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Md. House OKs $15 Minimum Wage Bill

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Maryland inched closer to gradually increasing the state’s minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2025.

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By William J. Ford

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland inched closer to gradually increasing the state’s minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2025.

The House of Delegates voted 96-44 Friday for the bill, which now goes to the Senate.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Del. Diana Fennell (D-District 47A) of Colmar Manor, who sponsored the legislation. “I’m happy in reference to my colleagues voting for the fight for $15 and believing in the plight of … over 573,000 people that will benefit for this minimum wage [increase]. It’s long overdue.”

Prior to Friday’s vote, lawmakers debated the bill for nearly 90 minutes, with a group of Republicans attempting to sway their Democratic counterparts on its negative effect on small businesses.

Del. Trent Kittleman, a Republican who represents portions of Carroll and Howard counties, read two letters from merchants pleading to not pass the legislation.

“There were 44 small business owners who took the time from all corners of the state to tell their stories in a way I’ve never heard before,” said Kittleman, who voted against the measure.

Several Republican delegates said businesses from their area of the Eastern Shore would be forced to downsize, relocate or close.

Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, a Democrat from the shore who voted for the legislation, disagreed.

“There’s another face to the Eastern Shore and that face is small and many other minorities who stand on the means of ensuring that they have equitable wages,” Sample-Hughes said. “We cannot perpetuate poverty. That’s what we’re continuously doing if we don’t ensure that these people have livable wages.”

Now it will be the Senate’s turn to review and debate the measure sponsored by Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City).

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan hasn’t expressed any support for it, so it’s possible he may veto the measure if it reaches his desk.

The state’s current minimum hourly wage stands at $10.10. Under the legislation approved Friday, it would increase to $11 by January 2020, then by 75 cents every year and finally by $1 to $15 by January 2025.

Several business leader and advocate groups are pleased with the House vote, but said it didn’t go far enough, citing a previous bill that proposed increasing the minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2023.

“We continue to hear from business organizations and business leaders across Maryland calling for an increase to $15 by 2023, and to indexing wages thereafter so the minimum wage keeps up with the cost of living rather than falling behind,” Alissa Barron-Menza, vice president of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, said in a statement. “As the bill moves to the Senate, we assert that Maryland needs a stronger wage floor under the economy and a more robust increase makes good business sense now.”

Elsewhere the D.C. metropolitan area, the District’s minimum wage currently sits at $13.25 per hour and will increase to $14 in July and then to $15 by July 2020.

Across the border in Virginia, the minimum wage equals the federal level at $7.25 per hour and has been so since 2009. A proposal to increase the rate to $15 an hour was voted down in the state Senate.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

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California Black Media

LAO Releases Multi-Year Outlook: Modest Budget Deficits to Persist

The state budget deficit is projected to increase, which will require the Governor and Legislature to make more budget cuts over the next few years, California’s non-partisan Legislature Analyst’s Office (LAO) stated in a report last week. According to the LAO’s multiyear budget report that makes forecasts about the state’s general fund through the 2027-28 fiscal year, the state’s budget problem is $7 billion higher than expected due to lower revenue and spending estimates.

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By California Black Media

The state budget deficit is projected to increase, which will require the Governor and Legislature to make more budget cuts over the next few years, California’s non-partisan Legislature Analyst’s Office (LAO) stated in a report last week.

According to the LAO’s multiyear budget report that makes forecasts about the state’s general fund through the 2027-28 fiscal year, the state’s budget problem is $7 billion higher than expected due to lower revenue and spending estimates.

“Under our office’s revenue and spending projections, and assuming the Governor’s May Revision policies are adopted, the budget problem for this year is $7 billion larger,” the report reads.  “Put another way, the Legislature would need to take $7 billion in additional budget actions to balance the budget.”

This shortfall requires the Governor to reduce government spending by an additional $7 billion to balance the state’s deficit. However, if the legislature does approve the governor’s May Revisions the budget problems will carry over into the 2025-2026 fiscal year, increasing the existing budget deficit by nearly $10 billion.

California’s budget deficit could be as high as $73 billion, requiring the Legislature to consider harsh budget buts that can help the state economy recover long-term. However, the LAO’s spending estimates are lower than that of the state’s Department of Finance.

“The main reason that our estimates of the state’s operating deficits are slightly smaller than the administration’s is that our estimate of General Fund spending is lower than the administration’s estimates,” stated the LAO in the multiyear budget report.

The LAO’s estimates exclude spending on schools and community colleges, and lower estimated expenditures for Health and Human Services (HHS) programs. Based on the LAO’s estimates, Health programs grow annually by an average of 5.1 percent compared to the Newsom Administration’s estimated 8 percent.

“Our office has little insight into the components of, or assumptions underlying, the administration’s projections in HHS. As a result, we cannot identify the precise source of these differences—or the comparative reliability of our respective estimates — with confidence,” the LAO report stated.

Given the projections, the LAO recommends that the Legislature maintain an overall structure similar to the Governor’s May revisions in the final budget package.

