Gov. Martin O'Malley's chief legislative priority to raise the minimum wage cleared another hurdle Friday as the Senate granted initial approval after a marathon debate.
Lawmakers made 18 different attempts to redraft the proposal that incrementally raises pay for the state's lowest-earning workers from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2018.
Republicans tried to carve out more exemptions to the hike, while Democrats tried to undo some concessions that got the proposal this far. No attempts were successful, and the Senate could pass the measure as soon as Saturday.
Lawmakers have only until midnight Monday to approve legislation before the General Assembly adjourns for the year, leaving little time to resolve differences between the versions passed by the House and Senate.
The Senate created a "training wage" that allows employers to pay workers under 19 years old a lower rate for the first six months on the job. It also tied in the minimum wage increase to a hike in state pay for caregivers of the developmentally disabled, a plan that carries a $30 million price tag.
The House already passed a version of the minimum wage bill that increased it a little faster, reaching the $10.10 mark by 2017.