Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signs minimum wage increase, other bills into law


Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks with reporters in his office inside the Maryland State House in Annapolis on April 7, the final day of the 2014 legislative session. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed legislation Monday that will increase the state’s minimum wage for most workers to $10.10 by 2018, the last major legislative priority of his tenure.

O’Malley said the wage increase is needed to help parents who work one, two or sometimes three low-paying jobs but still struggle to provide for their families.

“It is not fair, it is not right, it is not just that people should play by the rules, work 16-hour days and still be raising their children in poverty,” O’Malley said at a ceremony Monday morning, during which he signed more than 200 bills into law.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez attended the ceremony and praised Maryland for “leading on this issue.” President Obama has asked state and local leaders to increase the minimum wage to at least $10.10, something that Congress has yet to do.

“When you put money in people’s pockets, people spend it,” Perez said. “When people spend it, businesses have to hire more people. When businesses hire more people, everybody benefits. That’s why the minimum wage works.”

The law will gradually increase the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by July 2018 — two years later than O’Malley originally proposed. Lawmakers rejected a provision that would have allowed the minimum wage to continue to rise above $10.10 based on inflation. Lawmakers also froze the base wage for workers who receive tips, including restaurant servers, at $3.63 per hour. Many Republicans voted against the legislation, saying that many business owners will struggle to absorb that added cost.

O’Malley also signed two bills that are expected to help colleges reduce high-risk drinking and help students who consume too much. One is a “Good Samaritan” law that will provide limited immunity to people who seek medical assistance for someone who has become sick after drinking or consuming illicit drugs. The other will ban the sale of grain alcohol, which is 190-proof or higher, starting July 1. A coalition of college presidents and public health advocates have been pushing for this ban for three years, saying that it causes students to quickly become dangerously intoxicated.

“You can drink a lot less of it, not know you are consuming it, and suddenly find yourself in a situation, even unconscious, without even knowing how you got there,” said Jonathan Gibralter, the president of Frostburg State University, who has made the reduction of high-risk drinking on his campus one of his highest priorities.

Among the other pieces of legislation that O’Malley signed:

●A bill that increases the number of syringes and needles distributed by an AIDS prevention program in Baltimore.

●A bill that requires most employers to give their workers six workweeks of unpaid parental leave and to maintain health insurance coverage during that time.

●A bill that requires drivers to change lanes if they see a tow truck stopped on the side of the road.

Jenna Johnson writes about Maryland politics, including the General Assembly, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley and the 2014 election.
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