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Activism

Legislature Advances, Renumbers, Sen. Bradford’s Reparation Freedmen’s Agency Bill

The bill, formerly entitled SB 490, moves on to the Committee on Governmental Organization.  SB 1403 would create a new state agency responsible for the administration and oversight of reparations as determined by the Legislature and Governor. 

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Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (right), the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study.
Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (right), the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study.

By California Black Media

On April 9, the California Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 to advance Sen. Steven Bradford’s reparation legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 1403, or the “California American Freedman Affairs Agency” bill.

The bill, formerly entitled SB 490, moves on to the Committee on Governmental Organization.  SB 1403 would create a new state agency responsible for the administration and oversight of reparations as determined by the Legislature and Governor.

Creation of the agency is one of more than 115  recommendations the nine-member California reparations task force included in its final report. The bill would require the agency to determine how an individual’s status as a descendant of an enslaved person in the United States would be confirmed.

SB 1403 would require proof of an “individual’s descendant status” to be a qualifying criterion for benefits authorized by the state for descendants, as stated in the bill’s language. To reach these goals, SB 1403 would mandate the agency to be comprised of a Genealogy Office and an Office of Legal Affairs.

In 2020, California established the first-in-the-nation task force to study reparations for African Americans.

Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore, the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study, was at the State Capitol to address the members of the Judiciary Committee as an expert witness. The attorney and scholar said the bill aims to serve individuals based on lineage rather than race.

“Today, I advocate with a sense of urgency and purpose for the passage of SB 1403, a groundbreaking bill poised to establish the California American Freedmen’s Agency,” Moore told the panel. “This agency symbolizes a crucial stride towards reparative justice, particularly for those whose lineages trace back to enslaved ancestors.”

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Business

Black Business Summit Focuses on Equity, Access and Data

The California African American Chamber of Commerce hosted its second annual “State of the California African American Economy Summit,” with the aim of bolstering Black economic influence through education and fellowship. Held Jan. 24 to Jan. 25 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel, the convention brought together some of the most influential Black business leaders, policy makers and economic thinkers in the state. The discussions focused on a wide range of economic topics pertinent to California’s African American business community, including policy, government contracts, and equity, and more.

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Toks Omishakin, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency (CALSTA), answers questions from concerned entrepreneurs frustrated with a lack of follow-up from the state. January 24, 2024 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel, Lost Angeles, Calif. Photo by Solomon O. Smith
Toks Omishakin, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency (CALSTA), answers questions from concerned entrepreneurs frustrated with a lack of follow-up from the state. January 24, 2024 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel, Lost Angeles, Calif. Photo by Solomon O. Smith

By Solomon O. Smith, California Black Media  

The California African American Chamber of Commerce hosted its second annual “State of the California African American Economy Summit,” with the aim of bolstering Black economic influence through education and fellowship.

Held Jan. 24 to Jan. 25 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel, the convention brought together some of the most influential Black business leaders, policy makers and economic thinkers in the state. The discussions focused on a wide range of economic topics pertinent to California’s African American business community, including policy, government contracts, and equity, and more.

Toks Omishakin, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency (CALSTA) was a guest at the event. He told attendees about his department’s efforts to increase access for Black business owners.

“One thing I’m taking away from this for sure is we’re going to have to do a better job of connecting through your chambers of all these opportunities of billions of dollars that are coming down the pike. I’m honestly disappointed that people don’t know, so we’ll do better,” said Omishakin.

Lueathel Seawood, the president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of San Joaquin County, expressed frustration with obtaining federal contracts for small businesses, and completing the process. She observed that once a small business was certified as DBE, a Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, there was little help getting to the next step.

Omishakin admitted there is more work to be done to help them complete the process and include them in upcoming projects. However, the high-speed rail system expansion by the California High-Speed Rail Authority has set a goal of 30% participation from small businesses — only 10 percent is set aside for DBE.

The importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in economics was reinforced during the “State of the California Economy” talk led by author and economist Julianne Malveaux, and Anthony Asadullah Samad, Executive Director of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute (MDAAPEI) at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Assaults on DEI disproportionately affect women of color and Black women, according to Malveaux. When asked what role the loss of DEI might serve in economics, she suggested a more sinister purpose.

“The genesis of all this is anti-blackness. So, your question about how this fits into the economy is economic exclusion, that essentially has been promoted as public policy,” said Malveaux.

The most anticipated speaker at the event was Janice Bryant Howroyd known affectionately to her peers as “JBH.” She is one of the first Black women to run and own a multi-billion-dollar company. Her company ActOne Group, is one of the largest, and most recognized, hiring, staffing and human resources firms in the world. She is the author of “Acting Up” and has a profile on Forbes.

Chairman of the board of directors of the California African American Chamber of Commerce, Timothy Alan Simon, a lawyer and the first Black Appointments Secretary in the Office of the Governor of California, moderated. They discussed the state of Black entrepreneurship in the country and Howroyd gave advice to other business owners.

“We look to inspire and educate,” said Howroyd. “Inspiration is great but when I’ve got people’s attention, I want to teach them something.”

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