Sub-minimum Wage Update
On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce committee conducted a public hearing on HB 1174. As introduced the legislation establishes a commission to identify and recommend changes to NH laws and rules on the payment of sub-minimum wages to persons with disabilities. However, as part of the bill’s introduction to the Senate, the prime sponsor urged the Senate panel to ditch the study and simply enact an amendment that would prohibit the payment sub-minimum wages with one narrow exception.
Sen. Homser has officially drafted (although it was never officially introduced at the hearing) an amendment that replaces the entire bill. The amendment deletes two sections of current law and preserves another. The first section the amendment proposes to delete is relative to powers held by the Commissioner of the department of labor to grant a waiver to any NH employer to pay sub-minimum wages to persons who are “impaired by age or by physical or mental deficiency.” This section of NH labor law dates back to 1949, although it was amended as recently as 1968. In addition, the amendment would delete a second section of labor law that grants nonprofits the ability to create sheltered workshops. The current law requires the Commissioner of labor to approve these workshops, which were authorized by the Legislature in the late 1960’s. Finally, the amendment preserves what HB 401 of the 2011 legislative session achieved. HB 401 created a program for high school and post secondary students who are seeking to gain practical experience to obtain job skills to seek gainful and paid employment once the training has been completed. That legislation was signed into law in 2011. As a reminder, HB 401 was introduced at the request of the bureau of developmental services (BDS) and was sponsored by Rep. Rosenwald.The Hosmer amendment would not impact Project SEARCH.
The following groups spoke in support of the legislation (with amendment) at the public hearing: BDS, NHDDC, DRC, Easter Seals & Granite State Independent Living. In addition, several NH citizens including families and people with disabilities who are employed spoke very powerfully in favor of eliminating sub-mimuim wages. The testimony provided at the hearing stated that only two people in the state of NH are currently being paid sub-minimum wages. In addition, all of the current department of labor waivers (for sub-minimum wages) will expire in April of 2015. The department does not expect any new applications for waivers in the future. The amendment has an effective date that coincides with the final waivers expiration date. The amendment has little direct impact on any citizens at the present time. However, the amendment will enshrine a public policy that all citizens regardless of their disability should be treated equally in terms of minimum wage laws.
In other news: This week was “Crossover” for the NH Legislature. Thursday was the deadline for all bills, which passed to “cross over” from the chamber where they originated to the other one. All of the legislation CSNI is tracking this session has been updated in the attachment. Many bills have been killed, many have been amended and now have completely different titles and some have been sent to study. If a bill in the attachment is a House Bill with a public hearing scheduled that hearing will take place in the Senate and vice versa for a Senate Bill with a scheduled hearing.