Veto of 'Wal-Mart Bill' Overridden in MD Senate

January 12, 2006 ( - Maryland's Senate has voted to enact a first-in-the-nation requirement that certain employers spend more on employee health care, despite Governor Robert Ehrlich's veto of the legislation, the Associated Press reports.

The Fair Share Health Care Act requires companies with at least 10,000 employees to pay at least 8% of its payroll toward health care on healthcare – or pay the difference into a state low-income health insurance fund.  The Act was vetoed by the governor in May 2005 (see  Maryland Governor Vetoes Wal-Mart Health Spending Bill ).

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce recently issued a statement that the Act was pre-empted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) (See  Maryland’Wal-Mart Bill’ Preempted by ERISA ) in an effort to influence the state Senate’s veto-override vote. However, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 30-17 to overturn the veto, according to the AP.  According to the Herald News Daily, t he state Senate vote came after about 90 minutes of debate and came down largely along party lines, with three Democrats crossing over to vote against the bill.

Currently, Wal-Mart is the only employer in Maryland with at least 10,000 employees that does not contribute the required 8%.   Proponents of the measure, notably unions, are pushing similar initiatives in as many as 30 states.  Proponents  contend that some large, profitable companies shift health insurance costs to workers, taxpayers and other businesses. They are proposing legislation, like the Maryland bill, that would require big employers to dedicate a percentage of their payroll to health care benefits. Unions have said the states they will focus on include Colorado, Connecticut and Washington.

The Maryland measure now goes to the Maryland House of Delegates, which was expected to take up the bill at about 5 p.m. today.  The Maryland House is also controlled by Democrats.  An override of a veto requires a three-fifths vote from both chambers of the state legislature.