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March 26, 2014

Mass. House leaders press new minimum wage bill

BOSTON (AP) — Democratic leaders in the Massachusetts House say they’re moving forward with legislation designed to raise the minimum wage and overhaul the state’s unemployment insurance system.

Those efforts hit a snag last week after a dispute between House and Senate leaders on legislative process.

House Labor Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Conroy said Tuesday that the House is preparing a new bill that combines Democratic leadership proposals on the two issues with a separate bill designed to protect the overtime rights and other legal worker protections of nannies and other domestic employees.

That bill would create an educational reach program to make sure workers and their employers are aware of all their legal benefits including those concerning vacation time, sick time, and severance pay.

Conroy said the combined bill could be debated by the House as soon as next week.

The Senate has already passed separate minimum wage and unemployment insurance bills and sent both to the House.

The House had hoped to report out a single bill combining both Senate bills, but missed a key deadline. Conroy said the Senate refused to agree to the House’s request for an extension.

“The Senate has been the obfuscatory body, not us,” Conroy told reporters Tuesday as he announced the new bill. “The process issue should not get in the way of politics.”

The House had other options including taking up one the Senate bills and then substituting their own language and shipping it back. That would likely have led to a six-member House and Senate conference committee hammering out a single compromise version — the usual legislative process.

The new bill resets the process and will require the Senate to again debate the issues.

Conroy said he hopes a minimum wage bill can get to Gov. Deval Patrick before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

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