Austin Proposed Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is Not Weird

In Austin, Texas, whose slogan is “Keep Austin Weird,” the proposed paid sick leave ordinance its City Council will consider on February 15, 2018 did not heed that slogan’s injunction. It is not weird at all. In fact it has the classic PSL architecture of every other PSL law in the nation.

The January 19 draft ordinance would allow private sector employees who work at least 80 hours in a calendar year within the city to accrue PSL at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, to a maximum accrual of 64 hours annually. Unused sick time shall be carried over to the following year, subject to the 64 hour annual usage cap. An employee can use accrued time as it accrues, without any waiting period, for the employee’s own or a family member’s illness, injury, health condition or preventive care or for an absence related to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking involving the employee or a family member.

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As we have seen, a state’s status as a blue state increases the chances that a PSL will pass while those chances are decreased in a red state. Austin’s situation requires a bit of nuance.

In the 2016 presidential election, Texas was a red state: 53% of Texans voted for President Donald Trump while 43% voted for Secretary Hillary Clinton. However, Travis County, of which Austin is the seat, was deep blue, with 66% of votes cast for Secretary Clinton and 27% for President Trump.  Given that Travis County is a deep blue enclave in this red sea, I speculate, which is always dangerous, that the odds are better than even that the Austin PSL ordinance will pass.  The next obvious question is whether if it did pass, would Texas then consider a preemption bill to ban political subdivisions from enacting local PSL laws, effectively negating the Austin ordinance?  That requires a deeper look into my crystal ball than I am comfortable with right now. Stay tuned.