Pugh Vetoes $15 Minimum Wage Bill

Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoed legislation Friday that would have raised the minimum wage in Baltimore to $15 by 2022, leaving the measure’s future in question.

The Baltimore City Council — which next meets on April 3 — would need 12 of its 15 members to vote to overturn the veto. On Friday, the 12-member coalition that originally backed the higher wage began to disband.

From The Baltimore Sun,

Councilman Edward Reisinger of South Baltimore said although he voted to pass the bill, he would not support a veto override. Over the next seven years, the Pugh administration estimated the bill would cost the city $116 million, including the expense of paying city workers a higher minimum wage.

Reisinger said the cost is especially concerning given the city’s outstanding fiscal challenges: a $20 million deficit, a $130 million schools budget shortfall and new spending obligations associated with the U.S. Department of Justice’s police consent decree.

“The mayor has some very persuasive arguments,” Reisinger said. “Baltimore City doesn’t have a money tree.”

Pugh also was concerned that requiring employers in the city to pay a higher minimum wage could send them fleeing to surrounding jurisdictions. That would worsen unemployment in the city and make it harder for low-skilled workers and ex-offenders to get jobs, she said.

She emphasized that Baltimore’s minimum wage is increasing along side the rate statewide. The rate in Maryland will rise to $9.25 on July 1 and $10.10 a year later.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the city that we follow the state,” Pugh said.

The City Council voted 11-3 to pass the minimum wage bill Monday. Councilman Brandon Scott also supported the measure but didn’t cast a vote because he was traveling overseas.

The pro-business Greater Baltimore Committee’s president, Don Fry, praised Pugh’s decision. The measure “threatened jobs, made Baltimore an island surrounded by counties with lower business costs and hit the city budget with millions of dollars in higher labor costs it simply cannot afford.”

“The decision was no doubt a difficult one for the mayor,” Fry said in a statement. “But this shows real leadership as she stayed true to the priority that Baltimore must remain competitive for growth and jobs.”

Advocates pushing for the higher wage decried Pugh’s action as a broken promise.

“We are deeply upset that Mayor Pugh has broken her campaign pledge by vetoing this legislation, which promises to give tens of thousands of workers higher wages and the opportunity to lead self-sufficient lives,” said Ricarra Jones, chairwoman of the Fight for $15 Baltimore Coalition, in a statement.

“As a state senator, Mayor Pugh was a strong supporter of a livable minimum wage and explicitly promised to sign the Baltimore wage bill as mayor. Today, she has made clear that promises are made to be broken. The voters will remember her turn-around.”

Jones noted that during last year’s campaign, Pugh said she would support a $15 minimum wage bill as mayor on a union questionnaire.

“Yes, I would. I am aware of the current initiative to raise the minimum wage in the City Council to $15 per hour and when it reaches my desk I will sign it,” Pugh wrote.

Asked Friday about her response to the questionnaire, Pugh said she has been faced with significant unanticipated expenses since taking office in December, including the schools budget deficit.

“I don’t think they make you swear on the Bible,” Pugh said. “They ask you if you would support it, and I do support it. But you ask me as a chief executive officer of this city what I would do as it relates to the conditions of the city currently, and where we are economically, I have a right and responsibility to respond on behalf of all of the citizens of this city.”

Pugh noted that legislation to increase the minimum wage statewide is before the General Assembly.

“While it may not take place this year or next year, I will follow the lead of the state,” she said.

Read the full article for more information.

Register to Attend CEIWC’s 2017 Free Workers’ Comp Seminars

Register to attend one of Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company’s Workers’ Compensation Seminars. Specialists in safety services, premium audit, claims management along with legal professionals will provide a valuable half-day best practices overview.

Upcoming Seminar Dates:

  • Thursday, April 20 at the Pikesville Double Tree Hotel: Register here
  • Thursday, May 4 at the Easton Tidewater Inn: Register here
  • Thursday, October 5 at the Bowie Comfort Inn Hotel: Register here
  • Thursday, October 12 at the Frederick Holiday Inn and Conference Center: Register here

Registration will begin at 8:30 am and the seminar will go from 9:00 am until 1 pm. Admission is free but online reservations are required. Executive continental breakfast and refreshments will be provided.

Watch the YouTube video below to see why you should attend a policyholders seminar.

