MARYLAND – Governor Martin O'Malley signed more than 200 bills into law on Monday.
After making it the priority of his last legislative session as governor, Governor O'Malley kept his promise about minimum wage. The change will begin next year when it will rise from $7.25 an hour to $8 in January. From there, the hourly wage will reach $8.25 in July 2015 and $8.75 in July 2016, and will go up to $9.25 in July 2017 and $10.10 in July 2018.
"We do have a lot of people that live at the working poverty level," says Dr. Tylor Claggett, an Associate Professor of Finance at Salisbury University. "This is a reimage of that situation for those individuals."
O'Malley argues that it's not fair that some people play by the rules, work 16 hours a day and are still faced with raising their children in poverty.
While it could be huge for many employees, Dr. Claggett says it could also be potentially crippling for some local businesses.
"I think immediately the local employers will feel the effects of this new legislation, you will hear a lot of direct comments from employers about why they didn't hire or why they let certain people go because of it," says Dr. Claggett. "Certainly if they do not keep the amount of employees they have now that will have a negative impact."
Dr. Claggett says some feel the increase in costs could also deter people from wanting to start a business, and for consumers, it could potentially increase prices. For some places, he says it could lead to doing away with some jobs entirely.
"A lot of duties that may have been provided or in fact performed by individuals may start to be performed by machines," says Dr. Claggett. "Automated check-out lines at some of the grocery stores and some of the retail outlets will become more common place."
Another bill signed by Governor O'Malley that will ban grain alcohol, or alcoholic drinks that are 190-proof and stronger starting July 1st, is reportedly being applauded by colleges across the state.
"I know they're really happy," says Cynthia Shifler, alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention coordinator at the Wicomico County Health Department. "A lot of time students in college will use it because it's cheap. The problem is, they mix it with fruit juices and things so you can't really taste it, and before you know it the person is at risk for an overdose."
Which leads to the Good Samaritan Bill, which was also signed Monday.
The measure reportedly gives limited immunity to anyone who seeks medical help for someone who has been drinking or doing drugs.
"A lot of the counties in Maryland are very concerned and wanted to see this pass, there are a lot of people that are overdosing on alcohol, heroin, and other prescription drugs," says Shifler. "This allows anyone to basically take care of someone so that they don't die. It's about harm reducing and saving lives. I think it's certainly an important step forward."
Somerset County could also benefit from Monday's bill signing.
The county is now a part of a list of jurisdictions that can issue a microbrewery license, which means those with a license, can brew and sell their beer.
Delegate Charles Otto (R -38A), one of the bills' sponsors, says Somerset County was one of the few places in Maryland that did not have the option, and some local farmers expressed interest in starting one.
"It's certainly an opportunity for economic development," says Otto. "It will provide additional attractions for the tourism industry as well."
However, one bill that is still awaiting Governor O'Malley's signature is a measure that would potentially kill a wind turbine project in Somerset County, which is expected to bring in millions of dollars. Governor O'Malley reportedly originally supported the project, but some legislators argue the turbines could interfere with the Patuxent Naval Air Station across the Chesapeake Bay.
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