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Allegheny County Paid Sick Time Proposal Awaits Further Review, With Vote At Least 2 Weeks Away

Jared Murphy
90.5 WESA
Democratic Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam led an unsuccessful effort to speed up a vote on paid sick time legislation Tuesday, Aug. 31. That idea won the support of just six Democrats, four votes short of the 10 needed.

It will be at least another two weeks before Allegheny County Council votes on whether to mandate paid sick leave at firms with 26 or more employees. Proponents of the policy failed to amass enough support to hold a vote on the measure Tuesday, so it now heads to a Republican-led committee for further review. The earliest the proposal could come up for a final vote is Sept. 14, when the full council next meets.

The legislation would guarantee up to five paid sick days a year for full-time workers at qualifying workplaces. Employees could use the paid time to care for themselves or a sick family member, if the bill becomes law.

Democrat Bethany Hallam led the push to speed up the vote, but eight of council’s 15 members blocked that effort. A two-thirds majority is required to circumvent the committee process. But although a previous version of the bill won that level of support in March, the bid to accelerate the vote Tuesday fell four votes short.

Along with Hallam, Democrats Liv Bennett, Tom Duerr, Paul Klein, Bob Palmosina, and Anita Prizio voted in favor of the idea. Democrats Pat Catena, Nick Futules, Bob Macey, John Palmiere, and Paul Zavarella were opposed, as were Republicans Tom Baker, Sam DeMarco, and Cindy Kirk. Democrat DeWitt Walton abstained.

In lieu of a vote Tuesday, Catena, council's president, referred the measure to the health and human services committee. Kirk chairs that panel, which spent nearly a year deliberating over a previous attempt to mandate paid sick leave countywide.

Kirk voted against that proposal, and Fitzgerald vetoed it in March. Fitzgerald said that, while he supports a sick leave mandate, under state law the county’s Board of Health must first approve any health regulations.

The board passed its own sick leave rules in July. They closely resemble the vetoed council bill. But unlike the earlier proposal, they cover unionized construction workers. (Independent contractors, state and federal workers, and seasonal employees still wouldn’t be covered under the board’s regulation.)

Also on Tuesday, Fitzgerald introduced a resolution asking council for permission to spend $132.3 million in federal coronavirus relief. The money comes from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

Fitzgerald proposed using one-quarter of the $132.3 million for emergency rental housing assistance. The rest would finance the county government’s response to the economic and public health impacts of the pandemic.

Council’s budget and finance committee will review Fitzgerald’s request. While the committee is expected to approve it, critics have faulted county administrators for not publicly gathering input on how to spend the $380 million it is slated to receive in total from the Rescue Plan.

An-Li Herring is a reporter for 90.5 WESA, with a focus on economic policy, local government, and the courts. She previously interned for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in Washington, DC, and the investigations team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Pittsburgh native, An-Li completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and earned her law degree from Stanford University. She can be reached at aherring@wesa.fm.
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