Key Presenters:

  • Elizabeth Torphy-Donzella, Esq., Shawe Rosenthal, LLP
  • Dr. Stephen Fisher, Director of Medical Services, Chesapeake Employers

Topics of the seminars’ informative presentations:

  • Employment Law – Best Practices to Avoid Wage and Hour Claims
  • Top 3 Most Common and Costly Injuries and Steps to Prevent Them
  • Understanding the Premium Audit Process
  • Chesapeake Employers’ Claims & Medical Health Services Team Approach for Better Claims Outcomes & an Improved E-Mod.
  • Chesapeake Employers’ Legal Defense Services Overview
  • Mock Workers’ Compensation Hearing with a Maryland Workers’ Comp. Commissioner

For more information please contact Carolyn Gutermuth at 410-494-2170. CEIWC is a MACo Gold Corporate Partner.

Community College Collective Bargaining Bill Remains in Committee

Neither the Senate Finance Committee nor the House Appropriations Committee has taken action on a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all collective bargaining bill that would affect all Maryland community colleges. HB 871 / SB 652 failed to move prior to yesterday’s “crossover” deadline, and bills passed out from now on go to the Rules Committee of the second chamber, a procedural hurdle impeding their chances of final passage.

Counties oppose the one-size-fits-all approach of HB 871 / SB 652, which limits local decision-making. The move to collective bargaining outlined in this bill could create potentially unsustainable costs for counties, who provide substantial funding for community colleges throughout Maryland – especially since the legislation does not envision any added State support.

From the MACo testimony,

Despite counties’ role in supporting community colleges, this legislation would not provide any opportunity for county governments to participate in collective bargaining negotiations. The combination of these effects – State-imposed system and costs, no county participation in bargaining, and no additional State funding – is simply not affordable as a statewide county mandate and could present substantial budget difficulties.

MACo opposed identical legislation in past sessions of the General Assembly. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.

For more on MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session, visit our Legislative Tracking Database.

Local Collective Bargaining Mandate Misses “Crossover” Deadline

A bill that would require all counties to extend collective bargaining rights to all of their employees – except for supervisory, managerial, or confidential employees, or elected or appointed officials, has not moved out of the House Appropriations Committee. HB 1370 failed to move prior to yesterday’s “crossover” deadline, and bills passed out from now on go to the Rules Committee of the second chamber, a procedural hurdle impeding their chances of final passage.

MACo opposed the bill, as it mandates a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all design that would expand collective bargaining rights in a third of Maryland’s counties.

From the MACo testimony,

Maryland county governments vary in many ways. They come in different forms of government, including charter, commission, and code home rule. They are different sizes, ranging from less than two hundred employees to more than ten thousand. And, they have different levels of collective bargaining rights. Some authorize collective bargaining for all the employees described in HB 1370, some have it for public safety employees, and others do not currently have collective bargaining agreements.

Requiring even Maryland’s smallest county governments and any municipal governments in Maryland that have more than 20 employees to authorize collective bargaining to almost all their employees will create a new administrative burden, and could also create additional personnel costs. The low threshold and broad application of HB 1370 puts pressure on some of the state’s smallest jurisdictions, which may be least able to accommodate additional administration and costs.

Useful Links

2016 Bill: HB 736

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Local Preemption Bill Dies in Committee

A bill that would prohibit counties and municipalities from increasing wages and benefits above state levels has died in the House Economic Matters Committee.

MACo opposed the one-size-fits-all approach of HB 317, which limits local decision-making. The preemption of local authority outlined in this bill would significantly undermine a local government’s ability to implement policies that reflect the diversity of local economies.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo, Counties Defend Autonomy On Labor Issues

For more on MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session, visit our Legislative Tracking Database.

Sick Leave Legislation Heading to Conference Committee

Both the House and Senate have passed sick and safe leave legislation with veto proof majorities. The bills would require Maryland employers to provide paid sick and safe leave for many of their employees. However, since SB 230 and HB 1 are not identical, the differences are likely to be worked out in a conference committee in the coming days.

The bill would also require county governments to provide sick leave to all employees. While county governments generally provide generous benefits, at a much higher rate than the legislation would require, MACo opposed the legislation, raising concerns about the bill’s potential effects on provision of emergency and essential services and with the bill’s broad requirements for providing leave to part-time, seasonal, and contractual employees in the same manner as full-time employees.

Useful Links

MACo testimony on SB 230

For more on MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session, visit our Legislative Tracking Database.

