The Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor killed a House bill on Wednesday that would have required employers to provide paid quarantine leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Bill 5116, sponsored by Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William), was passed by indefinitely by a vote of 14-Y 1-N.
“Killing a paid quarantine bill in the middle of a pandemic is a threat to public health and a slap in the face to hardworking Virginians across the Commonwealth,” Guzman said in a statement hours after the legislation was defeated.
The bill stipulated that employers would be required to give all employees paid quarantine leave, immediately available to use, equal to the number of hours that employee works on average over a two-week period.
Employees would be granted the time off for situations such as their own case of COVID-19, to care for a family member with coronavirus, and if the employee or a family member’s presence in the community puts others at risk of contracting COVID, which is determined by a health care provider.
Also, only businesses with 25 employees or more would be applicable, according to Guzman.
Guzman’s bill was the last legislation considered by the committee during its Wednesday morning meeting.
After Guzman had outlined the key points of the bill to the committee, House Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) spoke very briefly against the bill before offering a motion to pass by indefinitely.
“I think in the current circumstances this bill is insensitive and a lack of perspective to the fiscal stress that Virginia businesses are currently experiencing during this pandemic situation, and we have no business placing additional stress on our businesses during this period of time,” Norment said.
Norment was not alone in his concerns on the financial impact the bill would put on businesses.
“This has been an incredibly challenging year for citizens, for families and for businesses, and if we are going to get Virginians back to work, we cannot impose devastating burdens on the businesses who are going to be employing them,” Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) said in an interview with The Virginia Star.
Obenshain continued: “This was a clearly well-intentioned bill intended to help families, but the [fiscal] burden that is placed on businesses is, quite frankly, made apparent by virtue of the fact that the patron exempted the state government from its application.”
Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) was the only member to vote against the motion to defeat the bill.
The Commerce and Labor Committee also killed a similar Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), last month that called for employees to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The bill was passed by indefinitely by a vote of 12-Y 3-N.
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Delegate Elizabeth Guzman” by Delegate Elizabeth Guzman. Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Martin Kraft. CC BY-SA 3.0.