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BPAA Biweekly State Policy Updates - March 22, 2019

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  • Lamont promotes paid leave, minimum wage to skeptical business leaders: Gov. Ned Lamont predicted Wednesday, March 20 that two measures heavily criticized by business leaders — paid family and medical leave and boosting the state’s minimum wage — probably will pass this year.
    • The hot-button proposals involve nudging Connecticut’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, up from $10.10, over the course of several years, and imposing a 0.5 percent payroll tax to fund a pool of money for paid leave. Corporate officials have denounced the measures as unfriendly to businesses, particularly small companies that could struggle with workers’ absences and additional costs.
    • “I think paid family leave is going to pass. I think its time has come,” Lamont said after addressing a crowd during the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s annual lobbying day at the Capitol. “They see our neighboring states are doing it. They see a lot of major businesses are already taking the lead on that as well as moving to a $15 minimum wage, and Connecticut is going to catch up there.”
    • Proposals that cleared the Labor and Public Employees Committee last week would raise the minimum wage to $12 by January 2020, to $13.50 the next year, and $15 by 2022. Lamont has put forward a similar plan that would phase in the wage increase over four years, instead of three.
    • Several bills tied to paid family and medical leave also have surfaced. Two of them suggest benefits equal to 100 percent of workers’ pay, up to $1,000 a week. Lamont’s proposal would reimburse employees at a rate equal to 90 percent of their base salary. The payroll tax would be levied no later than October 2020, and worker compensation would be available beginning in January 2022. Read more at CTMirror.


  • Minimum Wage Increase for Michigan Employees Takes Effect March 29: Effective March 29, 2019, Michigan’s minimum wage will increase from $9.25 to $9.45 per hour. A copy of the Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act (Public Act 337 of 2018) and related resources – including the required poster – can be found here.
    Overtime requirements remain the same under the Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act; non-exempt employees should be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40 in a 7-day work week.
    • An employer may continue to pay minors 16 to 17 years of age 85% of the minimum hourly wage rate. On March 29, 2019, that rate will increase from $7.86 to $8.03 per hour. There is no change to the training wage of $4.25 per hour that may be paid to newly hired employees, 16 to 19 years of age, for the first 90 days of their employment.
    • Public Act 337 of 2018 allows employers to take a tip credit on minimum wage under certain conditions for employees who customarily and regularly receive tips from a guest, patron or customer for services rendered to that guest, patron, or customer. Effective March 29, 2019, 38% of the minimum hourly wage rate will increase from $3.52 to $3.59 per hour. Read more here at the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.


  • Bloomberg Government - Maryland Lawmakers Approve Wage Hike to $15 by Veto-Proof Margin: Maryland lawmakers approved a bill that would boost the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour within six years. The state House of Delegates and Senate gave final approval March 20 to S.B. 280, which would raise the state’s wage floor from its current level of $10.10 per hour to $11 next year, with additional increases each year until the $15-per-hour level was reached in 2025. Companies with fewer than 15 employees would have additional time to meet the wage schedule.
    • Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said he’s opposed to the increase, but the margins of legislative approval would withstand a veto. The House gave its final approval to the measure by a 93-41 vote, and it passed the Senate by a margin of 32-13. A three-fifths majority in each chamber is required to override a veto in Maryland.
    • At a March 18 news conference, Hogan said the wage increase would “cost us jobs, make us incapable of competing with other states in the region and could devastate our state’s economy.” He said the current rate of $10.10 per hour is “by far” the highest level in the region.
    • Angela Berard, a spokeswoman for Hogan, told Bloomberg Law March 20 that the governor had outlined his position in his March 18 comments and “will carefully review this legislation when it reaches his desk.”


  • Politico - Arkansas Moves to Limit Wage Hikes: Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs), despite opposition from Governor Hutchinson and the state Republican Party, is proceeding with her bills to undo significant portions of the state minimum wage hike approved by voters just last November. In 2018, 68 percent of Arkansas voters backed a ballot initiative to increase the state minimum wage to $9.25 in 2019, $10 in 2020, and $11 in 2021. Lundstrum's bills create exemptions to the coming wage hikes: HB 1752 exempts businesses with fewer than 20 employees, nonprofits with an operating budget under $1 million, and certain nonprofits that provide services for people with developmental disabilities. HB 1753 exempts any employee under the age of 20.
    • "The people voted to have a minimum wage increase," Lundstrum said. "I'm not trying to thwart that." She said that her goal in nixing the wage hikes that voters approved was to protect nonprofits, small businesses and teenage employees from "unintended consequences."
    • Lundstrum acknowledged that the coming wage hikes were approved by a two-thirds majority, but argued that her bills would not "roll back" the will of the voters. "We're not rolling anything back," she said. "That's what the people passed. I'm not taking that back — I think that would be wrong. It would not roll up [for the exempted groups]. It would not roll up to $10 and $11." Read the full article here.


