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Minimum wage bill likely to clear Md. House on Friday

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel). (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The Maryland House of Delegates appears poised to pass a bill Friday, raising the state’s minimum wage after rejecting more than a dozen attempts Wednesday to amend the legislation sponsored by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

The bill, a priority for Democrats in this election year, would gradually raise Maryland’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by January 2017, six months later than O’Malley had originally sought.

Democrats argue the economy would get a boost by increasing the disposable income of low-wage workers, while Republicans warn that employers ultimately will shed jobs to make up for the higher labor costs they would be forced to incur.

During preliminary floor debate Wednesday, the Democratic majority turned back attempts to lower the minimum to $8.25, to apply the new wage requirement only to new hires and to expand the number of workers who are exempt. One amendment, for example, sought to exempt seasonal workers in Ocean City.

While most amendments were sponsored by Republicans, Democratic Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery) also tried unsuccessfully to alter the bill.

Mizeur, a Democratic candidate for governor, sought to extend scheduled increases in the state’s minimum wage for several more years, so that it would reach $11.37 per hour by 2023.

As proposed by O’Malley, the state minimum wage would have continued past $10.10, with increases based on inflation. A House committee deleted that provision earlier in the week, with members saying they didn’t want to bind their successors in the legislature.

Another committee amendment — which exempts Six Flags and other amusement parks from paying the higher rates — was criticized during Wednesday’s debate but remained in the bill.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) told his colleagues to expect a final vote on the House version of the legislation Friday.

The Senate is expected to make several changes when it takes up the bill in coming weeks.

Matthew Henson, campaign director for Maryland Working Families, a group pushing the bill, said that Wednesday’s action in the House “shows that we have the momentum needed to move this bill through the House and the Senate and that nearly 500,000 workers in Maryland are closer to getting a raise.”

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



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