Billy Penn in Harrisburg

Plans to kill Philly’s paid sick leave advance in Harrisburg

The legislation passed on party lines. It could now be brought before the full House.

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Philadelphia City Council / Flickr
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Update 4 p.m.

HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania House committee voted Monday to advance a bill that would preempt local labor ordinances and kill paid sick leave in Philadelphia.

The party line vote was preceded by a heated discussion between Republicans and Democrats — which ended in the debate being shut down prematurely and Democrats walking out of the meeting.

“I motion to adjourn this meeting, because this is a bunch of crap,” said Rep. Ed Neilson of Philadelphia after the bill’s introducer, Republican Seth Grove of York County, made a motion to end the discussion on amendments.

Neilson’s motion failed on party lines, and the bill passed the committee. It could now be brought before the full House for a vote. Gov. Tom Wolf previously vowed to veto the legislation.

Grove has made no secret of wanting to end paid sick leave mandates, which he says “hamper the potential growth of small businesses that would have to vary policies from location to location.” While there don’t appear to be studies on the impact of Philly’s law specifically, a majority of employers surveyed in New York reported no effect on their businesses.

Several Democrats, including Philadelphia’s Neilson, Morgan Cephas, and Maria Donatucci, introduced amendments that — you guessed it — also failed on party lines.

Donatucci’s would have exempted cities of the first class (aka Philadelphia), and Pittsburgh Rep. Adam Ravenstahl’s would have exempted cities of the second class (read: Pittsburgh). Both failed.

“I need to protect the workers of Philadelphia,” Donatucci said. “This is affecting hundreds of thousands of workers who already have sick time. We need to make a state law if we’re not going to allow local control.”

Grove said the aim of the bill is to have “uniform” regulations across the state. “If you exempt one, you may as well exempt them all,” he said.

Philadelphia is currently the only municipality in Pennsylvania with enacted paid sick leave. Pittsburgh passed similar legislation, but was quickly sued. The case is pending before the Pa. Supreme Court.

One amendment did pass. Grove offered a measure to clarify that his bill would not target local legislation passed since 2015 aimed at protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. That had been a major concern among advocates.

Democrats objected several times to the idea of superseding local control.

“This is a bad piece of legislation,” Neilson said. “Let the city of Pittsburgh make their own decisions.”

Grove put forth his motion to end discussion on amendments after Rep. Dan Miller of Allegheny County offered one that would provide a paid leave carve out for parents of children with an intellectual or physical disability. Amendments that were not discussed, from Cephas and Pam Snyder of Southwest Pa., would have provided leave for veterans and domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

Democrats eventually left the meeting.

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