Montgomery councilman proposes amendments to colleague’s minimum wage bill -- Gazette.Net







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The sponsor of a Montgomery County Council bill to raise the county’s minimum wage says he could go along with some of the suggestions for changes made by one of his colleagues, but not others.

Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park said he’s willing to consider amendments to the bill suggested by Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At Large) of Silver Spring, such as dropping exceptions in the bill that aren’t in the state’s minimum wage law or allowing the enforcement of the bill to be conducted by the state rather than the county.

Riemer suggests a $1 county wage increase could be implemented over three years after a state increase has been phased in.

Elrich opposes that.

Riemer sent a memorandum to his council colleagues on Nov. 4 outlining his suggested changes to the bill.

In the memo, he called Elrich’s plan that would coordinate the increase in Montgomery’s wage to $11.50 by 2017 with similar efforts in Prince George’s County and Washington, D.C., a “positive development,” but cautioned against any effort to actually join the bills together.

“[W]e cannot control the actual laws that will be passed in those jurisdictions or how they may or may not be amended in the future, and our laws should not be formally linked,” Riemer wrote.

Riemer also said some of the exemptions in Elrich’s bill, including for employees that work for tips and that would allow employers who pay part of their employees’ health care to deduct all or part of the cost of an employee’s premium, should be eliminated.

Making exceptions for some workers is a bad idea, Riemer said Thursday.

Riemer’s memo also proposed letting the state take the lead on minimum wage policy.

“I believe it is profoundly important for the core policy-making responsibility to remain at the state level, where decisions can help a much larger population than just Montgomery County,” Riemer wrote.

The General Assembly is expected to take up an effort to increase the minimum wage during its session that starts in January.

But Riemer also proposed setting Montgomery’s wage at a dollar higher than the state level to make up for the cost of living in the county, which he said could be phased in over a three-year period after the state’s increase had been phased in over a similar time frame.

Riemer said officials have to understand the impact an increase will have on businesses.

“I just think there’s a reality to what it will take for businesses to adjust,” he said.

Elrich argued Thursday that the state already is the primary policy maker, and the wage of $7.25 an hour is too low.

If the state is going to set the policy, Montgomery should just go along with whatever the state decides, he said.

He called Riemer’s two-step phase-in plan “absolutely meaningless.”

“What are you going to tell people? ‘Wait five years, you’ll be fine?’” Elrich asked.

He said he did support Riemer’s suggestion to have the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation supervise the enforcement of the minimum wage, rather than the county’s Office of Human Rights, as is currently in the proposed bill.