This week, two counties in Maryland have approved legislation that would raise the minimum wage. The scene in Prince George's County this morning was far different from that in Montgomery County yesterday evening.
The Prince George's County Council passed their bill by a 7-0 vote. Two council members were not in attendance because of travel plans made prior to today's special session, which was set on this date to allow the Montgomery County council to pass it's minimum wage hike bill first as part of a regional plan to make the rate similar in both counties as well as in neighboring D.C.
Montgomery County approved theirs by a seven vote margin too, but that came after hours of debate that exposed significant divisions in the all Democratic body over a plan to delay the original time frame by one year. That change was also adopted in Prince George's County this morning, and that, plus a final vote, took all of 20 minutes.
The difference? The Prince George's bill was co-sponsored by the whole council, whereas it took the one-year delay to garner enough support in Montgomery County.
Andrea Harrison, the chair of the Prince George's council, says the higher minimum wage will not lift everyone out of poverty, but it will help many.
"This small change does give folks some hope," Harrison says. "And a lot of times, that's all folks need is a little hope."
The biggest opponents of the higher wage in both counties was the restaurant industry, but Melvin Thompson of the Maryland Restaurant Association was pleased that tipped workers like bartenders and wait staff were exempted from the hikes in both counties.
"We thought it was unfair to pass a significant increase on the cost of tipped employee labor for tipped employees who were already making well above what the proposed minimum wage was. So we're happy," Thompson says.
Tipped employees will be paid a base rate of half the state minimum wage, with employers covering the rest up to the minimum wage if tips do not reach that level.