  • Bloomberg Government - $12 New Mexico Minimum Wage Bill Heads to Governor: New Mexico lawmakers approved boosting the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2023, in a March 15 agreement that came with barely over a day left in the legislative session.
    • Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to sign the increase. The state’s current minimum wage is $7.50 an hour, just above the federal minimum of $7.25. The legislation also increases the minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13 to $3 by 2023.
    • Although the bill was among their top priorities this year, Democratic legislators in the House and Senate disagreed over how high to raise the wages and how soon to get there. The compromise phases in the increases over the next several years.
    • The New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, which represents employers in the state, supports the bill, according to its president and CEO Rob Black.
    • Lawmakers also passed a bill this session to add state minimum wage protections for domestic workers. Though federal wage law includes domestic workers, advocates of the legislation say it would help state regulators investigate complaints.


  • New York: Lawmakers, Workers Push For Higher Tipped Worker Wage: A bill that would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers to the full minimum wage is being pushed for in the final budget agreement by restaurant workers and state lawmakers who back the legislation.
    • “The food service industry employs the largest number of women workers earning below the minimum wage, workers who must rely on the whim of consumers rather than their own employers to be paid a living wage and support their families, fostering an environment that encourages racism, sexual harassment, and high poverty rates,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee. “The seven states that already require tipped workers be paid the full minimum wage have flourishing restaurant industries. It’s time for New York to get on board and eliminate this shameful economic injustice.”
    • The bill is being sought more than a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the Department of Labor to study the effect of ending the so-called subminimum wage, which has been eliminated in seven states, including California. Read more here at NYStateofPolitics.


  • Nebraska: Tipped minimum wage increase stalls: After two days of debate, an attempt to increase the minimum wage for persons who are compensated by way of gratuities stalled on general file March 14.
    • Currently, the tipped minimum wage in Nebraska is $2.13 per hour. LB400, introduced by Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt, would increase the wage to 40 percent of the standard minimum wage rate in 2020 and 50 percent in 2021. If the standard minimum wage remains at its current level of $9.00 per hour, the minimum wage for persons compensated by way of gratuities would be $3.60 per hour in 2020 and $4.50 per hour in 2021.
    • The tipped minimum wage last was increased in 1991, Hunt said, while the standard minimum wage has increased seven times during the same period. Read more at the Nebraska Legislature.


  • North Carolina: The fight for $15 arrives at the General Assembly: North Carolina lawmakers joined Raising Wages NC — a growing coalition of labor groups, advocates, business, and faith leaders — at a legislative press conference today to announce the introduction of H.B. 366, inclusive legislation that raises the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour by 2024, indexes it to the cost of living, ends the subminimum wage for persons with disabilities, phases it out for tipped workers, and repeals exemptions for agricultural and domestic workers.
    • North Carolina’s minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for a decade and does not cover everyone. At the event, legislators, workers, business owners, and faith leaders called attention to the moral and economic imperative of making sure that everyone who works full time can earn a living wage, afford the basic necessities, and has a fair opportunity to work hard and succeed — including people with disabilities, people who care for our homes and families, people who serve our food, and the people who grow it. Read more at NCPolicyWatch.


  • Senate passes bill to raise New Hampshire's minimum wage: New Hampshire's Senate on Thursday passed a bill to raise the state's minimum wage. The bill, which passed 14-10, would raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2020 and $11 or $12 an hour in 2021, depending on additional benefits provided by employers, such as paid sick days. The bill also would set the tipped minimum wage at $4 an hour, with workers making below the new minimum wage with tips being compensated for the difference by their employer. The House passed its own bill last week that would set the minimum wage at $9.50 in 2020, $10.75 in 2021 and $12 in 2022.
    • Democrats control both chambers. The state relies on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the lowest in New England. The Legislature stripped New Hampshire's minimum wage law from the books in 2011. Senate President Donna Soucy, a Democrat from Manchester who's introduced a similar measure for years, said "$7.25 wasn't a fair wage in 2009 and it certainly isn't a fair wage in 2019."
    • Republican Leader Chuck Morse, of Salem, said states and cities that have raised their minimum wage have seen the number of jobs decline and the take-home pay for low-wage workers decrease due to reduced hours. "Creating a strong economy will always be a more effective way to raise workers take-home pay than mandating minimum wages," he said.
    • Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has said he does not support a state minimum wage higher that would exceed the federal rate. Read more at CTPost.



