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POLITICS 03/11/2020 01:34PM EDT

Senate GOP Blocks Emergency Paid Sick Leave Bill From Moving Forward

The legislation put forth by Democrats would guarantee 14 days of paid leave for workers affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Democrats hoping to pass an emergency paid sick leave bill to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus were stymied by Senate Republicans on Wednesday.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) tried to speed the measure up for a vote on the Senate floor through a procedural maneuver, but an objection from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) prevented the bill from bypassing the Republican-controlled health committee.

Murray noted that many people who don’t have paid leave through their jobs will inevitably miss work due to being sick or quarantined in the coming weeks. She argued that guaranteed paid leave was important both for public health and the good of the broader economy.

“For many of our workers ― restaurant workers, truck drivers, service industry workers ― they may not have an option to take a day off without losing their pay or losing their job,” Murray said. “That’s not a choice we should be asking anyone to make in the United States in the 21st century.”

Alexander said that paid sick leave is a “good idea.” But if lawmakers want to require employers to provide it, then the federal government should have to foot the bill, he argued.

“Employees are struggling, our employers are struggling, and it’s not a cure for the coronavirus to put a big new expensive federal mandate on employers who are struggling in the middle of this matter,” Alexander said.

Although the bill is bottled up for now, Democrats could try to attach the measure to another legislative package aimed at dealing with the virus.

Democrats proposed the emergency legislation in both chambers last week. The bill sponsored by Murray in the Senate and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in the House would immediately guarantee workers 14 days of paid sick leave in the event of a public health emergency like the current one. Workers would separately accrue up to seven sick days over the course of a year under the bill.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people stay home from work if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Under the Democratic bill, workers could use the 14 emergency sick days if their workplace or their child’s school is closed, or if they or a family member ends up quarantined.

Many states already have sick leave mandates on the books, including California and Murray’s home state of Washington, both of which have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus. But unlike in most other developed countries, there is no federal law requiring employers to give workers paid time off when they’re sick.

The outbreak has brought unprecedented public attention to the lack of a mandate in the U.S. Seventy-three percent of private sector workers have paid sick leave, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the remaining 27% who don’t have it, many are concentrated in lower-wage service jobs like retail and fast food.

– Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

Some companies have moved to institute more generous policies amid the criticism stirred up by the coronavirus emergency. Darden Restaurants, which owns the Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse chains, recently announced that all its hourly employees would now start accruing sick leave. The company has previously opposed legislative mandates on sick days.

Democrats have been trying to pass sick leave measures for years and have succeeded in the House. But the GOP majority in the Senate has prevented such bills from coming up for a vote, arguing that small businesses cannot withstand the cost increases of sick leave.

Murray’s emergency bill was all but certain to die in the Senate, but the measure still afforded Democrats an opportunity to put Republicans on the record in opposing it. Polling shows that the idea of a sick leave mandate tends to be extremely popular, with even a strong majority of Republican voters supporting it.

This post has been updated with Alexander’s remarks.


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Hitting Restart

After a terrible weekend has ended, I start this week with a renewed appreciation of my life and how well things have gone for the most part. It seems that I take so much for granted until some radical event happens and it is only then that I look back and appreciate what I have. It has honestly been too long since I practiced reflection on this blog and it is time to do so once again.

Hal and I have been together for just over 20 years. Our relationship is such an integral part of my life that I often forget how valuable it really is. I don’t mean that we neglect each other, just that the relationship is so stable that we forget to recognize it often enough. Over 1/3 of my life has been spent with Hal, such a long time to have stability and happiness in my life. I need to take the time to appreciate it more often.

The Stooges are all doing well. We have always maintained The Stooges in various incarnations throughout the years. We have tried to provide the best loving home for each of the Stooges during their time with us. The Stooges who are no longer with us are U.K., Maxwell, and Spartacus. Now we love and care for Stevie Nicks, Hal The Cat, and Jax The Cat. Each has brought their own unique style of joy and happiness to our lives, and no one is more loved than the others. With luck, the current version of The Stooges will be with us for many years.

This last weekend was a disaster financially for me. $1000 that I didn’t want to spend had to be spent regardless to take care of issues with the Fiesta. I am still paying off debts, who isn’t? I keep hoping to see light at the end of the tunnel, but that vision is always interrupted by the sound of a locomotive whistle speeding towards me. I can only just keep going and doing the best I can. One of these days the debts will be paid off, or I will be so dead that it won’t matter.

Considering that I failed to take better care of myself when I was younger, I am doing OK physically. The ailments seem to keep piling up as the years go by, but I am happy with how my life has turned out. It is time to flush what happened over the weekend and hit the restart button for this week.

A Bad Weekend

     I never thought I would say this, but on Sunday night as I finish laundry and glance occasionally at the Super Bowl, I am so glad that this weekend is nearly over. I love weekends, except when they turn out like this one has. 

     It started yesterday morning with no indication that things woul deteriorate so rapidly. Hal and I went to get an oil change for the Fiesta. While we were waiting, a friend who lives near the garage took us to breakfast. We had a great meal and an awesome time catching up with each other. Our friend drove us back to the garage and I remembered that the annual safety inspection was also due for the Fiesta. 

     Again, good luck seemed to be following me. The garage could perform the inspection without much of a delay. Hal and I waited patiently until my name was called. When I got to the service desk, I found out that the Fiesta had passed inspection, just barely. The brake pads and rotors were almost gone, any worse condition would have failed the Fiesta. 

     I found out that replacing the brake pads and rotors was going to cost me just over $500. This was not something I expected. It had to be done, but the unexpected expense was painful. 

     Hal and I got home and spent the rest of the day staying home. Nothing else happened overnight and I felt that I was safe. That was a huge mistake. 

     Sunday found me feeling great after a good night of sleep. Hal wanted to make a trip to the store, so we got into the Fiesta. As soon as I pulled out of the parking space I knew something was dreadfully wrong. Getting out of the car and checking revealed the flat tire. Luckily I carry a portable electric air pump for emergencies. I inflated the tire and called a tire store about a mile away. By the time I got the a Fiesta to the tire shop, the tire was completely flat again. 

     I bought the Fiesta used 3 years ago. It is a 2011 model and I knew that the tires were not the highest quality. There had been several leaks and nail punctures that were repaired since I got the car. The decision was to get 4 new tires. Another $500 down the drain. 

    I am still trying to figure out how to get this $1000 expense paid off as quickly as possible so interest charges won’t hurt me even further. This weekend has been a complete disaster and I can’t wait for Monday.