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Minimum Wage Bill Advances, With Changes

The House of Delegates moved forward the governor’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016. Over the two hours of debate on Wednesday, lawmakers proposed 15 amendments to the bill, but only one passed.

But the version of the bill the delegates debated and approved differs in major ways from what the governor proposed. The House Economic Matters Committee voted to strip two key provisions before passing the measure to the full chamber.

The bill no longer ties the wage rate to inflation so its value isn't eroded as the cost of living rises. That maintains the General Assembly's authority over future rate increases. Gone too is a raise for tipped workers. Lawmakers on the committee instead chose to freeze the current $3.63 pay rate.

The House bill also exempts amusements parks from paying employees the $10.10 per hour minimum. That roiled Republican governor hopeful Del. Ron George, who pitched an amendment to exclude publicly traded Six Flags from that exemption. George argued that the company’s huge profits should preclude it from getting help designed to help locally owned parks and recreation centers.

His proposal failed, as did 13 more. Most of the amendments were from Republicans, and most of them looked for other exclusions from the higher wage – for the Eastern Shore, for seasonal workers, for small businesses, and for teenagers.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Del. Heather Mizeur tried to get the raise to $11.37 an hour by 2023 and argued that her fellow lawmakers should re-instate the inflation indexing. That failed too.

The vote was the first time in eight years that Maryland lawmakers moved to raise the state’s minimum wage.

The House votes again on Friday, which will decide if the bill moves over to the Senate for approval.

Christopher Connelly is a political reporter for WYPR, covering the day-to-day movement and machinations in Annapolis. He comes to WYPR from NPR, where he was a Joan B. Kroc Fellow, produced for weekend All Things Considered and worked as a rundown editor for All Things Considered. Chris has a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. He’s reported for KALW (San Francisco), KUSP (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and KJZZ (Phoenix), and worked at StoryCorps in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s filed stories on a range of topics, from a shortage of dog blood in canine blood banks to heroin addicts in Tanzania. He got his start in public radio at WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, when he was a student at Antioch College.