Minimum wage legislation heads to Maryland Governor’s desk

SEIU and their Fight for $15 campaign victorious in their quest

After 71-days of wheeling and dealing during the 2019 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly, members of the state’s two most powerful unions, SEIU1199 and SEIU500 – along with members of their ‘Fight for 15’ coalition – can finally celebrate their legislation being passed by both chambers in Annapolis.

And by a veto-proof majority!

The bill, which became a part of the legislative agenda of democratic leaders earlier in the session, got through conference committee less than 48-hours after the crossover date that mandates that any bill passed by each chamber be sent over to the other for passage without having to go through the rules committee. The discrepancies between both chambers’ bills didn’t seem to be a big deal to either side, as members worked out a compromise bill that will now go to the desk of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, the second-term Republican who opposes the $15 increase in the state’s minimum wage.

Hogan himself offered up an alternative offer that would have raised the minimum wage from the current $10.10 an hour rate to $12 an hour in the next two years. However, advocates who have been working on this legislation for years, say that that was merely a smokescreen to distract the electorate once he vetoes the $15 minimum wage legislation.

The legislation they sought passed earlier today and will increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 for any employees that work for businesses with fifteen or more employees. Any businesses with less than fifteen employees won’t have to pay their staff $15 an hour until 2026, a two-year difference from the Senate version that passed last week, which sought to extend that date until 2028 for small business owners. The final bill also witnessed both chambers agree to increase future funding of health and human service organizations, who have argued that they would need additional state revenue in order to increase their workers’ salaries.

Eliminated from the original legislation was the indexing that was placed in the bill that would have automatically increased the minimum wage in future years due to cost of living increases. It also allows for the members of the state’s Board of Public Works – which include the Governor, Comptroller and State Treasurer – to temporarily suspend one year’s increase if it determines that the year-over-year seasonally adjusted total employment is negative.

The increase in the minimum wage would be set to begin on January 1, 2020, raising to $11.00 an hour; and will increase 75-cents a year through 2024, before raising the final dollar on January 1, 2025. However, if Governor Hogan vetoes the measure, the legislature would have to then override his veto with a 3/5 super-majority vote, which would need to see 85 state delegates and 29 state senators vote to override his decision – which according to today’s final vote, 93-41 in the House and 32-13 in the Senate, they will easily obtain if necessary.

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