Friday Five | March 3, 2023

A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.

1. Wes Moore wants automatic minimum-wage hikes, not all Democrats agree

Governor Moore on Monday launched his campaign to automatically hike the state’s minimum wage, arguing that tying increases to inflation would reduce child poverty and loosen the tight labor market. It appears to be a tough sell, even to fellow Democrats.

A fight over minimum wage four years ago included a debate over automatic increases. That provision was ultimately rejected. Under the plan passed in 2019, the state is on a path to increase its minimum wage to $15 per hour for most employers by 2025, with smaller employers following a year later. Currently the hourly rate stands at $13.25 after the latest increase went into effect in January. Businesses with under 15 employees must pay at least $12.80 per hour.

Moore’s plan, if passed, would require at least $15 per hour for all businesses by October 1 – with the first increase linked to inflation, capped at 5%, happening in March 2025. Seventeen states currently have laws that include an automatic annual increase tied to inflation, with average caps of 3.5%.

Read the full story here.

2. Business community push back against proposed Maryland Fair Scheduling Act

A proposed bill in Maryland’s legislature aims to cut down on last-minute schedule changes for retail and restaurant workers.

The Maryland Fair Scheduling Act would see retail shops and restaurants with more than 10 locations across the state pay time-and-a-half for employees who are asked to work overtime within an 11-hour window of their original shift, as well as pay workers for being on standby for hours that the businesses did not dole out to workers.

Lawmakers argue that retail workers often do not know their schedules until less than a week before, and changes beyond that can cause undue stress, schedule disruption and transportation costs that are not offset by hours worked being less than hours originally scheduled.

Critics of the bill point to higher costs for chain employers in the retail and foodservice industries who are already facing financial hardships and labor shortages – leading some to fear further increased costs for the consumer and fewer jobs to offer.

The measure is set to receive a hearing in the following weeks in the Senate Finance Committee.

Read the full story here.

3. Bill backlog likely spells doom for some proposals as General Assembly hits halfway point

A backlog of bills is causing one presiding officer to project a difficult month of March.

“We are not going to be able to pass every bill that either could be passed or should be passed. It’s a logistic impossibility,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson. “We’re going to do the best that we can to prioritize the things we know we have the votes for, the things we know that we can get through and don’t back up additional bills.”

Nearly 1,000 bills have been introduced in the Senate as of Friday. Roughly one-third of those came as the chamber hit its filing deadline.

Last Friday marked the halfway point of the 90-day session. Crossover, the date for when each chamber must send its bills to the opposite chamber for consideration without facing additional hurdles, is less than three weeks away.

Read the full story here.

4. Lierman transition team outlines myriad of challenges facing agency

Maryland Comptroller Brooke Lierman released a report Monday with dozens of recommendations to improve her state agency of more than 1,000 employees.

Some of the recommendations, which came together through her transition team, are proposals Lierman highlighted during her campaign last year such as improving customer service, creating a new website and increasing diversity participation for small and minority businesses.

“The Transition Team’s Report represents a new starting point for our agency,” Lierman said in a statement. “I am dedicated to working with our new executive leadership team, all Comptroller employees and partners across the state to reimagine how the Comptroller’s Office can build communities that are more equitable, more resilient and more prosperous.”

An example of the challenges includes agency information technology systems using programming languages from the 1950s. Another challenge, according to the report, are concerns about transparency and access to the agency.

Read the full story here.

5. As battle over noncompete ban heats up, here’s what employers should be doing

The battle over the Federal Trade Commission’s proposal to broadly ban noncompete agreements is intensifying – and some prominent U.S. senators are sparring with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the issue.

The FTC and other proponents of the ban say the rule will increase American workers’ earnings between $250 billion and $296 billion per year, but opponents argue it will negatively affect businesses and hinder their ability to innovate.

Businesses should consider having a backup plan if the rule goes into effect as proposed by the FTC. Those plans should include how businesses can tighten up their nondisclosure agreements and nonsolicitation agreements so they can’t be deemed to function as de-facto noncompete agreements.

Read the full story here.

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