Minimum wage legislation watered down but passed by House committee

$15 hourly wage won't be reached until 2025

Yesterday, members of the Economic Matters Committee in the Maryland House of Delegates voted to send the progressive legislation increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour to the House floor, a sign that the democratically backed bill would pass through the House chambers.

Problem is, the legislation is severely watered down, something that advocates said from the beginning was not acceptable as they sought the passage of a “clean bill”. HB166 was approved Monday night by a 17-7 vote to send the legislation to the full House for consideration. However, the legislation that was initially written to get to $15 an hour by 2023 will now have to wait to 2025 if the amendments made in this committee stands. Other changes include eliminating the proposed future index increaser, which would have automatically linked future increases in the minimum wage to the federal government’s CPI (Consumer Price Index) to ensure wages increase with inflation without the need for future legislation.

The bill in its current form would delay the first increase from later this year to January 1, 2020, which would increase the current $10.10 minimum wage to $11 an hour, thereby increasing 75-cents a year until 2025, instead of the proposed $1 a year until 2023. The committee also chose to enable legislators, the state’s Board of Public Works, to suspend one of those year’s proposed increases if they deem the economic forecast as being too strained for such an increase.

It would allow tipped workers to be paid their base wage of $3.63 an hour, plus tips, but would force employers to cover the difference if an employee’s tips and base wage didn’t add up to the proposed minimum wage. Proponents of the measure, including the House sponsor Delegate Diana Fennell opposed these amendments, but are still pushing to ensure passage of something during this year’s legislative session.

The Senate companion bill was heard before the Finance Committee last week, but that committee has yet to vote on the proposed legislation. The House will now take up the measure passed out of committee for second reader, where further amendments can be made to the bill from any one of the 141 state delegates. If any additional amendments are successful on second reader, the bill will then go to third reader, though the Senate bill will likely look vastly different from the House version; thereby leaving the bill up to a conference committee, made up of members from both chambers who will try to work out the differences and come to a proposed solution, an identical bill that can be passed by both chambers.

Stay tuned for further information regarding the passage of the bill and the #FightFor15

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