Business in the state Senate remained at a standstill yesterday as a coalition of conservative senators held the floor nonstop to filibuster a labor measure sponsored by Gov. Harry Hughes.
The group of mostly rural senators began their action against the bill Saturday afternoon but took a break for Easter, resuming the filibuster before lunch Monday.
The coalition agreed to a recess at 11:15 last night after reaching a tentative agreement to dilute Hughes' prevailing wage bill that had caused them so much ire.
The law, in effect for about a decade, requires that any contractor, even a nonunion one, on a project funded 100 percent by state money must pay a wage typical of the geographical area in which the project is being built. Generally this means a contractor must pay union wages. Hughes's proposal would extend that law to cover any project that gets 50 percent of its funding from the state.
The tentative agreement reached between opponents and proponents of the bill, according to those familiar with it, would leave the 50 percent requirement in effect for every state construction project except schools. The amount of state funding for school projects required for the prevailing wage to apply would increase to 75 percent.
In addition, the agreement would require that when the state sets the prevailing wage for a project it would determine the wage by looking at geographical areas within the state similar to the one in which a project is being built. For instance, for a project in rural St. Mary's County, the state would not be able to apply wage scales from Washington's suburbs, as is now the case, and a project in Cecil County in northeast Maryland could no longer be influenced by wages paid in Philadelphia.
The conservative coalition of a dozen senators maintains that the original bill, strongly supported by labor unions, would increase state construction costs by 10 percent or more.