Mass. minimum wage bill hits delay at Statehouse
BOSTON (AP) — Efforts to raise Massachusetts' minimum wage have hit a snag.
On Thursday, a House committee had been expected to formally unveil a bill that would increase the hourly wage from $8 to $10.50 over three years while overhauling the state's unemployment insurance system.
Instead, the House chairman of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development abruptly opened and shut down the committee's executive session without unveiling any legislation.
Rep. Tom Conroy, a Democrat, faulted the Senate for the delay.
"Unfortunately, the Senate has not acquiesced to the House's request for the extension of these two bills precluding us from addressing them here today," Conroy said.
He said the bills "are in a state of processing themselves" and left the hearing room without taking questions.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Democrat, previewed the anticipated House plan in a recent speech to business leaders last week. DeLeo told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that the House version would increase the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour over three years but would not be automatically adjusted for inflation.
The Senate has passed a bill to raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour over three years and automatically index future increases to the rate of inflation.
The Senate has passed a separate bill overhauling the unemployment insurance system. DeLeo hopes to approve a bill combining the two issues.
A spokesman for DeLeo said he still wants the minimum wage increase and unemployment insurance overhaul to pass this session.
"Speaker DeLeo calls for these bills to be voted on by committee, debated on the House floor, voted on and sent to conference committee and ultimately to the governor's desk for signature in prompt fashion," DeLeo aide Seth Gitell said in a statement.
Another member of the committee, Sen. Robert Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican, blamed the delay on what he called political gamesmanship.
There is a third effort underway to raise the minimum wage: a ballot question being pushed by the labor-backed group Raise Up Massachusetts.
The question, which would be placed on the November state ballot, would raise the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour over two years and index future increases to inflation.
The last minimum wage hike in Massachusetts was in 2008.
Massachusetts' four Roman Catholic bishops also backing a higher minimum wage.
In a statement, the bishops said the state's current minimum, $8 per hour, "is insufficient to support and uphold the dignity of individuals and families" and is "hardly enough to pay for basic necessities such as food and rent, let alone support a family."
They didn't say what the wage should be.
The statement was signed by the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley; Fall River Bishop George Coleman; Worcester Bishop Robert McManus; and Springfield Bishop Timothy McDonnell.