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Worcester stands with OC against state proposal to increase hourly pay to $15

(March 8, 2019) The Worcester County Commissioners are backing Ocean City businesses’ opposition to state legislation that would increase the minimum wage and will send a letter to that effect to the legislature.

The commissioners’ decision Tuesday followed a request from Melanie Pursel, executive director of Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, that county draft a letter opposing House Bill 166 and Senate Bill 280.

The bill that would lead to a $15 minimum hourly wage by 2023, has passed the House of Delegates while a companion measure awaits action in the Senate.

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Shannahan also suggested a “carve out option,” as an amendment to the bill, which would classify “tier two” counties and the minimum wage to increase differently, bringing it to $13.85 per hour in 2023. 

Commissioner Bud Church moved to support issuing a letter of opposition, and earned a second from Commissioner Ted Elder.

Freshman Commissioner Joshua Nordstrom, however, asked if sending such a letter would imply that the commissioners do not support minimum wage earners.

Joshua Nordstrom

Commissioner Joshua Nordstrom opposed sending a letter in support to Ocean City's opposition to the minimum wage bill, instead wanted to remain neutral, and was “in favor of us [the commissioners] doing nothing.”

“All of us here represent business owners? Yes, but we also all represent people who make minimum wage,” Nordstrom said.

He said the commissioners should remain neutral on the matter, and was “in favor of us doing nothing.”

Shannahan reminded Nordstrom the county commissioners don’t have a say in the decision’s outcome. 

“Respectfully, Mr. Nordstrom, this issue will not come before the county commissioners, it’ll only come before the state, and if the state does pass it, it will be the law of the land,” Shannahan said.

Nordstrom also pointed out representatives from the chamber were not present during Tuesday’s meeting.

“I believe they’re in Annapolis,” Shannahan said.

Church acknowledged the lack of chamber representation – as they were testifying in Annapolis on other matters, but stressed the need to oppose the legislation as it would “put an enormous burden” on the resort town.

“I would rather take a vote before it happens then wait to see what happens and then take a vote,” Church said. “I think that would be self-defeating.”

Nordstrom said he understood Church’s position, prompting Church to counter, “Then vote for the motion.”

Before the vote, Commissioner Joseph Mitrecic told Nordstrom he wouldn’t try to change his mind, but advised him that he should be aware of the legislation’s possible consequences. 

“I will say, though, that come budget time, if this passes, you’ll see how it affects us, and the county, and everything else,” Mitrecic said.

The Worcester County Commissioners voted 5-1 in favor of supporting Ocean City, with Nordstrom dissenting.

President Diana Purnell was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

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