Austin paid sick leave mandate in jeopardy following introduction of new bill

Following a larger trend in Texas politics, a state lawmaker introduced a bill Monday that would nullify Austin’s mandate requiring businesses to offer paid sick leave to employees.

The ordinance has been held up in state appeals court since August after a coalition of businesses challenged it. The ordinance was set to take effect Oct. 1.

HB 222, filed by Rep. Matt Krause, Republican of Fort Worth, would render any paid sick leave ordinance passed by any Texas city “void and unenforceable.”

“When the government steps in to issue mandates like this, it does more harm than good,” Krause said.

The ordinance would have required businesses with 15 or more employees to offer eight days of paid sick leave, and businesses with fewer than 15 employees to offer six days. When the ordinance was approved by the City Council in February of this year, it made Austin the first city in all of Texas to require paid sick leave of every employer.

As a full-time student and a full-time bartender, I pay my own tuition and it’s something that I would really need

— Jasmin Blue, Senior

Jasmin Blue, a senior here at St. Edward’s, expressed her support for the mandate and paid sick leave in general.

“As a full-time student and a full-time bartender, I pay my own tuition and it’s something that I would really need,” Blue said.

Restaurants here in Austin mainly opposed the ordinance and stood to be some of the businesses most affected by the ordinance, according to the Austin-American Statesman.

This is not the first time that Austin clashed with the state government over a local ordinance.

Back in June, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the city of Loredo’s ban on plastic bags violated state law, forcing the city to end that ban’s enforcement. Austin’s similar ban also became unenforceable under state law.

The injunction against the paid sick leave ordinance highlights the divide between state lawmakers and the city in which they do their work. Austin, a concretely progressive city, often clashes with the deeply conservative politics of the state for which it is the capital.