Conferees Reach Compromise on Minimum Wage Legislation

    House and Senate conferees discussing legislation to establish a $15-an-hour minimum wage in Maryland ironed out their differences in a single meeting Tuesday afternoon, the chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee told Maryland Matters.

    The two chambers have decided to compromise on the few issues that differentiated the House and Senate bills.

    The biggest sticking point was whether and when to extend the phase-in period for small businesses to provide their workers with the full $15-an-hour wage. The House had no provision in its bill for small businesses and envisioned small employers adhering to the same Jan. 1, 2025 start date as everyone else. The Senate wanted to give employers of less than 15 workers until Jan. 1, 2028 to fully implement the $15-an-hour wage.

    The compromise: Permitting small businesses to wait until July 1, 2026 to establish the full $15 wage.

    “With paid sick leave, we used the same concept,” Davis said, noting that businesses with fewer than 15 workers were given longer to comply with the law to provide employees with earned sick leave.

    The six conferees – three from each house – also split the difference on language regarding funding for developmental disability services tied to the increases in the minimum wage. And they decided to adopt Senate language on tipped employees, though they had already agreed on provisions that would continue to allow tipped workers, such as those working in bars and restaurants, to earn as little as $3.13 an hour.

    It may be a few days before the reconstituted bills make their way back to the House and Senate floor, but Davis said he did not anticipate needing any more conference committee meetings.

    Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) has sharply criticized the $15-an-hour legislation, suggesting that the state adopt a $12.10 minimum wage by 2022. But he has stopped short of saying he would veto the bill.

    The House and Senate passed their versions of the legislation by veto-proof majorities, and the adjustments made by the conference committee is highly unlikely to change that level of support.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.