Thursday, January 05, 2006

Steamrolling Lobbyists to Override Vetoes

With the beginning of the 2006 Legislative Session looming, and several overrides of Governor Ehrlich's vetoes on the plate, the anti-worker, anti-Marylander lobbyists are shmoozing themselves into a frenzy. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce is trying to challenge the legality of the Fair Share Healthcare Bill, which will make Wal-Mart and other large employers in the state start covering a reasonable share of their employees' health care costs 1.

Curious that the Chamber would rather sit by and see large employers (e.g., Giant, Safeway, Johns Hopkins) that pay for their employees' healthcare, as responsible businesses should, be penalized by employers like Wal-Mart who instead direct their employees to Medicaid.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses is imploring its members to oppose the override of the Fair Share Bill as well as the meager increase in the minimum wage to $6.15/hr.

If you're a business owner or citizen who is incensed by the defense of corporate irresponsibility on the part of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce or the National Federation of Independent Businesses, please drop them a line and make your opinion known. And, regardless, contact your State Senators and Delegates and ask them to help override these worker unfriendly vetoes.

[UPDATE: Turns out that 63 percent of District 30 voters support the Fair Share bill]

1 Few in Maryland's capital were surprised when hordes of Wal-Mart lobbyists descended upon Annapolis this fall, but few could have predicted the bizarre series of events that has ensued. During the 2005 legislative session, the Maryland Assembly passed a bill that would require the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company to spend at least 8 percent of its payroll on employee health benefits or contribute it to the State's health insurance program for the poor. After passing both the Senate and House by wide margins, Governor Ehrlich vetoed the bill. Now, the legislature is considering a veto override, which would require the support of 60 percent in each chamber, and Wal-Mart is looking to grease a few palms.

Despite over $10 billion dollars in annual profits, Wal-Mart has thousands of employees whose wages are so low that they qualify for Medicaid, a public health insurance program for the poor. A Marshall University study found that for each Wal-Mart worker, the average state spends approximately $898 per year in Medicaid expenses. Wal-Mart has around 15,000 employees in Maryland.

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