From Wishful Thinking to Passage: Where State Wage Bills Stand


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With many of the 45 state legislatures in session at about their halfway mark or approaching adjournment, now may a good time to take stock of the wage and hour bills that stand a fighting chance of making it into law.

About 206 bills were introduced in the 2017 legislative session, including about 37 authored by Republicans and more than 100 authored by Democrats, according to the National Conference  of State Legislatures’ database. About 30 bills have failed, but many more may stall while under committee consideration.

The measures with the best chance of passing may be those in states where a single party controls the legislature and the governor’s office. But measures in states with different political parties controlling the legislature and the governor’s office are garnering the most attention.

California is one of seven states with the Democratic Party in control of the legislature and the governor’s office, so many of its wage and hour measures may survive to enactment. (The other states are Delaware, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.)

The measures under consideration by the California legislature include those related to paid leave (S.B. 62, 63), allowing workers in industries such as ride-sharing to receive gratuities by debit or credit cards in certain circumstances (A.B. 1099) and allowing live-in domestic-work employees to exclude from compensable time a scheduled period of not more than eight hours (S.B. 482).

A sampling of the measures under consideration in the other six state with full Democratic control include a Delaware bill  (S.B. 10) that would incrementally raise the state’s hourly minimum wage by 50 cents a year from 2017 to 2020 and thereafter allow for inflation-related adjustments. In Oregon, a measure (H.B. 3087) would establish a statewide family and medical leave insurance fund, which would essentially be a payroll tax. Employees would receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for themselves or family member, and an extra six weeks for the birth or adoption of a child.  

In the 18 states with different parties in control of the legislature and governor’s office, wage and hour bills face a bumpier ride. The most notable recent tug-of-wars over such measures are playing out in Maryland and New Mexico.

Maryland’s Democratic-controlled legislature has passed two paid sick-leave measures, which must be reconciled and then sent to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to sign or veto. The Senate measure provides five paid sick days annually, while the House measure provides seven paid sick days a year. Hogan has said he would veto the measure. Hogan has proposed his own paid sick-leave measure. Notably, the state Senate passed its paid-leave measure 29-18, and 29 is the number of votes needed to override a veto. The Maryland legislature is scheduled to adjourn April 1. 

Another nail-biter is unfolding in New Mexico, where the Democratic-controlled legislature has two minimum-wage bills moving toward the desk of Gov. Susana Martinez (R). The House measure (H.B. 442) would raise the state’s hourly minimum wage to $9.25, effective Jan. 1, 2018. The Senate’s measure (S.B. 286) would incrementally increase the state’s hourly minimum wage to $9 by April 1, 2018, with an $8 hourly training wage applicable to the first two months of employment.

Martinez has expressed support for a minimum-wage increase, as long as it is in line with the minimum wage of neighboring states. However, the state’s 60-day legislative session ends at noon March 18, and tensions exist between the Democrat-led Senate and Martinez regarding disagreements pertaining to other legislative matters. Bills approved by the legislature before the last days of the session become law automatically if Martinez does not veto them within three days of receiving them.

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