House advances bill to give employees sick leave flexibility

Employees at certain large employers must be allowed to use sick leave to care for immediate family members under legislation approved by the state House on Wednesday.

The House voted 114-51 to approve Senate Bill 201 after a debate that split the majority Republican caucus.

The bill must go back to the Senate for review.

State Rep. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, said the bill would only apply to companies with more than 25 employees, that already offer sick leave and that are not employee-owned through stock offerings. An amendment approved in the House on Wednesday would sunset the bill in 2020 unless lawmakers vote to continue it.

Strickland said workers are already using sick time to care for their relatives.

“Now, they either have to lie to care of a sick loved one or quit their job to take care of them,” he said.

The bill became something of a political barometer for some Republicans. Were they really elected to pursue more regulations on business? asked state Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs.

"This is brought to you by the party of limited government," said state Rep. John Pezold R-Columbus. "Small businesses will take steps to avoid this threshold. They'll decline to offer sick leave, or they'll make sure they don't meet that 25 threshold."

Supporters, however, said the bill would help working families. Besides, state Rep. Meagan Hanson said, state law already grants this privilege to state lawmakers.

“Today we have the opportunity to do the right thing for that family and all families,” the Brookhaven Republican said. “I have every respect for working men and women who have built businesses from the ground up. You probably already allow this policy. This isn’t about you. It’s about the ones who don’t.

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