning around Connecticut’s economy.
Kia Murell, assistant counsel with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the 21-15 Judiciary Committee vote goes to show you how tough and controversial this issue is. She said lawmakers are taking seriously the concerns of businesses and the impact this legislation could have on jobs.
“This proposal continues to gain support because everyone understands that employees should not have to worry about losing their pay or even their jobs, just because they get sick,” Jon Green, executive director of Connecticut Working Families Party said. “Especially for workers who serve our food, or care for children and the elderly, making people work sick isn’t just unfair, it’s unhealthy for all of us. That’s just common sense.”
The bill has passed through two committees and may need to pass through several more before it reaches the Senate floor where the vote is still by all accounts too close to call.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was a vocal supporter of paid sick day legislation on the campaign trail, but when he was asked Tuesday if he will lobby the Senate he declined comment.
“It’s the first time I’ve had that question raised and I haven’t consider it. I’ll think about it,” Malloy said Tuesday.
He did say he’s disappointed affected industries have not been forthcoming with ways to improve the legislation, and in many cases have adopted a position they’re going to defeat it.
“I hope they don’t ultimately regret that,” Malloy said.