Bill Requiring Paid Sick Days Passes A Legislative Committee

By Amanda Falcone, Hartford Courant

HARTFORD — A bill that would require businesses with more than 50 employees to give workers paid sick days made it through the legislature's labor and public employees committee Tuesday, 6-4.

Proponents say that offering paid sick time is good for businesses because it prevents the spread of disease and helps productivity.

Opponents, such as Rep. Selim Noujaim, R-Waterbury, say the bill would hurt businesses during tough economic times. Voting with Noujaim against the bill were Rep. William Aman, R-South Windsor; Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London; and Sen. Anthony Guglielmo, R-Stafford.

"This bill right now is not the right bill to be introduced," Noujaim said. Employers and employees need help, not more mandates, he said.

Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, a staunch advocate of the bill, said that lawmakers have good health insurance and get paid sick days, so it might be hard for some to imagine not being able to stay home when they are ill. Some people, she said, must go to work when they are sick just to pay the bills.

Prague voted in favor of the bill, as did Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville; Rep. Tim O'Brien, D-New Britain; Rep. Louis Esposito Jr., D-West Haven; Sen. Edwin Gomes, D-Bridgeport; and Rep. Barbara Lambert, D-Milford.

Connecticut Working Families, a union-backed political party, is pushing hard for the passage of the bill, while the Connecticut Business and Industry Association wants to see it defeated.

Paid sick leave is not a new issue for lawmakers. In 2008, the Senate passed a similar bill but the House did not take it up. In 2009, the House passed the bill but the Senate did not vote on it. This year's bill will probably be voted on by the judiciary and appropriations committees before it is ready to be debated by either chamber.