General Assembly draws County ire over minimum wage Featured

While the County Council is split on raising the minimum wage, it is unanimously opposed to a bill in the General Assembly that would prevent the County from raising the minimum wage.

House Bill 317 would prohibit local jurisdictions in Maryland from raising the minimum wage. While the council is split on raising the minimum wage in the County, it – along with the County Executive Ike Leggett – is opposed to the bill.

Berliner, who voted against the bill to raise the minimum wage in the County to $15 per hour, said he is against the state’s preempting the County.

“While we may differ internally as to the right path to 15 dollars an hour, we are unanimous in believing that it is our responsibility, not something the state should assume for itself,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-1). “This state has great diversity, and our situation is not the same as Garrett County, our situation is not the same as St. Mary’s County, and we are in the best position to address the needs of our people.”

Last month, the Council voted 5-4 to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020, but Leggett vetoed the bill, saying the Council should instead fund a study to see if raising the minimum wage is economically viable and also asking the Council to provide an exemption for small businesses.

Last month, Leggett wrote a letter to one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-25), urging him to reconsider.

“In essence, the bill rescinds long-standing authority held by local governments which allows local elected officials to enact laws that they believe are in the best interests of stakeholders within their respective counties and municipalities,” Leggett said. “This is an unacceptable intrusion into local authority.”

Along with Davis, the bill is sponsored by two other Democrats, Del. Sally Jameson (D-28) and Del. C.T. Wilson (D-28). Davis said the bill was to help create a consistent rule throughout the state to help businesses.

“For those who would essentially say that this is an overreach or that we’re infringing upon local authority, we all got a stake in everything that goes in this state – everything,” Davis said.

While the Council and the County executive are both opposed to the bill, some members of the Montgomery County delegation to Annapolis are undecided on how they will vote.

Del. Kumar Barve (D-17) said he supports raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, but is undecided on Davis’ bill. Sen. Nancy King (D-39) is against the bill, saying it would set a bad precedent.

“I think it would be a very bad precedent to say that local counties can’t make local decisions like that,” King said.

A hearing is scheduled in the House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee for Feb. 28.



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