By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf
The Senate voted 34-13 on Saturday to gradually increase the minimum wage to $10.10 over the next four years. The measure, HB295, now returns to the House of Delegates for action on substantial changes made by the Senate Finance Committee on the exemptions.
Of the more than 20 amendments introduced by Senate members during debate Friday and Saturday, only one was accepted, which would set the pay for employees working at amusement parks at 85% of the minimum wage.
Amusement parks were initially immune to the proposed minimum wage laws in the bill. Parks could have paid their employees the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
Legislators came to call this the “Six Flags” provision, because it primarily benefits the popular theme park located in Prince George’s County.
Sen. Bryan Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican, said he felt excluding one business solely based on the company’s wishes was wrong.
Simonaire developed an array of amendments he snarkily dubbed after various chain corporations. He said his goal was not to have them exempted from the new minimum wage, but to send a message.
His “Golden Arches” amendment was named for the iconic McDonald’s symbol, “Red Hair Girl” amendment for Wendy’s, and “Bullseye” for Target. Simonaire only introduced two on the Senate floor to convey his point.
“There was enough political will to get them exempted, there’s no logical reason other than protecting one company,” Simionaire said.
Senate President Mike Miller said the stunt was “in poor taste.”
Amendment to aid smaller restaurants, taverns
An amendment from Minority Whip Sen. Joseph Getty, would have exempted restaurants and taverns whose annual gross revenue did not exceed $600,000. It failed by a narrow 23-24 vote,
The bill as amended in the Finance Committee now exempts restaurants whose gross income is $400,000 or lower. The House version set the limit at $250,000.
It also includes provisions that sets a six-month training wage for employees 20 years old or younger, also at 85% of the minimum wage.
Getty said he felt his amendment addressed universal concerns regarding “mom and pop” restaurants surviving under the new minimum wage laws.
Miller also said after the session ended he had hoped for more support for these local entities.
The minimum wage hike will begin with an increase to $8 Jan. 1, 2015, followed by $8.25 July 1, 2015; $8.75 July 1, 2016; $9.25 July 1 2017 and $10.10 July 1 2018.