Murray: House approach could spell long delay for minimum wage

THINKSTOCK
THINKSTOCK

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MARCH 26, 2014…..The path the House is walking on minimum wage and unemployment insurance reform legislation could lead to delays that would jeopardize the ability to pass a final bill before formal sessions ends after July, according to concerns aired Wednesday by Senate President Therese Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick.

Senate President Therese Murray declined to comment on Rep. Thomas Conroy’s pointed criticism from last week when he accused the Senate of playing “petty insider politics” with a minimum wage bill, but said the House’s decision to craft its own bill rather than amending a Senate approved bill could jeopardize its fate this session.

“That would compromise the timeframe greatly because then we would have to take up a whole new bill here which we’ve already done it twice and that could take as much as eight weeks or more during budget season so that’s why we were trying to prevent that from happening,” Murray told the News Service.

Conroy on Tuesday said if increasing the minimum wage is a priority for Murray then she should be able to find a way to move the House bill through her branch quickly, but Murray said it’s not necessarily up to her.

“We have Senate rules that allow members if they don’t like the bill to lay it on the table and to delay action, to have it printed in the calendar, to add amendments. If you remember the gaming debate, it took us eight weeks,” Murray said.

Chuckling a little at first, Patrick said he is concerned about the Legislature’s ability to pass the bill.

“I’m concerned, and I’m smiling only because the difference between where the House and Senate are is not very great in terms of the amount of money, and I think there’s still a way to get to yes, and I think there’s still time to get to yes, but time is running out,” Patrick told reporters.

The Senate wants to raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour and index future increases to inflation, while the House is proposing to go to $10.50 without indexing.

With the House scheduled to debate and vote on its bill next Wednesday, Murray said she would wait before committing to taking up that bill in the Senate.

“I’m going to have to wait and see what it is and then we’ll make a decision,” Murray said. “We do have two bills that are sitting there. If they took up either one of those and replaced it with their bill and voted on it then that could come up here and we could go immediately to conference.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo laid out the details of the House plan to raise the minimum wage and make adjustments to the unemployment insurance system during a recent Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce speech.

The House on Wednesday adopted an order calling for amendments to the bill, which also includes provisions to protect the rights of domestic workers, to be filed by Friday at 5 p.m.

[Andy Metzger contributed reporting]

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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