Coming Wednesday 4/2: House Debate on Minimum Wage (AND Unemployment Insurance AND Domestic Workers)

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee released its bill covering not only the minimum wage but also unemployment insurance and protections for domestic workers. Amendments to the bill were due on Friday in preparation for debate this coming Wednesday.

By Friday’s deadline, a total of 99 amendments had been filed. Among the subjects of greatest interest,

  • Tipped minimum wage: Amendment 88, sponsored by Democrat Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield and 40 co-sponsors, would raise the tipped minimum wage to $5.25, half of the regular minimum wage of $10.50 proposed by the House bill.
  • Providing for future automatic increases in the minimum wage by tying it to the Consumer Price Index: Amendment 50, sponsored by Democrat Russell Holmes of Mattapan. This amendment has no-cosponsors, which likely means that the word went out that minimum wage indexing is DOA in the House and members’ time would be used more productively on other subjects.

It is still entirely unclear what will happen after the House passes its bill. Even though both the House and Senate will have acted on both the minimum wage and unemployment insurance, their bills will be like “ships passing in the night,” because, as reported earlier, the House declined to use either the minimum wage or unemployment insurance bills passed by the Senate and instead is starting at Square One with an entirely new bill. No House-Senate conference committee will be appointed to work out the differences until this standoff  is resolved. (A HT to Brian from Health Care for All, who points out that the U.S. Congress, not widely known as a model of cooperation, has found a way of resolving these conflicts.)

More on the amendments filed:

  • The majority (55) were filed by the distinct minority (31) of House Republicans. They include the cuts to Unemployment Insurance eligibility and benefits that many businesses have been asking for.
  • The restaurant industry is very well represented among the Republican amendments, with proposals including an exemption from any minimum wage increase, and the establishment of a “meals tax holiday” in July. (The most alarming of the restaurant amendments, entitled “Equity for Restaurants,” would take away the authority of the Board of Health to revoke a restaurant license for health code violations, granting only the lesser authority to impose a series of fines, increasing as the number of violations total six in a six-month period. Note to self: find out which restaurants are pushing this amendment and don’t eat there.)
  • DINO award to Representative Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) for sponsoring an amendment to establish a two-tier minimum wage, one for adults and one for teenagers, and for suggesting that the concerns expressed by former Representative and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh about the need for more jobs for teenagers would be alleviated by this proposal.
  • The amendment topic on which there’s the most bipartisan agreement is a proposal to increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, under which the state’s taxpayers help low-income working families by providing them with an annual subsidy at tax time. The GOP’s rather surprising enthusiasm for the idea is the result of gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker’s endorsement. He’d rather boost this anti-poverty program instead of increasing the minimum wage. (Is it me, or is it true that the only time that Republicans are interested in having government help the poor is when it appears that private business is going to be asked to do so?)

After this week’s debate, stay tuned to see if the House and Senate reach agreement on any of the many issues now in play.

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