Matt Ritter and Jason Rojas
House Speaker Matt Ritter and Majority Leader Jason Rojas Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

A Senate bill expanding Connecticut’s paid sick leave program to employees of small businesses appeared unlikely Thursday to pass the House this year, according to Democratic leaders who said it lacked support. 

“I very much would like to do that. We do not have the votes at what the Senate passed it at,” House Speaker Matt Ritter said during a morning press briefing. “We’ve done two vote counts.”

Ritter said he was “taken aback” by those counts, which indicated that proponents were well short of the necessary votes to pass the bill. 

The proposal, which advanced out of the Senate on a 20-12 vote in May, builds on Connecticut’s 2011 paid sick day law by removing a provision that had exempted employers with fewer than 50 workers. 

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Under the bill, workers could accrue 40 hours of paid sick time per year, which would become accessible 100 days after an employee’s hire date. The bill also clarifies that a worker would be permitted to use paid sick leave time in order to tend to the sickness of family members like spouses, children, parents, siblings or grandparents.

Sen. Julie Kushner, a Danbury Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee, said Thursday she was disappointed to hear the bill was in jeopardy. 

“It seems to me that everyone who works for a living deserves to have a little time off when they get sick or when their kids get sick,” she said. 

This year’s expansion has been a priority of labor advocates and has received opposition from the state’s business community. 

Ritter and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas said opposition to the bill generally stems from concern about its impact on the smallest employers. House proponents were exploring scaling back the proposal to broaden the program but maintain an exemption for some very small businesses. The idea may not appeal to some supporters, Ritter said. 

“Some advocates may prefer that we don’t do it and we’ll respect that if that’s the decision,” he said. “But I think there’s a number that gets the votes we need but we have not found an agreement with all the parties on that.”

The version of the bill that passed the Senate already included compromises, Kushner said. She said there was still time for House members to change their minds. 

“How do you turn to people who have been holding signs — ‘Don’t leave me out’ — who are domestic workers, how do you turn to them and say ‘I’m sorry. We can’t do this for you?’” Kushner said. 

“I say to the people who are in the House who are in doubt, ‘this is the time to step up and say it’s okay, domestic workers deserve an hour off too,’” she said.