FF$15 bill damaged but still progressing in Assembly

Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters recounts the rocky path toward passage of the $15 minimum wage in the Senate, as many try to put their regional or ideological stamp on the already tattered bill. The House, passing it last week, disgracefully went along with the business-sodden Economic Matters Committee’s cuts – no indexing for inflation, no tipped workers, no agricultural workers, pitfalls for young workers and a two-year delay in reaching the full $15. The Senate made the rubble bounce by exempting businesses with 15 or fewer employees. The WaPo seems to think even this badly damaged bill is a “major victory for liberal Democrats,” overlooking the victories of neoliberal Democrats in gutting the bill. But as Gaines’s play-by-play shows, many senators still had to get into the act…



 

Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters recounts the rocky path toward passage of the $15 minimum wage in the Senate, as many try to put their regional or ideological stamp on the already tattered bill. The House, passing it last week, disgracefully went along with the business-sodden Economic Matters Committee’s cuts – no indexing for inflation, no tipped workers, no agricultural workers, pitfalls for young workers and a two-year delay in reaching the full $15. The Senate made the rubble bounce by exempting businesses with 15 or fewer employees. The WaPo seems to think even this badly damaged bill is a “major victory for liberal Democrats,” overlooking the victories of neoliberal Democrats in gutting the bill. But as Gaines’s play-by-play shows, many senators still had to get into the act…

/By Danielle Gaines<>Maryland Matters/ The Fight for Fifteen is likely headed to a conference committee.

The Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday evening to Senate Bill 280, its version of a $15-an-hour minimum wage bill, which would exempt businesses with 15 employees or less of having to fully implement it until 2028.

The Senate debated amendments to the bill for almost an hour, but ultimately moved forward a version of the legislation crafted by the Finance Committee.

Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Lower Shore) introduced an amendment that would slow the increase of the minimum wage overall and apply a 20 percent lower regional wage in parts of the state outside of Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City.

“This mandated wage increase is not a sustainable increase for businesses of any size,” Carozza said, especially once Maryland is compared to nearby states.

Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City) said the legislation’s slow climb to $15 by 2025 decreases its effectiveness and opposed the regional amendment. He cited high rates of poverty in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, two areas that would be affected by Carozza’s amendment.

“I ask you, beg you, not to forget about those folks that need you the most,” McCray said.

Carozza’s amendment failed 18-29.

Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll) introduced an amendment that would require the state to move forward with a wage increase contingent on similar legislation being passed in District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The amendment was a nod to Democrats’ efforts to tie Maryland’s movement on nonpartisan redistricting to other states.

Recycling a Republican criticism of that bill, Sen. Finance Chair Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore County) said the amendment, “in a very mischievous way,” would ensure no movement.

Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the multi-state redistricting efforts rose to speak against Ready’s amendment.

“Maryland is a leader in so many areas. Since when do we wait for five other states to pass legislation before enacting something that the vast majority of citizens want?” Zucker said.

The foil, of course, was that Zucker was reading a quote from Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) about that redistricting bill.

“So, I’m worried if we adopt this, the governor will definitely veto it,” Zucker said. “…Maryland’s a leader and we should make sure that other states follow.”

The amendment failed 14-31.

Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick) introduced an amendment that remove the exemption for small businesses. He said making employees in small companies wait until 2028 to reach $15 “is just way too long to me.”

His amendment failed on a voice vote.

Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D-Carroll and Howard) unsuccessfully attempted an amendment that would apply the small business exemption to businesses with 25 or fewer employers.

Sen. Andrew Serafini (R-Washington) proposed an amendment to increase the wage to $12 and expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. That amendment also failed on a voice vote.

The Senate also conformed the House Bill to the Senate version, which will likely send the measure to a conference committee to iron out differences, the main one being the delay for small businesses to fully implement the $15 wage.

McCray said he was confident Wednesday night that a compromise would be found between the two chambers and that the legislation would move to Hogan’s desk.

“I feel pretty confident we have the votes to override the veto, when and if it happens,” McCray said.

A final vote is expected this week.


A version of this article appeared March 14 in Maryland Matters.