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District 38 Sen. Jim Mathias and Del. Mary Beth Carozza speak to voters during a campaign forum last Wednesday at the American Legion on 24th Street in Ocean City.

(Nov. 2, 2018) District 38 Sen. Jim Mathias and opponent Del. Mary Beth Carozza were apparently unaware the candidate forum last Wednesday in Ocean City was not a debate as they tackled the issue of a paid sick leave bill.

“Very simply, I feel like I would appreciate a rebuttal for a moment,” Mathias said. 

This issue came up during the question-and-answer portion of a forum where several local candidates were present.

The paid sick leave bill, which was passed over the veto of Gov. Larry Hogan, gives one hour of leave per 30 hours an employee works and applies to many seasonal employees, much to the concern of tourism operations in Ocean City. Originally, the measure involved all employees who worked just a portion of the summer, but Mathias succeeded in extending the length of time an employee must work to qualify for the benefit.

Mathias, who voted for the bill and, in the process angered numerous local employers, said he knew the paid sick leave bill would pass, and he tried to start a conversation with area businesses in the hopes of reaching an effective compromise. 

“We didn’t achieve all of it, and I’ll be polite here tonight, but in my committee of jurisdiction, we brought it down and provided the benefit,” Mathias said.

Carozza said the business community in Ocean City identified a priority to protect their bottom line, and added her own legislative efforts to support the exemption.

“Yes, we knew this paid sick leave bill was coming, so what did our locals ask for? They said we need a 120 [day] seasonal exemption so this doesn’t crush us,” she said.

Carozza said she backed Gov. Hogan’s legislative efforts to reach a compromise on paid sick leave for businesses.

“However, since we are moving forward with … a mandated paid sick leave policy, then at least make sure it’s common sense,” Carozza said. “Gov. Hogan’s proposal was good for both the job creators and the employees, so that’s the common sense approach that I support.”

Carozza said she stood with Hogan’s initiative, and added the current bill could have “disastrous effect on our job creators right here in Ocean City and on the shore.” She said she took issue with her opponent’s differing approach.

“That is a clear contrast between the two of us,” she said. 

After Carozza finished her thought, the moderator allowed Mathias one minute to respond. 

He took aim at his opponent’s approach, and stressed the need for compromise and bipartisanship when working to find a solution to benefit constituents. 

“My colleague is right, for three years she put in a bill, or an amendment, and guess what folks, it failed. Whoops,” he said. “And when we go forward, unless you learn how to work across party lines, that’s what’s going to continue to happen.”

He said he defended his reasoning for supporting the bill, which came from the confidence of his constituents. 

“So with all due respect, by the trust that I’ve determined and worked with, earned from these folks here in the house, I earned that trust,” he said.

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