Harford County State Sen. Barry Glassman, who is running for Harford County Executive, is sponsoring legislation in this Maryland General Assembly session that will allow individual counties to set their own minimum wage rates, subject to enforcement by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
The so-called County Choice Minimum Wage Bill was announced at a joint press conference last week by Glassman and Washington County Del. Neil Parrott, sponsor of an identical House version. Both are Republicans.
Glassman's bill SB-293 is one of several that have been introduced, as the minimum wage is expected to be among the most contentious issues in this year's session. A county choice bill also has been introduced by Sen. Richard Colburn, a Republican from the Eastern Shore.
The county choice bills are likely to encounter stiff opposition from the governor's office and from within the Democrat controlled legislature.
Less than 24 hours before the joint Glassman-Parrott announcement about their bills, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced that he will push for raising the minimum wage in Maryland to $10.10 an hour over the next two years, with automatic increases after that to keep pace with inflation, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Glassman said Tuesday that Montgomery and Prince George's counties have already set minimum wages above $10.10 and that his legislation clarifies how individual county wages can be enforced by the state.
His legislation is an effort to head off a statewide increase in the minimum wage. He said he is looking for bi-partisan support from fellow legislators and county officials, but concedes he will have an uphill fight in the halls of the State House.
Glassman said Tuesday that Senate President Mike Miller "said he was open to the idea on the Senate floor a week ago;" however, the O'Malley administration's bills for a statewide increase have been introduced which Glassman said will make it difficult for a bill like his.
"The governor's minimum wage bill has garnered a lot of support among Democrats," he said via e-mail. "It is an election year and they can deliver to their interests and advocates a bill they do not really have to pay for in the budget, just pass it on to Maryland businesses."
"If they do decide to go with the county choice bill, the stark political realities are that they will choose a Democrat sponsored bill to amend; such is life as a Republican in Annapolis," he added.
Glassman also noted that with Prince George's and Montgomery counties already on their own and higher than what O'Malley is proposing, "that's a wrinkle the governor's folks are trying to figure out how to handle."
"This bill would allow them to increase their minimum wage rate and provide enforcement tools for them," he said, noting that economic circumstances vary from county to county and from region to region, and that a one size fits all minimum wage doesn't work and is unfair to business owners."
"[The legislation] brings a significant economic factor back into the hands of local government, back into the hands of the people," Glassman said. "Local governments know best the needs of the people and the impact different laws might have on their communities. It's important to allow local governments control in these areas."
The General Assembly voted in 2005 to increase the minium wage $1 above the federal level, after Congress had left the rate unchanged for a decade. The current $7.25 has been in effect since 2009.
Legislation introduced in 2013 to raise the wage died in a Senate committee.
Baltimore Sun Media Group's Timothy Wheeler contributed to this story.