With very little fanfare, the Joint Standing Committee on Labor and Housing disposed of five minimum wage related bills at its work session on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. All of the bills had been heard in a public hearing earlier this month, and while each of the bills had seen considerable support from the business community and individual employers, there was in truth little chance the bills would see passage given the makeup of this legislature.
The one high point of the work session was the bi-partisan rejection of LD 1279, An Act To Increase the Minimum Wage, sponsored by Rep. Collings (D-Portland). As drafted, the bill would increase Maine’s minimum wage by $3 an hour, per year, during the next three years, giving Maine a minimum wage of $16 an hour by 2025. Such a change would give Maine the highest state minimum wage in the country. The bill has been strongly opposed by the Maine State Chamber, as well as a number of other businesses and associations. Given all Maine’s business community has had to contend with since the beginning of the pandemic and the subsequent economic losses, LD 1279 seemed especially tone deaf. While the committee members from both sides of the aisle did not spend a significant amount of time discussing the reasons behind the vote, four Democrats sided with the five minority Republicans on the committee to recommend an “ought not to pass” vote to the full legislature. The final committee vote will likely be 9-3 against the proposal, with one member of the committee yet to cast a vote at press time.
Four other minimum wage related bills were rejected along straight party lines by the committee. Two would have done the same thing – established a “municipal preemption” on further increases in the minimum wage, thereby putting any future increases in Maine’s minimum wage solely in the hands of the state legislature. One would have established a “youth” or “training wage” in the area of $10 an hour for workers under the age of 18, and a final bill that would have changed the frequency of when Maine indexes its minimum wage – from yearly to every three years. All four bills were rejected in 8-5 votes, with Democrats voting “ought not to pass,” and Republicans voting “ought to pass.” The bills in question were:
It is expected that the Labor and Housing committee will take up many additional employment bills in its next work session on Friday, April 23. For questions or additional information, please contact Peter Gore by calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 107, or by emailing email@example.com.