(Updated 7:39 p.m.) The debate over final passage of the bill mandating some private companies to offer paid sick time to their employees was expected to be a marathon and not a sprint.
With more than 100 amendments filed on the legislation, opponents were ready to continue the debate as long as possible, but proponents were confident they had the votes to make sure Connecticut becomes the first state in the nation to require paid sick leave.
“I just want to say how proud I am of Connecticut for saying to the nation that we care about our working families,“ House Speaker Chris Donovan said Friday evening.
“We’ll be here as long as it takes,“ Donovan said. “I believe the measure we have here is the right thing to do.”
The bill, which passed the Senate by one vote after six hours of debate, has been a part of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s agenda since the campaign trail. And with precious little time left in the legislative session the Democrat-controlled House is looking to get it to his desk before the clock runs out.
In order to get the bill through the Senate it was amended so it only applies to service employees, such as restaurant workers and retailers. Manufacturers and YMCA’s were exempted from the bill.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said he let Donovan know that his caucus feels very strongly this isn’t the right time for this type of legislation.
“I will not tell my caucus to stifle their questions or debate,” Cafero said Friday afternoon.
He said he doesn’t like the substance or the timing of the bill.
“If we do this we become the first state in the nation to pass this legislation that says Connecticut is closed for business,” Cafero said.
Joseph Brennan, vice president of government relations for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said other states are tearing down barriers to job creation, but Connecticut just seems to be erecting them with legislation like paid sick days.
“Why would we be sending a message that we’re going to stand out even more from other states,” Brennan wondered. Already it’s well-known Connecticut has been dead last in job creation for the past 20 years, Brennan said apparently that’s a credential the state wants to keep by passing this legislation.
But proponents of the legislation say it’s about workers’ rights.
Before the session started Friday, Paula Broderick stood outside the House chambers catching lawmakers opposed to the bill and asking them to reconsider their positions.
Broderick has a very personal stake in the bill. Twenty years ago, while she was working as a clerical employee at a Connecticut hospital, Broderick was a victim of domestic violence and rape. When she was able to extract herself from the situation, she went to the Prudence Crandall Safe House in New Britain, she said.
In an April Op-Ed for CTNewsJunkie , she described her condition at the time: “When I escaped, I was in bad shape. I had been raped; I had bruises around my neck, and a ruptured ear drum. The next day, I called out sick to seek medical care and a restraining order.”
Unfortunately, her job did not offer paid time off, but her story wasn’t compelling enough for one lawmaker she encountered Friday to change her opposition to the measure. As the lawmaker breezed past, Broderick continued her story.
“I needed time to recuperate. But with no paid time off, I lost wages at a time I desperately needed them,” she said.
She soon lost her job as a direct result of taking time off, she said. Broderick has since worked as a shelter advocate and said her situation is not uncommon among women fleeing abusive relationships.
“People don’t understand how important support is and how they desperately need support from their employers,” she said.
While the state’s business community vehemently opposes the idea that Connecticut may become the first state in the nation to enact the policy, Broderick had a different take.
She said she has managed people over the years and has learned that the relationship between employers and employees is a two-way street. Employees who are treated with respect and dignity are harder workers who are more loyal.
She said the measure is positive and progressive, something the state is known for.
“I feel this bill is about human decency. That has to be good for business,” she said. “Connecticut has a long history of passing innovative measures on many levels.”