Picking up the pieces after a bill dies
Editor's Note: Melissa Broome, senior policy advocate at the Job Opportunities Task Force and founding member of Working Matters, recounts what it was like to watch paid sick leave legislation fail during the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly. Thankfully, Melissa and her coalition partners will be back again next year. This blog post originally appeared in Job Opportunities Task Force.
There’s a well-known understanding in our state capitol that important bills rarely – if ever – pass in the first year. I recognize that last month’s unfavorable outcome for the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act was probably inevitable no matter what we had done. And yet, I’m still deeply disturbed by what this decision means for so many of our hardworking neighbors.
As with any bill, once it dies in the 90-day session, advocates and legislators must wait until the following year before they can take another crack at it. With last month’s vote, our 2013 hopes of bringing paid sick leave to the more than 700,000 Marylanders who currently lack it have vanished.
This means that for the next year, working moms will continue to wake in the middle of the night to the cry of their feverish baby and then have to decide by morning whether to attempt daycare drop-off or risk taking a day without pay and hoping they have a job to come back to tomorrow.
For the next year, the man who serves dinner at your favorite restaurant will continue making the trek into work when he’s nauseous with the flu because missing a Saturday night shift would mean not being able to make his car payment. For the next year, the woman who pours your morning latte will have to decide whether she can afford a day without pay to be with her mother who was just moved to hospice.
In short, what do you do when your bill dies? You hope that the people who would have benefited from it can hold on a little longer. You try not to imagine them on the brink of financial ruin when common, everyday illness strikes over the course of the next year.
It’s shameful to think that we live in a time when people who get up and go to work every day – people who are doing everything we want them to do – are forced to make choices that none of us should have to make. When 40 percent of our state’s workforce must choose between their health, or the health of their loved one, and their job, we have a problem that demands action from our elected officials.
Session 2014 can’t get here soon enough.
Click here to view outcomes for all of JOTF’s legislative priorities from the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly.