Panel is Meeting in Secret or Not Meeting at All
Annapolis, Md. – Today, Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews filed an open meeting complaint with the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board against Governor Larry Hogan's “anti-worker” paid leave task force to understand why meetings haven’t been publicized or whether the panel is meeting at all.
“After vetoing legislation that would have given more than 700,000 Marylanders access to paid sick leave, the Hogan Administration’s anti-worker task force is ignoring workers while working with businesses to ‘kill’ the bill, ” said Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews. “This task force’s lack of transparency and failure to solicit input from workers makes it clear that this anti-worker task force is a sham, and it is a political tactic to dodge an important issue. On issue after issue, Governor Hogan continues to show Marylanders that he is not on their side.”
Hogan vetoed legislation to give more than 700,000 Maryland workers access to paid sick leave, then signed an executive order creating a task force headed by Maryland Labor Secretary Kelly Schultz and several members of his administration to "develop recommendations for policy, regulations, or legislation that would achieve an optimal balance of providing access to and enforcing paid leave without causing detrimental economy effects.”
Under Maryland law, public bodies like the task force are required to give “reasonable advance notice” of its meetings; make meeting agendas publicly available in advance of such meetings; hold meetings openly; and adopt minutes that are accessible to the general public. So far, Governor Hogan’s task force has not met or has been meeting in secret without giving Marylanders adequate account of its actions, depriving Marylanders of their right to play a role in policy making in clear violation of the Open Meetings Act.
“During the legislative process the governor’s staff was repeatedly invited to provide input on paid sick leave, but they never took up the offer to work with us,” said Senator Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton. “I worked for months with every stakeholder that wanted to be a part of this process to find common ground, which is why the bill was changed significantly as it went through the legislative process. To go any further, as the governor suggests, would only deny access to paid sick leave to workers who are already living paycheck-to-paycheck.”
"The Governor and his allies have sought to delay this important legislation for years,” said Delegate Luke Clippinger. “His anti-worker task force meets in secret, fails to talk to anyone who disagrees, and is ultimately irrelevant to the question the Legislature will face in January—do you support giving 700,000 Marylanders the opportunity to earn sick leave, or not? If it was relevant, then he would have had no problem announcing the meetings and requesting real public input.”
Not only has the task force failed to comply with the Open Meetings Act, it has taken actions that have likely discouraged workers from sharing their opinions. A survey created by the task force on the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s website asks workers to include the names of their employers without mentioning how the collected information will be used, and the only the any follow-up interviews are conducted by the Secretary of Labor at the specified place of employment. Any worker who would like to share their opinions must do so without any guarantee from the Hogan Administration that they will be protected against retaliation.
While the task force has failed to listen to Maryland workers, according to press reports, Governor Hogan’s aides told a room of business leaders to “tell their stories” at a conference where the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and the Maryland Business Coalition advised those business leaders on how to help “kill this onerous bill,” including providing them with template letters to the editor and advice on which legislators to call to sustain Governor Hogan’s veto.
Despite Governor Hogan’s efforts to block the legislation, support for paid sick leave legislation is still supported by nearly 75 percent of Marylanders while his approval ratings fall. The governor’s efforts to block the legislation received another blow this week when 87 Members of the House of Delegates announced that they will vote to override his veto, giving the House enough votes to pass a veto override.
The task force has until December 1, 2017—less than 6 weeks—to submit a report of its “findings.”