A bill that would prevent local governments from regulating how private companies dole out benefits - including paid sick leave - to employees was passed by members of the Senate State Affairs Committee on Thursday.
The measure, which advanced on a 5-1 vote from the nine-member panel, carries support from Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and it can now be taken up by the full Senate. Advocates for
Senate Bill 15
have argued that the state, not cities and counties, should oversee private employment regulations and that businesses should be able to decide on their own what is best for their employees.
"Senate Bill 15 provides consistency across the state to help businesses continue to grow and to keep patchwork laws that can change in a matter of miles from being put into place," the bill's chief sponsor Rep. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) said.
On Thursday, much of the committee debate centered around the most recent amendment to the bill, which removed language that specified the bill wouldn't affect laws passed to protect people from employment discrimination. Creighton informed the committee that
the amendment was intended to clarify some confusion around the bill. Advocates for minority groups expressed concern over the amendment, arguing that the new version could have discriminatory ripple effects for minority groups.
Supporters of the bill primarily see it as a necessary measure to protect businesses across the state, while many in opposition view the issue through a public health lens. The sides of the debate have been staked out since last year when an ordinance in Austin was passed that required private employers in city limits to offer paid time off for sick employees. That measure is currently held up in a court challenge, while a similar ordinance in San Antonio is set to take effect in August.