President Trump’s Budget Proposal Carries Big MD Effects

President Trump’s proposed federal budget has triggered a wide range of reactions, including some local concerns about effects on the Maryland workforce, environment, and numerous other areas. While federal actions are far from certain, this debate does carry over into the state political arena in several ways.

A Baltimore Sun article covers the story, with significant focus on federal funds for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts, but touches on the wider picture as well:

In Maryland, a state where the economy is closely tied to federal spending, the $1.15 trillion budget could put thousands of civilian government employees out of work but also boost defense activity in the state. Urban development and road projects in Baltimore could be put on hold while additional money may be set aside for addiction treatment.

The proposal, which faces opposition in Congress, underscores the administration’s desire to limit the federal government’s reach into housing, the environment and safety-net programs, while vastly increasing investments in the military and homeland security — all of which reflect promises Trump made during his campaign.

The federal budget process is dramatically different than that in Maryland State government. While the state and many larger counties use what is often referenced as an “Executive Budget” system, where the General Assembly may cut but not add funding, the federal government’s budget process is more legislatively-driven. The President’s proposals represent the Administration’s priorities, but are not materially binding on the Congress. Debate on the budget plan, and the multiple appropriations bills that represent the federal budget, will extend for months.

Wide coverage of multiple news sources discussing the Maryland and political effects of the proposed budget can be found on the Maryland Reporter site, which offers a daily harvest of Maryland news and political coverage.

Senate Passes Sick Leave Bill With Veto-Proof Majority

The Senate has passed SB 230, “Labor and Employment – Maryland Healthy Working Families Act” with a veto-proof majority. The vote was 29-18. The bill would require Maryland employers to provide paid sick and safe leave for many of their employees.

The bill has significant differences from the House version and needs to be reconciled before it can be sent to Governor Hogan, who has promised to veto the bill. Most notably, the Senate version provides for 5 days of paid sick and safe leave, the House version provides for 7 days.

The bill would also require county governments to provide sick leave to all employees. While county governments generally provide generous benefits, at a much higher rate than the legislation would require, MACo opposed the legislation, raising concerns about the bill’s potential effects on provision of emergency and essential services and with the bill’s broad requirements for providing leave to part-time, seasonal, and contractual employees in the same manner as full-time employees.

Useful Links

MACo testimony on SB 230

For more on MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session, visit our Legislative Tracking Database.

Proposed $15 Minimum Wage Would Have Costly Impact on County Budgets

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, submitted written testimony opposing the $15 minimum wage by 2023 (SB 962). Counties are concerned this legislation will have significant fiscal and operational impacts on local governments.

MACo’s testimony states,

Counties employ thousands of Maryland residents, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, and grant-funded employees. Full-time and grant-funded employees are generally paid on a salary basis. However, part-time and seasonal employees may be paid on an hourly basis. According to the bill’s fiscal note, raising the minimum wage in such a drastic fashion will cost local governments millions of dollars per year.

As a rule, MACo resists state policies that result in costly or burdensome local implementation. SB 962 would place a significant fiscal burden on county governments. Under state law, counties have no choice but to fund these costs – competing for limited local funds against education, public safety, roadway maintenance, and other essential public services.

Many part-time and seasonal employees work in community services, such as after-school activities, summer camps, and community services for vulnerable populations. Accommodating this legislation could result in significant cuts to those programs.

SB 962 was heard by the Senate Finance Committee on March 15, 2017. The cross-file, HB 1416, was heard by the House Economic Matters Committee on March 7, 2017. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 Legislative Session here.

Both Chambers Pass Bill to Close Gap in Teachers Pensions

A bill which addresses the shortfall in funding required to meet the portion of Maryland state teacher pension costs that exceed costs anticipated during the 2012 “pension shift” is on the move in the General Assembly. House Bill 1109 / Senate Bill 1001, “Teachers’ Retirement and Pension Systems – County Boards of Education Payments,” passed second reader in both the House and Senate, with amendments.

The actual normal costs of teacher pensions in fiscal year 2017 are approximately $19.7 million more than the amount that local school boards were estimated to provide in legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2012.

The additional funding required in fiscal year 2017 is mainly attributable to changes outside of the control of local school boards. At the same time, absorbing this additional cost in fiscal year 2017 could put pressure on school board budgets, and county governments who provide much of their funding.

The amendments allow the state to pay the difference in either FY 2018 or FY 2019.

MACo joined the Maryland Association of Boards of Education in supporting the bill.

Useful Links

MACo testimony on HB 1109 / SB 1001

For more on 2017 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database