House rejects bid to block pay raises

Democrats in the House of Delegates sidetracked a Republican attempt Tuesday to force a vote on a 16 percent pay raise for lawmakers – virtually assuring the pay hike will take effect without a vote.

The House voted 87-48 to defeat a procedural move by Del. Cathleen M. Vitale, an Anne Arundel County Republican, to bring her resolution blocking the raise to the floor. The motion required 94 votes to pass. Only a handful of Democratic delegates, including gubernatorial candidate Heather R. Mizeur, joined a united Republican caucus in supporting the move.

By sending Vitale's resolution of disapproval to the Rules Committee — which is under the control of House Speaker Michael E. Busch — the Democrats can prevent the measure from coming up for a vote.

The raise would be the first for Maryland's part-time legislators in 12 years. Four years ago, with the state in the depths of a recession, lawmakers voted to overrule the recommendations of the General Assembly Compensation Commission.

That compensation commission, set up in Maryland's Constitution to suggest salaries, has recommended that delegates' and senators' pay go from $43,500 to $50,330, with the pay of the House speaker and Senate president increasing from $56,500 to $65,371.

Recommendations of the pay commission take effect automatically unless both houses pass resolutions overruling them. Republicans argued that lawmakers should cast an up-or-down vote on the raises. Democrats said there was no good reason to bypass the committee system and noted that voters approved the constitutional amendment that set up the current process.

Mizeur said she supports a legislative pay raise and would be happy to vote for one.

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