As the Maryland House of Delegates considered a bill to increase the minimum wage statewide a curious exemption was slipped in, a change in language seemingly placed in the bill to benefit amusement parks like Six Flags.
Seeing that, Delegate Mike McDermott tried to add an exemption for another tourist playground: Ocean City.
The amendment would have exempted Ocean City’s seasonal employees – defined as those who work a maximum of 120 days in a calendar year – from the new wage law, instead maintaining the current federal standard of $7.25 per hour. Said the Delegate:
“Prince George’s County wisely decided that locally this is what they needed to do. Everyone across the state is dealing with their own issues and everyone is dealing with their own different unemployment rates. (Counties) should be able to decide for themselves whether it’s higher or whether it’s lower.
We struggle right now keeping these jobs available for these kids… The lower shore is not recovering; the unemployment rate is still soaring… Our Ocean City businesses will lose out to competition in Delaware with Bethany and Rehoboth Beaches and to competition in Virginia and North Carolina. Ocean City is our world class resort and this state’s premier destination. The revenue from Ocean City paves a lot of roads in Baltimore City; the revenue from Ocean City does a lot for the state of Maryland.
If you can see it for a sector like Six Flags, or Jolly Rogers…if you can capture a vision for how [minimum wage] impacts that industry…Can you not see how that impacts an entire region like Ocean City?
This is about creating an atmosphere where people can still afford to come and the employers can still afford to keep people there.
Needless to say, McDermott’s argument fell on deaf ears, as the amendment failed on an 89-47 vote. The bipartisan support for the amendment included six Democrats (Bromwell, Conway, James, Kevin Kelly, Minnick, and Wood) and all 41 Republicans who voted (Cluster and Frank were absent.) The original amendments to exempt Six Flags and other like businesses were added at the committee level and not through a floor vote, including one by committee Chair Delegate Dereck Davis of Prince George’s County.
But as the process goes on, it appears low-wage Marylanders will get a raise come January whether they deserve one or not, which probably means more layoffs than normal after the holiday season.
Of course, McDermott’s amendment was nothing more than symbolic because there wasn’t much of a chance of it passing anyway. One thing it did, though, was give local Delegate Norm Conway a chance to vote against the minimum wage bill on that particular amendment. It wouldn’t surprise me if he voted against the entire bill since it’s an election year and he needs to look business-friendly to the good conservative folks on the Shore – surely his union supporters can give him a hall pass since the votes will likely be there. It’s just another example of the BOHICA form of government a state which finds itself in yet another budget shortfall will enact upon its citizens.