Maryland lawmakers were set to vote late last week to overturn Governor Robert Ehrlich’s veto of “Fair Share” legislation that would require certain employers to spend a minimum percentage of their payroll toward employee health care.
Kim Nelson, a spokesperson for the Maryland campaign of Americans for Health Care, said the group was “cautiously optimistic” that both chambers of the Maryland Legislature would vote to overturn the veto. Americans for Health Care was established by the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, to promote health care for workers.
“They’ve taken a strong stand on this issue since last spring,” she said. The legislature initially passed the bill in April 2005.
The state Senate was expected to vote on whether to overturn the veto on Jan. 12, with the House expected to decide the issue as late as Jan. 13.
The legislation would require companies with a minimum of 10,000 employees to spend at least 8% of their payroll on their employees’ health care, either by providing health care coverage in one form or another or by paying directly into a fund to offset taxpayers’ expense for providing coverage through the state. The Fair Share legislation is also known as the “Wal-Mart Bill” because the retailer is the only employer in the state that would be affected by the legislation.
Providing those options is a key to the bill. Gov. Ehrlich has said that, should the veto be overturned, he would examine the law thoroughly for any conflicts with the federal Employee Retirement Income Savings Act.
Nelson said that Americans for Health Care had the Fair Share legislation reviewed by a professor at George Washington University to ensure it would work with federal statutes and is confident no conflicts will be found.
“We did our homework ahead of time,” she said. “Fair Share health care is ironclad as far as legality.”
Nelson also said that the legislation–and the concept behind it–is supported by Supreme Court decisions made over the past decade and that it fits the “spirit” of the federal law, which is known as ERISA.