Legislative Digest

LEGISLATIVE DIGEST

March 25, 2005

House approves $1 increase in minimum wage

The House of Delegates approved a $1 increase in the minimum wage yesterday, with a near veto-proof majority, which would bring it to $6.15 an hour. The Senate approved a similar bill this month.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has said he worries that a minimum wage increase would hurt the state's economy, raising the possibility of a veto.

The House bill passed 84-50, one vote shy of the number needed to override a veto. Several supporters were absent for the final vote. The Senate version, which also calls for a $6.15-an-hour minimum wage, passed 30-16, one vote more than the minimum to override a veto.

Ehrlich declined to take a position on the bills yesterday, but he said he prefers the Senate version, which includes a Republican-backed amendment to allow employers who provide health insurance to pay less than the new minimum.

Two House committees OK bill to fight lead poisoning

Two House of Delegates committees yesterday approved the Ehrlich administration's legislation to combat lead poisoning in Maryland children by 2010 with strategies that include early action to treat poisoned children and to clean up lead hazards.

The bill, jointly reviewed by the House Health and Government Operations and the Environmental Matters Committee, goes to the full House for consideration, where it is expected to have strong support.

Embryonic stem-cell bill passes House committee

A House committee passed a bill yesterday to fund embryonic stem-cell research after approving several amendments.

The House Health and Government Operations Committee approved the bill, 15-9, but lowered the amount of state money to be granted for the research from $25 million to $23 million. Among other changes were amendments addressing composition of the committee that would distribute the grants.

This week, the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee approved the bill but did not make the same amendments.

By 35-12, Senate approves early-voting measure

Select polling places in Maryland would be open eight days before the primary and general elections under a bill that passed the Maryland Senate yesterday, 35-12.

Proponents say early voting will help reverse a trend of declining turnout by giving people more opportunity to get to the polls. But Republican lawmakers argued yesterday that the cost of elections would increase and the civic tradition of a single Election Day would be eroded. Thirty-five states have some form of early voting, according to legislative analysts.

The bill goes to the House of Delegates, where support is high.

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