Maine governor signs paid leave bill into law

May 28, 2019 GMT

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine aims to grant guaranteed paid time off to 85% of workers in the state under a new law signed Tuesday.

Maine joins 10 states that have already passed paid sick leave, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But supporters say Maine’s bill is unique because it allows employees to use paid time for other emergencies.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill Tuesday.

“I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gotten sick or had a child who’s gotten sick,” Mills said. “That’s just life and such unexpected circumstances should not break the bank for working Maine people.”

The legislation instead requires employers with over 10 workers to offer paid leave that could be used for illness or emergencies.

“This new law provides Mainers with some breathing room should the unexpected happen,” said Democratic Sen. Rebecca Millett.

Past sick leave bills had failed in Maine, and supporters had warned the matter could go to voters if lawmakers didn’t act.

Business groups had criticized the original bill, which required employers with over five employees to allow them to use at least 40 hours of earned sick leave annually.

Mills offered an amendment to restrict the law to employers with over 10 workers, who must offer general paid leave that employees can use for illness.

“While no one achieved everything they wanted, this new law is the product of bipartisan work, and I am thankful for how we have come together since its introduction,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

Mills’ amendment restricts municipalities from passing paid leave rules, and exempts 40,000 of Maine’s 50,792 businesses.

The new law bars municipalities from passing their own paid leave rules — a restriction that’s drawn criticism from advocacy groups that have tried to pass a sick leave law in Portland.

The new law will take effect 90 days after lawmakers adjourn.