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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

House Unlikely To Pass Paid Sick Leave Bill

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VPR/Bob Kinzel
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Supporters of paid sick leave held a rally at the Statehouse Tuesday.

Dozens of supporters of the paid sick leave bill held a rally at the Statehouse Tuesday to kick off their final push to convince lawmakers to back their plan. They face an uphill battle because House leaders don’t think the bill has enough support to pass.

"At this point in time there really is not enough support to pass the bill." House Speaker Shap Smith.

Under the bill, all full time workers would be allowed to take seven paid sick days a year. It’s estimated that the legislation would affect about 20 percent of the state’s workforce or roughly 60,000 people.

Rep. Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, says many of these workers are women and that the bill is an economic and health care priority.

“Studies show that parents without earned sick days are less likely to take their child or family member to the emergency room because they were unable to take time off during work, normal business hours,” said Krowinski.

At the beginning of the session, a majority of House members backed the bill. But this support dwindled after some members of the state’s business community raised serious concerns about the legislation.

House Speaker Shap Smith says he has no plans to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“At this point in time there really isn’t enough support to pass the bill,” Smith said. “And we don’t want to bring it to the floor if it’s going not pass.”

And Smith says the paid sick leave bill is the kind of legislation that needs to percolate at the Statehouse for a number of years before becoming law.

“Many of these types of issues need to first have a study, then they get voted out of a committee maybe the next biennium and then they’re able to get through the body or get all the way,” said Smith. “These are the kinds of things that take some time to move forward.”

James Haslam is the director of the Vermont Workers Center, a group that strongly supports the bill. He’s not ready to concede defeat for this session.

“The vast majority of people in Vermont support this. This is something that three out of four people support,” Haslam said. “And if the legislators haven’t heard from their constituents on this then that’s the work cut out for us to make sure that happens.”

Backers of the bill could have another way to bring the issue to the floor for a vote. They can try to offer the plan as an amendment to another bill but some undecided lawmakers might vote against this option if they feel it circumvents the legislative process.