2017 | Politics

Montgomery County Leaders Oppose State Minimum Wage Preemption Bill

Leggett and County Council members say local jurisdictions should retain control over minimum wage increases

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Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner asked state lawmakers in Annapolis on Tuesday to reject proposed legislation that would prohibit local jurisdictions from enacting their own minimum wage laws.

The state bill proposed by Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s County) would allow local governments to set base pay for their own employees, but not set a minimum wage for all workers. Davis, the chair of the House Economic Matters Committee, said the bill would help improve the business climate in Maryland by making wages more predictable throughout the state.

Berliner, his fellow council members and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett disagree.

In a letter to lawmakers sent Tuesday by Leggett and the council, the leaders said the power to set the minimum wage should remain with them.

“In essence, the bill rescinds longstanding authority held by local governments which allows local elected officials to enact laws that they believe are in the best interests of stakeholders within their respective counties and municipalities,” the letter says. “This is an unacceptable intrusion into local authority.”

In 2013, both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties approved laws that raise the minimum wage in those jurisdictions to levels above the state’s minimum wage. A minimum wage of $11.50 per hour is scheduled to go into effect in each county later this year, while the state minimum wage is scheduled to rise to $9.25 from $8.75 on July 1.

In the letter, the elected officials note that Montgomery County examined factors such as cost of living and the local job market to see if the county’s economy could support a higher hourly wage before increasing the minimum wage. Berliner went to Annapolis Tuesday to testify against the state bill in front of state lawmakers. Council member Marc Elrich was also in Annapolis Tuesday to testify against the bill.

The council recently sought to continue to increase the minimum wage. Last month, members approved legislation by a 5-4 vote that would have incrementally increased the minimum wage to $15 by 2020, but that bill was vetoed by Leggett, who said further study and additional tweaks to the legislation were needed before he would support more increases.