The bill being debated today would raise Maryland's minimum wage to $10.10, but it would not be indexed to inflation thereafter and amusement parks would be exempted from paying it.
On Wednesday the Maryland House of Delegates has given preliminary approval to a bill that would raise the minimum wage in the state to $10.10 by 2017.
Delegates debated the bill for more than two hours, as several attempted changes were beaten back. Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George's), who chairs the committee that worked on the bill and first approved it earlier this week, says that withholding those changes will ensure that workers get a very necessary pay hike.
"And then the exemptions, all the exemptions, too many of them to talk about right now, but they will help businesses," Davis said. "So I think there's something in it for everybody."
One exemption in particular had Republicans up in arms. Large amusement parks can keep paying seasonal workers, usually younger people according to Davis, the current $7.25 minimum wage under the bill. That includes Six Flags in Prince George's County, which flustered Anne Arundel County delegate and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron George.
"If this increase in the minimum wage is really about helping people, then why would we give such a huge financial break to a billion-dollar corporation? What about the little guy?" George said.
A similar discussion played out over seasonal workers on the Eastern Shore. Republican Del. Mike McDermott's argued that without an exemption for seasonal workers, businesses and tourists would head to Delaware beaches instead. On that point, Davis disagreed.
"So you're asserting that an increase in the minimum wage would cause people not to go to Ocean City for annual summer vacations? Where hotel rooms are $400-500 a night?" said Davis to McDermott during the debate.
"I'm telling you you're driving up the cost for businesses in areas that around us are not doing the same thing," retorted McDermott.
Other changes were made to the bill just to get it out of the House Economic Matters Committee and on to the House floor, including a clause that would have indexed the wage to inflation yearly after it reaches $10.10, as well as a plan to raise the base wage rate for tipped workers like bartenders and waitstaff.
A final vote on the bill is scheduled for Friday in the House.
Senate President Mike Miller has previously stated a bill with the $10.10 wage rate wouldn't pass his chamber, as senators from outside the D.C. suburbs and the city of Baltimore believe that number is too high.