In a day otherwise dominated by debating how to rescue city schools, City Council passed bills Thursday mandating paid sick leave and amending the DROP pension program.
The prospect of the sick-leave bill's becoming law is unclear, as it was approved 9-8 - three votes fewer than needed to override an expected veto by Mayor Nutter.
The bill amending but preserving the Deferred Retirement Option Plan was passed by 14-3. It is not likely that Nutter will veto the bill, as rejecting it would leave him with the current costlier manifestation of DROP.
Sick leave. Council approved on final passage a bill to require businesses with five or more employees to provide paid sick days based on time with the company.
Under the proposal from Councilmen Darrell L. Clarke and William K. Greenlee, workers at companies with more than 10 employees would earn an hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked, up to seven paid days a year. Companies with more than four employees would be responsible for offering up to four sick days for employees.
Nutter is expected to veto it, an action that would require 12 Council votes to overturn. Nutter also could leave the bill unsigned, and with Council going on recess next week, it could not become law before September.
Opponents said that it would kill jobs and that the timing was bad in the continuing fragile economy. Advocates said sick time is a basic right and that it works in San Francisco and Washington.
"We think when the mayor looks at the bill on its merits, that he will sign it and make Philadelphia a much healthier city," said Marianne Bellesorte, senior director of policy for Pathways PA, an advocacy organization for women and families.
Voting for the bill were Jannie L. Blackwell, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Clarke, W. Wilson Goode Jr., Greenlee, Bill Green, Curtis Jones Jr., Donna Reed Miller, and Maria Quiñones Sánchez.
Against were Democrats Frank DiCicco, Anna C. Verna, James F. Kenney, Joan Krajewski, and Marian B. Tasco, and all three Republicans: Jack Kelly, Brian O'Neill, and Frank Rizzo.
DROP. It's astonishing that DROP could get second billing to anything, given the bitter debate over the perk that results in six-figure pension payouts for many workers, including elected officials, when they retire.
DROP has become a symbol of greed for many critics because it allows elected officials to receive those payouts and then run for reelection.
But the vote to preserve the much-debated pension program was a done deal when Council passed the bill out of committee last week.
Nutter has been especially vocal about eliminating DROP, which was supposed to encourage police officers and firefighters to stay on the job longer by allowing them to collect their paychecks and a pension over the final four years of their careers. The pension checks are paid out in a lump sum upon retirement.
Elected officials joined in without ever presenting a policy reason for including themselves, other than that Council members regard themselves as city employees deserving of the same benefits.
A study by Boston College that Nutter commissioned put the cost of the program at more than $22 million annually. A Council consultant estimated the cost at about $9 million a year.
The new bill would reduce the cost by bumping up the retirement age for non-uniformed employees, and setting a guaranteed 4.5 percent interest rate on accumulating DROP money.
Council's proposal would continue the program for a one-time cost of $15 million to $20 million. But for a pension fund that is only 47 percent funded, Nutter has argued, any added burden is too much.
Voting against the bill were Kenney, Blackwell, and DiCicco.
Of both DROP and the sick-leave bill, Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said: "While the administration has made known its position on each piece of legislation, with City Council's action today, the mayor will now take these bills under advisement."