OLYMPIA — The state Senate today approved 29-20 a bill to limit a recently implemented Seattle sick leave law.
Democratic Sens. Tracey Eide of Federal Way, Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, Brian Hatfield of Raymond, and Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, joined the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus to support the measure.
The bill will now go to the Democrat-run House, where it is unlikely to gain traction. House leaders are instead focused on expanding sick leave.
The Seattle law, which has been in effect only since September, requires companies to offer paid sick leave if they have at least five employees and do business in Seattle.
Senate Bill 5726 would make it illegal for local governments to require employers to offer paid sick leave unless the business is physically located within the local government’s jurisdiction or 85 percent of the hours worked for that employer are worked in the area.
Bill sponsor John Braun, R-Centralia, said the Seattle law places unnecessary hardships on businesses that aren’t even located in the Seattle.
“[This bill] is about giving our employers their best chance,” Braun said.
Minority Leader Ed Murray said he views the bill as a direct attack on Seattle and its decision-making authority. He urged other senators to think twice before passing legislation to limit the jurisdictions of local governments.
“This is a divisive discussion aimed at further dividing the state, and it’s not respectful,” said Murray, D-Seattle. “I don’t think this is a good way to bring legislators together.”
Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said the bill is a matter of public health and safety. She said she doesn’t want childcare workers, food servers and hotel employees to come to work sick because they might spread their illnesses to her or her family. Many employees don’t have a choice in the matter, she said, because they don’t have the financial freedom to take an unpaid sick day.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles agreed.
“I’m sure everybody here has gone into a restaurant and had the server sneeze,” said Kohl Welles, D-Seattle. “That’s happened to me before, and it really gives me the creeps.”