By J. K. Schmid, Special to the AFRO

A $15 minimum wage bill left Maryland’s general assembly conference committee Tuesday.

The bill is a reconciliation of measures that passed both houses by veto-proof margins this session.

The senate bill passed 32-15.

Sen. Cory V. McCray, a Democrat representing Baltimore City, cast the last vote, a vote in the bill’s favor.

“I feel pretty good about it in reference to all the working folks back home in the city of Baltimore,” McCray told the AFRO. “And I know that it’ll help working families across the state of Maryland, so I’m pretty excited.”

The bill appears to enjoy wide support across the state from the grass roots to leadership at the county and Baltimore City level.

“It’s important to acknowledge that the Howard County Executive Calvin Ball was supportive of this legislative initiative,” McCray said. “Baltimore County’s John Olzewski, Angela Alsobrooks of Prince George’s, Marc Elrich in Montgomery County, but also Madame Mayor, who also came down and gave testimony about Senate Bill 280.”

Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh joins the list of county executives after vetoing a $15 minimum wage bill March 2017.

McCray’s ideal bill would seek to secure adequate funding for Maryland’s Developmental Disability Administration hiring programs and demand more exacting verification that tipped workers will earn the mandated minimum wage as it increases (an amendment proposed by Brian Feldman) over the upcoming years.

Maryland’s minimum wage currently rests at $10.10 per hour. Both bills call for a general raise in the minimum wage to $15 per hour by January of 2025. The senate bill allowed for exemptions for Maryland’s smallest businesses, giving businesses with fewer than 15 employees until 2028 to raise their minimum wage.

“That’s the one amendment that gave me pause, and may get worked out in conference committee,” McCray said. “The year that we’re currently in is 2019, they wouldn’t reach the minimum wage until 2028. So I’m not sure if you would agree, but that’s a long time.”

Like many bills it’s a compromise, particularly over when Maryland workers will get a raise in line with Maryland’s ranking as one of the wealthiest states in the nation.

“We do understand that businesses have to make adjustments and there is a need to phase the bill in over time,” Ricarra Jones told the AFRO. “Of course, we wish that it would have been sooner, but we are glad that a few years from now, working families will receive much-needed, very long overdue raises.”

Jones is a longtime advocate and political organizer for the “Fight for 15.”

“It’s going to take them a few extra years than we hoped for, but nevertheless we’re excited that it’s going to be happening and we still have a big hurdle to overcome, with the governor possibly vetoing the legislation when it hits his desk,” Jones said.

Maryland’s legislature is only in session for a few more weeks, and Baltimore’s minimum wage bill veto wasn’t overridden due to defections and no-shows and scheduling that allowed the bill to expire.

“We’re just hoping that what we’ve been doing is going to continue to work,” Jones said. “Like having these conversations, having actual workers call elected officials and saying ‘hey, I need you to stay strong on this,’ and ‘thank you for your support on this initially, but we have another hurdle and we need you continue to vote for this.’”

Hogan has not committed to veto the bill; it could pass with or without his signature.

So we’re not planning to switch up our efforts, things have been working so far. Just the pressure from making calls is the most powerful way to get the attention of elected leaders,” Jones said.