(March 22, 2019) Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-38) reflected on several significant pieces of legislation for Worcester County as the session nears the end.
As a Republican senator in a largely democratic general assembly, she’s faced some difficulties during the first year of her first term, she said.
“Some of that groundwork has been laid, and we can build on that, but it is a challenge when you have a progressive agenda being put forward in both the House and the Senate,” Carozza said.
Carozza said she tried to work across the aisle during consideration of the minimum wage bill, which would lead to a $15 minimum hourly wage by 2023. The legislation passed the House 93-41, and the Senate 32-12. It’s headed to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk.
Carozza opposed the bill, but introduced an amendment, which would create a regional tier system to implement minimum wage increases.
“I did pick up some support from Democrats on my amendment, but not enough for it to pass,” she said.
The amendment failed with a 18-29 vote.
“I’m very concerned with my district … being in the heart of Delmarva, where Delaware is to the north and Delaware’s minimum wage is $9.25, and Virginia to the south of my district, at $7.25, that putting Maryland’s minimum wage at $15 puts us at a huge economic disadvantage,” Carozza said.
Furthermore, Carozza said the House and Senate “versions [of the minimum wage bill] would continue to keep the tip wage, which is very important to our seasonal businesses.”
She also worked on the Senate’s version so businesses with 14 or fewer employees would have a longer period to phase in the minimum wage. She added that it would take effect in 2028 as opposed to 2025.
“So we would want to hold that provision when we go to conference,” she said.
It appears the saga of the paid sick leave bill continues. The legislation would give one hour of leave per 30 hours an employee works, and it applies to many seasonal employees.
Carozza proposed extending a seasonal exemption from 106 days to 120 days, and had several officials and businesspersons testify.
“However, it became clear that the finance committee was focused on the minimum wage debate and while willing to hear testimony about the paid sick leave policy the primary focus has been on minimum wage,” Carozza said.
Also of importance to the resort town, Maryland Stadium Authority funding for the Ocean City Convention Center Expansion project remains in committee.
“I have been talking to members of the senate budget and taxation committee, and we have received favorable feedback on that (Feb. 6) hearing,” Carozza said. “But at this point they have not moved out of committee.”
Carozza said Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan reported he “had a positive meeting” with budget committee Chairwoman Sen. Nancy J. King (D-37) and that she also hopes Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt, (R-37), who serves on the Senate’s Budget Taxation Committee “can be helpful in moving the bill along.”
Additionally, Carozza expressed her support for Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget, some version of which must be passed by session’s end on April 8.
She pointed out that Hogan’s budget includes funding that will benefit Worcester County and Ocean City.
• $3.2 million for Showell Elementary
• $1 million for Ocean City beach maintenance in the general fund, and $800,000 for beach replenishment efforts.
• $56.5 million for opportunity zones to cultivate businesses and the workforce include in the budget.
• $10.2 million for the tourism development board statewide.
• Funding for the dualization of Route 113 in Worcester County.
• Money for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund.
“As some of the legislators are looking for cuts to fund other priorities, we want to make sure what’s in the governor’s original budget is supporting Ocean City and the shore stay in the budget,” Carozza said.
Carozza also opposed a piece of legislation involving the purchase of rifles and shotguns. The bill “has not moved out of senate judicial proceedings committee,” but there was a hearing in the house Monday night.
“My constituents, both gun owners and gun shop operators, are strongly opposed to this legislation,” Carozza said. “They’ve had bills like this in the past and … they have not reduced gun crimes in our state because criminals, they don’t worry about compliance with these type of laws. So it really only leaves the law-abiding citizens who are already in compliance.”