Council Committee Debates $15 Minimum Wage for Hours, Questions Remain

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Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is a conversation happening across the country even here in Montgomery County where the current minimum wage is $10.75.

On Dec. 7, The Montgomery County Council’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee held a third worksession on Bill 12-16 that would gradually increase the County’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.

The Council’s HHS committee was supposed to move the bill forward during Wednesday’s meeting so the Council could vote on a final passage at their next legislative session, but it’s clear there is great division regarding this bill.

Councilmember George Levanthal, the committee chair, voted in favor. Council President Roger Berliner abstained and Councilmember Craig Rice was opposed.

“It’s a rare time where the Council was that split,” said Legislative Information Officer Neil Greenberger. “There’s many sides to this. It’s a tough issue.”

Five councilmembers are either sponsors or co-sponsors on this bill, so in theory, there is enough support to move the bill forward for the Council to vote on.

Councilmember Marc Elrich is the lead sponsor of Bill 12-16. Councilmembers George Leventhal, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer are co-sponsors.

There is some hesitation from four other councilmembers who would like more time to study how raising the minimum wage would impact small businesses owners.

“I think it’s unfortunate to delay the efforts or to prioritize the efforts to delay a bill which has had a public hearing and a work session,” said Councilmember Elrich. “The idea that they want to take up something that has actually been in front of the public for a while is bothersome.”

In a phone interview, Greenberger stated that Councilmembers Sidney Katz, Nancy Floreen, Craig Rice and President Roger Beliner are not against the bill, however, would like more time to study its impact.

“I’m very concerned about the economics of how this could be done,” said Councilmember Sidney Katz. “I’m supportive of an increase in minimum wage, I realize that there are many people who are in need of an additional salary, however, I also realize that a small business especially, cannot afford the amount over the years.”

Bill 12-16 would increase the County law to go up to $15 per hour effective July 1, 2020. The bill would also require an increase to $12.50 in 2018 and $13.75 in 2019 before the increase to $15 by 2020.

In 2013, The Council enacted Bill 27-13, which established a minimum wage for private sector employees working in the County, unless the State or federal minimum wage is higher. Under this current law, the minimum wage in Montgomery County will go to $11.50 effective July 1, 2017.

The question for the councilmembers hesitant on Bill 12-16 during the worksession on Dec. 7 became: do we need to do this right now? Opponents would like to analyze the impact of Bill 27-13 had on local businesses before making a final decision.

The Council is expected to meet one last time before the end of the year and it’s unclear if they will vote to have another analysis done on Bill 12-16 or if the Council will vote without the HHS Committee’s approval.

This meeting is scheduled for Tuesday Dec. 13 at 9:30 a.m. in the Third Floor Hearing Room.

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Mitti Hicks

About Mitti Hicks

Mitti Hicks is a multimedia journalist and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media. She is passionate about telling stories that impact our community and may be reached at MHicks@mymcmedia.org and on Twitter @mittimegan.

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