First Congress proposed a paid sick leave policy for all the nation’s businesses, but that initiative seems to have stalled behind some minor issues like health care reform and carbon transfers. Now Maine is getting into the act, and the proposal has state businesspeople up in arms, especially those who run small businesses.

The bill was introduced by State Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, a Democrat who also happens to be running for governor.

Mitchell seems to be playing off the H1N1 influenza scare in proposing her legislation.

"Spreading a disease by going to work because you can’t afford to stay home is not good for the employer, it’s not good for the public, and it’s not good, of course, for the employee," she says.

Business, large, medium and small, is crying foul.

"An outsider, no matter how well intentioned he or she may be, does not have the means or adequate knowledge required to make a valid decision about a company’s day-to-day operations, nor are they in a position to decide what benefits a company must offer," Rod Wiles says. "Suggesting that businesses can and should absorb additional labor costs at this time is ill-advised and irresponsible."

Wiles, of course, is a lobbyist for the Retail Lumber Dealers Association of Maine.

The bill is currently being considered by the Labor Committee, which may compromise by extending an exemption to businesses below a certain size, determined by number of employees.

If the Maine bill passes, it will be the first state paid sick leave measure on the books.