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Paid-Sick-Leave Bill Headed For Senate

Bill To Create Gun Offender Registry Also Progresses

Daniela Altimari

April 27, 2011

Connecticut moved a step closer Tuesday to becoming the first state in the nation to mandate paid sick leave.

A bill requiring businesses with 50 or more workers to offer paid time off to sick employees cleared the legislature's judiciary committee by a vote of 21-15. The measure has already the labor committee and now awaits action in the Senate.

The bill would allow employees to take time off to recuperate from an illness or to care for a sick child. Permanent full- and part-time employees would accrue paid sick leave after three months on the job at the rate of one hour of leave for every 40 hours worked; the policy does not cover seasonal employees. Businesses that do not comply would be fined $600 for each violation.

Similar proposals have been debated several times in the past four years. The difference this year is that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy supports the concept.

Proponents frame the debate as matters of public health and fairness. "People shouldn't be working when they're sick," state Sen. Edwin Gomes, D-Bridgeport, said. "I doubt if anyone in this room goes to work sick."

Gomes called opposition to the measure "mean-spirited" and said it sends a message that some people are not worthy of staying home when they are ill.

But critics say the bill is a job-killer that would place an undue burden on the state's businesses.

"Long before we went into this recession Connecticut was already one of the most business unfriendly states in this country," Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said. "Now in this economic time, we choose to do things time after time, over and over again, to make it more business unfriendly."

The bill passed in the Senate in 2008 and in the House in 2009, but it did not come to floor votes last year, when then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she would veto it. Malloy has said he intends to sign it, should it reach his desk. If it passes, the law would be the first of its kind in the nation.

Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Southington, called the measure "an overreach of government" and said it has no place in Connecticut. "Anyone that believes that this legislation is anything other than anti-business, in my mind, is just deluding themselves," he said.

Sen. John Kissel of Enfield, the ranking Republican on the committee, said public health concerns are paramount.

"I appreciate the fact that this is a lightening rod bill," Kissel said.

But he said many of the workers that lack paid sick time are employed in precisely the fields such as food preparation and service, and home health workers tending to the frail elderly that make it essential that they stay home when sick.

"I have strong concerns regarding public health and the unfortunate consequences of people feeling compelled to work because they have to keep a roof over their heads or food on the table and then spreading illness to various population groups," Kissel said.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday in West Haven, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, will headline a rally in support of paid sick days. DeLauro has championed similar legislation on the federal level, where it has 115 co-sponsors. The U.S. Senate has held two hearings on the issue, while the U.S. House of Representatives has held one.

Kaelan Richards, a spokeswoman for DeLauro, said the Democratic congresswoman intends to reintroduce the bill.

Gun Registry, Cyber-Bullying

The judiciary committee endorsed a number of other proposals Tuesday. Among them:

A bill that would create the first-in-the-nation statewide gun offender registry. The database, modeled after the sex-offender registry, would give police a new tool to combat violence, said Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, the measure's chief proponent. The bill passed 23-13. Several cities, including New York City, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., have established such requirements for gun offenders, but no state has done so. An individual's record would be expunged after four years.

A bill that would change the state's anti-bullying statutes and specifically outlaw cyber-bullying. It would require schools to intervene more quickly when students are harassed or threatened. It also would add cyber-bullying to the list of prohibited activities and would require schools to appoint an anti-bullying specialist from their staffs, establish a school safety committee and develop an anti-bullying curriculum.

A bill that would make it illegal to falsify credentials as a behavioral therapist. The measure targets those who present themselves as experts in the treatment of autism.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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