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Committee sends O’Malley’s minimum wage bill to floor of Maryland Senate

A Maryland senator carries documents on the Senate chamber floor. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

A bill to gradually raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour won approval Thursday from a second Senate committee, clearing the way for a vote in the full chamber before lawmakers adjourn on Monday.

The Senate Budget and Tax Committee voted 9 to 3 in favor of the bill, which is Gov. Martin O’Malley’s top priority in his final legislative session and has already passed in the House of Delegates.

But several senators said they were not happy with changes made to the bill by the House and another Senate panel. Under the amended bill, the state’s minimum wage will not reach $10.10 until July 2018, two years later than O’Malley (D) had proposed, in order to give businesses more time to adjust. And the amended bill treats tipped workers, such as restaurant servers, less generously than O’Malley had proposed.

“I wanted something more, but this is a step in the right direction,” said Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Baltimore), vice chairman of the budget committee, in explaining his vote for the bill.

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) said he thinks the state is actually moving “in the wrong direction” on how it treats tipped workers.

Under current law, those workers are guaranteed a base bay of 50 percent of the statewide minimum wage. O’Malley proposed raising that percentage to 70 percent.

Instead, the House voted to freeze the base pay at the current figure of $3.63 an hour, meaning it will remain unchanged as the statewide minimum rises.

O’Malley’s approach was “far more humane,” Madaleno told his colleagues.

Others on the panel argued the bill goes too far. Sen. Richard F. Colburn (R-Dorchester) pressed a lobbyist for O’Malley on Thursday about whether businesses on the Eastern Shore could absorb the additional cost to their payrolls.

“How about the economy of the Eastern Shore?” Colburn asked. “Does the governor have any concerns about that at all?”

The same bill won approval of the Senate Finance Committee on a 7-to-4 vote.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.



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