THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call looks at Question 4, one of the four questions on the ballot that will be decided directly by the voters in November.
The question asks voters if they want to require both public and private employers with 11 or more employees to allow them to earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year. Employees working for companies with 10 or fewer workers could earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time annually. All employees would earn one day of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employees of an individual city or town would be covered only if the proposed law was approved or funded by the city council or town meeting or funded by the Legislature.
The Legislature has never voted on the ballot proposal. The Labor and Workforce Development Committee in 2013 approved a similar bill but it died in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which did not act on it. That proposal required employers with 10 or more employees to give each worker up to 56 hours of paid sick time per year. Employees of companies with six to 10 workers would be entitled to up to 40 hours of paid sick leave while companies with fewer than six employees would only be required to offer 40 hours of unpaid leave. And just like the ballot question, this proposal would have given one day of sick time for every 30 hours worked.
Here are the official arguments, gathered by the secretary of state, by each side of the question:
IN FAVOR: Written by Raise Up Massachusetts. For information, go to raiseupma.org or call 617-284-1260.
“A YES vote will allow workers in Massachusetts to earn up to 40 hours of sick time a year to take care of their own health or a family member’s health.
Workers will earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, and can use their sick time only after working for 90 days.
Thousands of hardworking people in Massachusetts are forced to choose between going to work sick or losing a day’s pay — or worse, their jobs. Some are even forced to send a sick child to school to save their income or job.
A YES vote on Question 4 will save jobs and income, allowing workers to spend more in the local economy, benefiting us all.
Businesses providing sick time find that it reduces employee turnover, increases productivity, and helps their bottom line.”
AGAINST: Written by Retailers Association of Massachusetts. For information, go to votenoquestion4.org or call 617-523-1900.
“Protect Massachusetts Small Businesses. Vote NO on Question 4.
Question 4 would make Massachusetts the first state to require small and taxpayer-funded employers to provide up to a week of mandatory paid sick time and family leave to all employees, including part-timers. The red tape and mandate would be costly to small businesses and taxpayers.
When an employee at a typical office setting calls in sick, other employees usually step in to cover the workload. However, for customer service focused employers or employers with mandatory staffing levels, this may not be an option. These employers would be required to pay twice, once to the employee on leave and a second time to the employee working the shift. It would essentially double their payroll. One size does not fit all, and small businesses and their employees depend on flexibility to increase salaries and other benefits, not costly state mandates.”
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
COACHES MUST LEARN CPR (S 1918) — The House approved a Senate-approved bill that would require all school coaches to complete a course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) from the American Heart Association, American Red Cross or other state-approved agency by August 2015. The measure also prohibits local cities and towns from being responsible for the costs. Only final approval is needed by both branches in order for the measure to go to Gov. Deval Patrick.
Supporters said this invaluable training costs about $50 per person and will save many lives. They noted there are creative ways to pay for the training or to get the fee waived.
AUTOMATIC TAX CUT “POSSIBLE” ON JAN. 1 — Gov. Patrick’s Administration and Finance Secretary Glen Shor said that sufficient economic growth in 2014 under the terms of a 2002 law might result in a tax cut for millions of Bay State taxpayers beginning in 2015. The cut would come from a reduction in the income tax rate and long-term capital gains tax from 5.2 to 5.15 percent effective Jan. 1. This mechanism has already resulted in a tax cut in 2012, when it fell from 5.3 to 5.25 percent, and in 2013, when it fell from 5.25 to 5.2 percent. The decision will be made on Dec. 16.
The tax cuts do not need the approval of the Legislature. They are part of a system devised by the Legislature when it approved a $1 billion-plus tax hike package in 2002. The package set the long-term capital gains tax at 5.3 percent and froze the income tax rate at 5.3 percent instead of allowing it to drop to 5 percent in January 2003 — a reduction that was approved by voters in 2000. The 2002 law also includes an automatic trigger that reduces both taxes by one-half of one percent each year that the state’s economic growth is at least 2.5 percent until each tax is reduced to five percent. Shor estimates that the new tax cuts will reduce state revenue by $70 million in fiscal year 2015 and $145 million in fiscal year 2016.
BAN HALLUCINOGENIC DRUG (H 4484) — The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill that would make the hallucinogenic drug “25-1” illegal. Fifteen-year-old Emily Valentine of East Bridgewater died in June of organ failure after ingesting this drug that is also known by its street names “N-bomb” or “Smiles.” Emily’s mother Erin testified in favor of banning the drug that is typically sold over the Internet. “Her life is gone because of a five-dollar hit of a drug that is not even illegal,” Valentine said.
STATE GETS REAL ID EXTENSION — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted Massachusetts a federal REAL ID compliance extension. The federal REAL ID Act establishes federal standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards so that they may be used to board commercial airline flights and to enter federal buildings and nuclear power plants. The one-year extension until October 2015 allows Massachusetts license and identification card holders to retain access to federal facilities.
MAKE MATERNITY LEAVE GENDER NEUTRAL (S 685) — A bill that would change the state’s female-only maternity leave law to a gender-neutral one is stuck in the House Bills in Third Reading Committee. The proposed law would give parents of a newborn or adopted child eight weeks off, with or without pay at the discretion of the employer, and the right to return to their job after that period. The Senate gave near-final approval to the bill in October and sent it to the House. The House gave it initial approval but has not yet taken further action on it.
Supporters say this would bring this law into the current century. They noted it is outrageous that coverage is currently reserved for women.
BAN DISCRIMINATION AGAINST VETERANS (S 1921) — A bill that would prohibit an employer from discriminating against an individual in hiring and firing practices and compensation because he or she is a veteran is languishing in the House Ways and Means Committee since it was unanimously approved by the Senate in November.
Supporters say that, oddly, veterans are not included in the state’s current anti-discrimination law.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll: During the week of Oct. 13-17, the House met for a total of 16 minutes and the Senate met for a total of four hours and 58 minutes.