Minimum wage legislation voted out of House committee

Last night, the House Economic Matters Committee voted 13-8 to move the O’Malley Administration’s Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014 out of committee with considerable amendments.

While House Bill 295 still incrementally increases the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over the next few years, the timing of the increases was altered and many of the more controversial provisions were stricken.
As amended, the implementation of the increases was pushed back six months. Instead of taking effect this July, the first increase will raise the minimum wage to $8.20 an hour on January 1, 2015. The minimum wage will then increase to $9.15 an hour on January 1, 2016 and to $10.10 an hour on January 1, 2017. The provision tying future increases to changes in the Consumer Price Index was taken out of the bill altogether.

The committee agreed to freeze the minimum wage for tipped employees at $3.63 per hour as opposed to increasing it to 70 percent of the new minimum wage. Additionally, an exemption in current law for small business with gross sales less than $250,000 was kept and an exemption for seasonal amusement parks, like Six Flags, was built into the legislation.

The bill still allows counties to set a minimum wage higher than the state’s wage but rejected an amendment that would have split the state into two tiers, allowing rural counties to pay a lower minimum wage. Last fall, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties voted to increase their minimum wage to $11.50 an hour for employees in those jurisdictions.

While the GBC believes that any changes to the minimum wage should be done at the federal level to ensure that our competitiveness with neighboring states is not affected, we are pleased that the House Economic Matters committee decided to remove the provisions related to tipped wages and automatic increases tied to the Consumer Price Index, and that the exemption for small businesses was left intact.

The full House is expected to take up the legislation on Wednesday. We look forward to continuing to track the bill as it moves through the House and will keep you informed of any future developments.

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