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Law's Backers Await Response From No. 1 Retailer

Elizabeth Dugger unloads her cart after shopping at a Wal-Mart store yesterday in Bowie.
Elizabeth Dugger unloads her cart after shopping at a Wal-Mart store yesterday in Bowie. (By Joe Raedle -- Getty Images)

Regulations required to implement the law still must be drafted, but an initial payment would be required sometime next year for any company not meeting the threshold, said James D. Fielder Jr., secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Advocates of the legislation said it is their hope that Wal-Mart will continue improving their benefit plans and not be charged an assessment in future years.

"Our hope is they don't have to pay anything," DeMarco said.

With this week's votes, the fate of a planned regional distribution center in Somerset County, which would bring more than 800 jobs to one of the poorest counties in the state, hung in the balance. The company put plans for the center on hold last year after initial passage of the legislation that became known in Annapolis as "the Wal-Mart bill."

"We are pausing and evaluating the situation thoroughly at this point," Fogelman said yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus (R-Somerset) said yesterday that he had not heard from the company but feared they may put the center elsewhere.

"It's huge," Stoltzfus said of the potential jobs impact.

Wal-Mart picked the site over rival locations, including Delaware.

In interviews yesterday, supporters argued that the new law is not aimed at a single company. Middleton said he feared that other companies would have cut their employee benefits to compete with Wal-Mart without some check on the company.

"I hope what this does is stop the bleeding," Middleton said.

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