  • Vermont Digger: Lawmakers consider private carrier for paid leave program: Legislators in the House are expected to advance a proposal this week that would establish a statewide paid family leave program. As it stands, the plan backed by Democratic lawmakers would require all workers and employers to pay into a state-run program funded by a split payroll tax, making all employees eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave.
    • Gov. Phil Scott has pitched his own voluntary paid leave proposal with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. The governor’s plan would leverage the pool of both states’ roughly 20,000 state employees to bring down the cost for other employers to offer the benefit on their own accord, but wouldn’t mandate them to do so. While it’s unlikely Democrats will pass a paid leave program that is voluntary in nature, like the governor’s, they are considering one aspect of Scott’s plan: hiring a third party to administer the benefit.
    • Under the Scott administration’s plan the state would hire a private insurance carrier or administrator to run the program.



  • Louisiana: ASCAP believes legal action is last measure to address establishments that play unlicensed music: A number of New Orleans bars are facing legal action for playing unlicensed music in their establishments, according to a report by The New Orleans Advocate. The lawsuits are part of a recent push by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), which sued numerous establishments throughout the U.S. for allegedly playing unlicensed music at these venues.  Jackson Wagener, vice president of Business and Legal Affairs of ASCAP, spoke with Louisiana Record about the legal battle and why such action is needed for playing music at a bar. 
    • “ASCAP views litigation as a last resort; we typically only sue establishments after its owners and operators have been contacted numerous times over a year or more,” Wagener told Louisiana Record. Read more at Louisiana Record.



  • NY State of Politics - Assembly Lawmaker Wants A Beer And Wine Tax: A bill that would place new taxes on wine and beer sales would raise $260 million meant for addiction prevention and recovery programs. That bill, backed by Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, would add 3 cents to the price of a 12 ounce can of beer and 2 cents per glass of wine. Ten cents would be added to the price of a shot.
    • “Substance abuse of any kind is deeply troubling, but addiction to alcohol has proven particularly damaging not only because of its corrosive effects on physical and mental development but also because of its role as a gateway drug,” DenDekker said.
    • “Alcohol users, particularly at younger ages frequently try other controlled substances while under the influence of alcohol. Predictably, patients addicted to opioids, cocaine and other mind altering substances began their history of substance abuse with alcohol since it is the most commonly available and society acceptable drug Americans are exposed to. Thus, I believe that alcohol is the gateway drug, and any serious initiative that aims to curb the effects of substance abuse must place alcohol use and addiction as a top priority.”
    • DeDekker said the revenue generated by the tax would “literally double” the availability of existing programs for treatment. The bill comes as lawmakers are also debating whether to legalize marijuana in the state, with revenue proposed to bolster mass transit in New York City, aid communities impacted by tough drug laws and to study the effects of cannabis use.


  • PR Newswire - Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Returns Nearly $2.1 Million in Licensing Fees to Local Communities: HARRISBURG, Pa., The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) today announced the return of nearly $2.1 million in licensing fees to 1,103 municipalities in which licensees are located. Twice a year, as required by law, the PLCB returns liquor license fees paid by PLCB-approved licensees to the municipalities that are home to those licenses. Municipalities have flexibility in allocating and spending the returned license fees to meet local needs.
    • The PLCB oversees the regulation of more than 15,000 retail liquor licenses statewide, including restaurants, clubs and hotels. Licensees pay liquor license fees ranging from $125 to $700, depending on the type of license and the population of the municipality in which the license is located, as part of the annual license renewal or validation process, as well as in conjunction with approval of certain new applications.
    • The current dispersal period represents fees paid from Aug. 1, 2018, to Jan. 31, 2019. In all, 47 cities, 416 boroughs and 640 townships will receive payments ranging from $25 to $858,600.

The complete list of license fee distributions by municipality is available on the PLCB website.

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