AUGUSTA — A bill that would ensure certain employees earn paid time off in Maine is gaining bipartisan support in the Legislature.

The Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee voted 9-1 Wednesday in support of an amendment shepherded by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.

The latest proposal would provide paid time off to 85 percent of all Maine workers, including 139,000 newly eligible workers, according to Christine Kirby, spokeswoman for Democratic Senate President Troy Jackson.

“If a worker’s car breaks down on the way to work, they should be able to take it to the shop without fearing that they’d lose the paycheck to pay for the repair,” said Democratic Sen. Rebecca Millett. “If a worker is sick, they don’t have to choose between visiting the doctor or keeping their job.”

Maine could join 10 states with earned paid sick time policies, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, according to Kirby.

Millet’s bill originally proposed requiring employers with more than five employees to allow such workers to earn and use at least 40 hours of paid sick leave annually.

But in March, the labor committee split on party lines on that bill. Several Republicans and Maine’s Chamber of Commerce said the original proposal would increase business costs by requiring employees to extend benefits to part-time, temporary and seasonal workers.

The amendment instead allows employees to earn paid leave in general that could be used for illness. The amended bill also would apply to employers with more than 10 employees, exclude “seasonal employment,” and prevent municipalities from passing their own paid leave rules.

Such changes drew pushback from the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, which said it would prevent Portland from passing a much -discussed paid sick leave ordinance. The group’s program director Arlo Hennessey estimated that the bill would help thousands fewer workers in Portland alone.

Millet defended the compromises and said it’s one of the most “progressive” bills in the country.

“If your grandmother needs to be taken to a doctor’s appointment, now you’re not going to have an employer reviewing whether that’s an appropriate use or not,” she said.

One Democratic lawmaker voted in favor of an alternate version of the bill. It now faces votes in the House and Senate.

Supporters have warned that if lawmakers don’t act, the matter could go to voters.


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